WMS Boosts Nature’s Best’s Service and Productivity

Prior to implementing a platform to optimize supply chain processes in its 410,000 sq. ft. distribution center in Chino, CA, Nature’s Best faced a dilemma.

The natural and organic grocery wholesaler, which distributes more than 20,000 different products per year, “had multiple processes across multiple facilities operating different methodologies for our distribution processes,” says Brian McCarthy, senior vice president of operations for Nature’s Best. “This led to a high-touch distribution method that was very expensive due to the labor required to maintain a high level of customer service.”

So Nature’s Best in April 2008 implemented Manhattan Associates’ warehouse management and slotting optimization systems from the Manhattan SCOPE distribution management product suite. The merchant also added the supply chain intelligence application to provide real-time insight into its supply chain performance.

As a result, Nature’s Best’s picking processes were enhanced by voice technology, which issues verbal commands directing workers where to pick orders within the DC. This significantly improving pick accuracy and performance.

This was important, because Nature’s Best is a family business built on customer service, McCarthy says. The largest privately owned wholesaler/distributor of health and natural food products in the U.S., the merchant serves health and natural food stores, independent supermarkets, and restaurants in Western states.

As both the company grew and the natural/organic food industry grew, “maintaining that level of service led to additional expenses,” McCarthy says. “We needed solutions that helped us reduce those expenses while gaining efficiencies,” he says. But he stresses that “we weren’t just trying to address our current situation. We wanted to be nimble in the future.”

Selecting this WMS “allowed us to design our methodologies around the platform, gave us flexibility and visibility of the distribution processes and reduced the amount of labor needed in the DC,” McCarthy explains.

What’s more, the company designed the entire Chino facility around the capabilities of the WMS, “enabling us to improve, instead of just maintain customer service.”

Nature’s Best’s benefits from the WMS and slotting systems include a 66% reduction in labor costs and more than $100,000 in savings from fleet costs; improved DC processes—order accuracy doubled, inventory accuracy improved by 14% while productivity increased 114%; and improved customer service—on-time deliveries increased by 11%.

The Chino DC has 125 workers, and each one received 1,000 hours of system training prior to the go-live date in April 2008, McCarthy says.

The visibility provided by Manhattan’s supply chain intelligence application has allowed Nature’s Best to make decisions about supply chain processes in real-time that simply weren’t possible before the go-live. “The dashboards and reports give us exact information based on preprogrammed key performance indicators,” McCarthy says.

To illustrate the efficiency the system provided, he adds: “Basically, SCI with WMS and slotting has taken us from flying a crop-duster to piloting an F-18.”

As a grocery distribution company, Nature’s Best’s SKUs change characteristics from season to season— creating more than 30,000 different SKU combinations, depending on where each is slotted and what season it is. “Slotting helps manage the balance of picking and replenishment labor, which is especially important during holiday seasons,” McCarthy says.

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