Features

Eliminating manual data entry in the warehouse

Since Cross Docks Australia implemented the Microlistics warehouse management system 12 years ago, its inventory management has skyrocketed in volume. Founder, Shan Manickam tells MHD how the company has achieved improved accuracy by eliminating manual data entry.

As the name of the company suggests, they are specialist providers of cross docking services. Founded in 2004, beginning with just 10,000 sqm of warehouse space, Cross Docks has since grown to manage 41,000 sqm across two primary sites and can process 2000 orders a day for more than 25 different clients.

Shan Manickam, founder of Cross Docks Australia, says providing pick and pack services to wholesalers and retailers has grown and evolved as the e-Commerce revolution continues to boom and the expectations from consumers for expedited shipping increases.

In late 2008, Cross Docks implemented the Microlistics Warehouse Management System (WMS). At the time the company was expanding into a new facility in Laverton and they needed a multi-user, multi-client and multi-site 3PL WMS with the flexibility to cater for a wide variety of customer requirements.

The implementation had the immediate benefit of streamlining communication with clients, increasing productivity through elimination of manual data entry, and increasing accuracy through reduction in paper picking slips.

Effective integration

Before utilising advanced WMS for operations, Shan says that Cross Docks were using manual processes in the warehouse and were relying on excel spreadsheets.

Cross Docks first deployed an Automated Storage and Retrieval System from Kardex. Shan says that system was 100 per cent integrated with Microlistics WMS, allowing the company to evolve to meet the demand from the market.

Shan credits the company’s investment in the Microlistics WMS. He says it is an important tool that gives its clients access to more data than ever before all at the touch of a button, from anywhere they have web access.

“With Microlistics WMS we can offer our clients the most advanced systems of access wherever they happen to be, giving you unparalleled flexibility and efficiency,” Shan says.

Each week, Cross Docks manages, moves or delivers over 10,000 different products on behalf of leading retailers including Birkenstock, Trunki and Jo Mercer. Shan says the Microlistics WMS has integrated effectively with customer systems.

“After the notorious Black Friday and Cyber Monday retail sales, we processed over 2000 orders that weekend. Every order went out the same day because the WMS has that efficiency,” Shan says.

“Volume numbers went up by over 100 per cent, but we didn’t need 100 per cent extra labour because of our WMS.”

Meeting customer requirements

Cross Docks has relations with 25 different clients, which means they have 25 different requirements to fulfil.
Across its Truganina and Laverton warehouse facilities, that are respectively located 20km west of Melbourne’s CBD, Cross Docks tailor logistic solutions to the specific needs of clients who require inventory management for homewares, footwear, apparel, toys and furniture.

Shan says the flexibility in its WMS system is essential in generating rigid results in one environment.

“Our WMS meets our customer needs because we can facilitate that next level of efficiency. It is pretty amazing,” Shan says.

Using scanning technology together with system driven receipting and despatching, Cross Docks have eliminated the paper trail and manual handling of data.

“This means errors are dramatically reduced and efficiency increased getting your goods to the shop floor or consumer quicker than ever before,” Shan says.

“One of our major clients, Birkenstock, has an impressive loadout accuracy on despatch of 99.99 per cent,”

“There are very similar levels of accuracy with our menswear client, Mr Simple, who stock Herschel Supply Co. backpacks. We scan every single backpack and every single item for a more thorough result,” Shan says.

Shan says the principal feature is the functionality the WMS has for his company.

“The WMS offers amazing flexibility including an array of different picking methodologies. We have configured a variety of these methods and the system selects the best one to suit the type of order,” Shan says.

Automated and accurate

Cross Docks has made significant investments in technology to ensure they’re offering efficient and accurate services to its clients. Shan believes offering a complete and specialised unit pick and pack service has allowed quicker movement and improved services for its clients.

“Our perpetual cycle counting method allows the picker to cycle count whilst already doing the job of picking,” Shan says.

“Instead of counting stock every month, the whole warehouse is accounted for 24/7 as the picker counts every single day.”

This has reduced the need for clients to have an annual stocktake.

“It is a powerful part of our WMS, and it empowers the people who are doing the picking, because when the workers return to the same picking location next time, the stock is perfectly counted meaning inventory is more accurate.”

Cross Docks has 25 software interfaces providing real-time access to clients through online portals and feeds that allow full transparency 24 hours a day.

“Our clients are ensured absolute transparency through real-time online access to stock levels and distribution information,” Shan says.

“At the touch of a button and without leaving the office, clients can access more data on its stock and order movement than ever before.”

The Microlistics WMS has allowed the flexibility to adjust stock levels to reflect orders information uploaded to the Cross Docks WMS and the client then has access to new stock levels and despatch information such as consignment numbers and freight costs.

“We have the best interface with Birkenstock. At its head office in Clifton Hill, Melbourne they have an LCD screen that gives them a countdown system,” Shan says.

“The screen shows them where we are up to for picking orders on the day and Interfaces live information back to them whenever we pick another order in our warehouse,”

“The screen could show we’ve picked 2500 shoes today, it’s a very transparent environment because it’s real time information of accessing data that really is an effective interface.”

Future advancements

Shan says he is optimistic the industry can move towards Application Programming Interface (API) as file-based transfers slowly become an outdated process.

“At Cross Docks we can do both, we understand file-based transfers are rock solid because it is simple and easy,” Shan says.

He says Cross Docks have a strong relationship with Microlistics, based upon driving continuous improvements in the warehouse, both in terms of process and technological advancements.

“We’re constantly working with them to make our WMS better. They’re focused on and dedicated to improving its system so together we get a better product that is proven to be efficient,” Shan says.

Shan predicts warehouse management is moving towards a hands-free environment.

“We’re looking at investing in finger scanners to take the strain off the workers wrists who are holding heavy scanners all day,” Shan says.

Cross Docks is excited to invest in technology that will be crucial for its clients to be as competitive as possible in its markets and Shan says they’ll continue to expand the tools currently utilised through its WMS to continue to match physical stock with electronic data.

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