Leading European mail order company, AJ Produkter, again put its faith in Astro WMS from Consafe Logistics to power its new warehouse – a vital part of the company’s expansion strategy.
AJ Produkter supplies office, warehouse and materials handling products. The company’s concept is to sell an attractive range of products through its catalogues and via the Internet.
From initially supplying goods in Sweden, the company has now established itself in all Scandinavian countries and sells goods through 32 subsidiaries in 22 countries. AJ Produkter has become a very strong brand in Europe over the past 25 years.
Working with Astro WMS for four 4 years
There are currently 45 people working in the warehouse, picking from 30 trucks with TraffiCom truck computers connected to Astro WMS. The company implemented Astro WMS 4 years ago at its 25,000 sq.m. warehouse at Hyltebruk, Sweden, and immediately saw a 30% increase in productivity since its introduction. Logistics operations will soon be moved to a new 30,000 sq.m. warehouse in Halmstad, which will also be powered by Astro WMS.
Astro WMS makes it easy. Log on, sit and pick.
Björn Durén is IT Manager for AJ Produkter in Sweden. He explains that AJ Produkter bought Astro WMS to introduce paperless picking. "Before, we had manual sorting and manual picking routes that needed a high level of knowledge from warehouse personnel," adds Björn. "Now, Astro WMS sorts picking routes automatically. All pickers have to do is log in, sit on the truck and get directed to the first picking place.
We pick one article to several orders at the same time. Before, we picked an order from several places. The way we work now increases efficiency, but the downside is that we can have difficulty picking large orders".
Integration presented challenges and solutions
Björn explains that they bought the Microsoft Dimension AX ERP system after acquiring Astro WMS. "Before this we had an ERP system based on AS400 technology. Our IT people had integration interfaces for Microsoft Dimensions AX and Astro WMS has integration interfaces for Axapta. So there were a few teething problems, but it was easy to fix. All we had to do was change the interface in the integrator".
When asked why AJ Produkter had not adapted the WMS module from Axapta, Björn was very specific. "We never considered the WMS module in Axapta. We were happy with Astro WMS so there was no reason to consider anything else."
"Need to make more of upgrades"
Another advantage of choosing Astro WMS is its upgrade facility. "We have recently updated our systems to the latest upgrade", adds Björn. "We made nine upgrades in one. Mind you, if we want to make full use of the Astro WMS upgrades we will have to update our hardware, something we’re looking at right now. Taking advantage of upgrades is something we need to be better at".
New, smarter routines for a new warehouse
The company will soon move to a new warehouse in Halmstad, where logistics will be run by Astro WMS .Björn highlights the changes they want to implement with the move:
Dispatching all incoming and outgoing goods from the same side
Changing the way they place goods
Cutting down on picking routes
Implementing both article and order picking
Optimizing pallet placement
"Right now, goods come in at one side of the warehouse and are dispatched from the other side – it’s what we call a ‘Long Warehause’. The disadvantage of this is that all goods have to go through the warehouse, even goods that are high frequency and go straight out again. After the move, all goods will come in and be dispatched from the same side, meaning transit goods will only be moved a short distance."
Goods will also be placed differently. "Articles will be packed according to whether they are high, mid or low frequency. The higher the frequency of goods, the closer to the entrance we will store them".
The company recognizes it has a problem with too many routes and destinations today, which creates a lack of space for outgoing goods. In the new warehouse it will increase this space to be more flexible and pick for several queues at the same time. "Right now we need to empty a ‘goods out’ space before we fill it again so as not to mix goods," says Björn. "We will change our routines here, and considerably shorten transport routes in the warehouse"
Improving article picking, order picking and pallet placement
Currently, AJ Produkter only picks per article. Once they move they will introduce a flexible system of article or order picking. "We will set a limit of 3.56 sq.m. per pick", says Björn. "Anything under this will be picked as articles and sorted at the sorting station into orders to save time – just as we do now.
Everything over 3.56 sq.m. will be loaded onto one or two pallets and packed directly into transport trucks to reduce re-packing. Actually, one of Astro WMS strengths is to enable us to pick so flexibly".
"Astro WMS does a good job for AJ Produkter", continues Björn. "We have limited possibilities in our current warehouse because of space and Astro WMS helps us to pack things more tightly. We use a system of dynamic pallet places which is controlled by Astro WMS".
He points out that before, pallet places were optimized for 80 cm pallets. "If we had a 90 cm pallet it wouldn’t fit. To get around this we divided pallet places in half, which meant that we could get one large pallet into one and a half pallet places instead of two. We manage a replenishment rate of 88%, which is very good".
Getting over growing pains
Björn is pleased that AJ Produkter has such good contact with Consafe Logistics, but notes that success and expansion for both companies increases the need for greater communication.
"Just like us, Consafe Logistics has grown a lot since our first contact with them, so we don’t get the same personal service as before. Things are understandably a bit more bureaucratic. We have a dedicated contact person, but sometimes we’d like a bit more attention". However, Björn is very satisfied with the company’s professionalism "Consafe Logistics have a professional attitude and we can wholeheartedly recommend them".
Astro WMS part of expansion plans
He concludes, "We will use Astro WMS in our new warehouse in Halmstad, and we are looking at using the system to run parts of our future European expansion plans. Why change a winning concept."