Southwind Foods, a major importer and distributor of seafood and meats serving nationwide food retailers, has been managing a monstrous amount of data to support its fulfillment operations. Orders of various items are picked and shipped daily, mostly on mixed pallets, to a large number of retailers on a strict time schedule to meet delivery targets. Especially with seafood, the data that must be accurately recorded for hundreds of orders includes item numbers, quantity, lot number, expiration date, and country of origin. This data was being captured on printed pick tickets, where orders could be several pages long, and hand written for later data entry by clerical personnel to allow creation of the shipping documents
Working with The Attivo Group, Southwind undertook an expansion of their existing WiSys Warehouse Management System to tackle automation of fulfillment operations. Product is both imported and sold as is, as well as processed further in their facility to create portion sizes, product mixes, etc. to support the marketplace. They worked with all their vendors to begin applying bar codes to the product for easy handling, as well as implementing compliant bar coding to all of the product being produced.
The bar code symbology used was important, as there was a lot of data that needed to be stored within a single bar code, and given the storage conditions such as freezers and coolers, it required a bar code that could be easily read by scanners. They chose a 2-D bar code (similar to a QR Code) that proved easily readable, and could transmit all of the data that was necessary to complete the fulfillment process with just one scan. Emkat, Inc., partners with Attivo Group and WiSys, provided 18 of the latest model Motorola Scanners that are capable of reading the 2-D bar codes, and which utilize the Android operating system.
Southwind has achieved a number of benefits from this continuous improvement initiative. The “stress” of getting orders picked and shipped on schedule has been significantly reduced, since the need for data entry to finalize delivery paperwork has been eliminated. The number of clerical personnel in the order fulfillment area has been reduced by 50% (from 4 to 2), and their job responsibilities have largely transitioned to one of audit to insure accuracy rather than data input. The number of billing errors, and the subsequent need for credit memos has diminished dramatically. Previously, illegible handwriting caused inventory discrepancies that required analysis and corrections after shipment…this condition has largely disappeared. All told, annual savings could easily exceed $150,000 or more. However, one of the most important improvements is the quality of the work experience by a critical part of the Southwind team…the order fulfillment team. After all, wouldn’t anyone rather scan a bar code rather than try and write down a 9-digit lot number while wearing gloves?
“We’re very pleased to have completed this important initiative, and it was a pleasure working with Attivo on this well-managed project. We’re looking forward to working with them on many more equally important process improvement initiatives as our company continues to grow.”
— Sam Galetti, President of Southwind Foods,