WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Hy-Vee Food Stores here plans to upgrade to a new version of its warehouse management system in early 1998, which will allow it to improve yard and dock control and cross docking at its grocery distribution centers in Cherokee and Sheraton, Iowa.
Radio frequency technology on forklifts, which the system upgrade will also support, will be implemented for receiving and putaway in late 1998.
The goal of the technology upgrade is to enhance productivity in Hy-Vee's distribution operations, according to Danny Bisgard, who was recently named director of warehousing at Hy-Vee. Retailers like Hy-Vee are focusing increased attention on improving warehouse management operations not only to improve the flow of product but also to enhance customer service.
The yard and dock control features will help Hy-Vee keep track of trailers on the lot and at the warehouses, as well as manage backhauls. Previously, Hy-Vee handled these tasks manually.
"As far as time goes, we'll probably save somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 hours per week," Bisgard said. "With the facilities' trucks coming and going all the time, there's a lot of tracking that goes along with that."
The upgraded system will also help with cross docking, including decision support about which products get put away and which ones can be staged on the dock and put on a truck to go out. As a result, Hy-Vee employees will save travel time in the warehouse.
"This is going to help us be more responsive to our stores," Bisgard said. "We don't do enough [flow through], and it's probably technology that's not allowing us to do more. And we will do more."
RF technology in receiving and putaway will be implemented after yard and dock control and cross docking, because it will have the biggest effect on changes in procedures.
According to Bisgard,"Radio frequency will handle receipts quicker and more accurately and make cycle counting in the warehouse more efficient,"
Cycle counting is the process of going through the warehouse counting random items to verify the numbers are correct in the computer. Over a period of time, all the inventory in the warehouse is counted.
In addition, Hy-Vee expects RF to improve its accuracy levels. Bisgard said that while its warehouse accuracy is good, radio frequency will take it to a new level, and provide immediate updates.
For example, at receiving time, the receiver will scan the bar code on a pallet. Instructions will appear on a screen indicating where he should put that pallet -- either back in the warehouse or at another spot on the dock. Once that's done, the system is automatically updated.
The warehouse management system used at Hy-Vee comes from EXE Technologies, Dallas. EXE Technologies was formerly known as Dallas Systems.