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Focusing on customer service

by René Jones

Even in tough times, Bardon Supplies Limited focuses on what’s important: Customer service!

Many wholesale distributors are cutting costs, instituting layoffs, freezing wages and just not spending any money. Bardon Supplies Limited decided that if it is to survive the current economic downturn it must focus on two key areas in its supply chain, its customers and Its warehouse.

To talk about investing in your warehouse during times like these, many distributors will tell you is crazy. But in 2005, after Bardon was purchased by Group Deschenes, Barry Raycroft, vice president and general manager, picked up where his father, Don Raycroft, now retired, left off. Don founded Bardon in 1969 in Belleville, Ontario, with a small building and a desire to provide the industry what it desperately needed, “Unmatched Customer Service.”

Forty years later, Barry's motto and vision is similar to his father's. So it was not out of character to address the one area that has such a dramatic impact on service levels and customer satisfaction, the warehouse. In 2007, Bardon commissioned Total Logistics Solutions Inc. to assist with the implementation of an industry leading warehouse management system (WMS) in Bardon's Barrie location. Rene’ Jones, founder of TLS, was familiar with Bardon from two previous previous WMS implementations.

The Barrie branch is approximately 30,000 square feet with 13 warehouse employees and five delivery drivers. According to Wayne Buck, the branch manager, “It was not a question of whether we were meeting our customers’ needs, it was a question of could we meet them more efficiently while simultaneously reducing our warehouse operating costs?” The implementation of the system was completed in February 2009 with a wall-to-wall physical inventory.

“We have always taken our annual physical inventory serious, but this was one of the most in-depth inventories I have ever been involved with,” said Mike Brymer, inventory control specialist.

On the Sunday after completing the Saturday inventory, the warehouse began receiving, picking, packing and loading orders with the new system. There were the usual reservations from customers and employees but the implementation went flawlessly. Customers at the will-call counter immediately began asking, “How would their order get picked without a pick ticket?” The warehouse now uses Radio Frequency (RF) devices to process all transactions.

Before photo
Aisle prior to reorganization
After photo
Aisle after reorganization

As product arrives on the dock, an Advance Shipment Notification (ASN) selects the most appropriate locations for the product prior to it being touched by the receiving department. “It is great," said lead receiver Warren Symes. “I am amazed at the accuracy. it has virtually eliminated receiving errors, especially with serial numbered product. Before we had to read the tiny numbers on the packing slip and then verify those numbers to the number on the box. Now we just scan the product and the system knows if that is the serial number it was expecting. If it is not, we cannot proceed.”

The picking process has been streamlined as well. Order pickers no longer pick an order from start to finish. The orders are now broken down into smaller, more efficient, chunks based on the type of product to be picked. In other words, an order with fittings, a heating coil and pipe can be picked by three different people simultaneously and merged during the loading process. You no longer see pickers walking up and down aisles looking for lost product. The system directs the pickers where to pick an item, based on a predetermined picking sequence. Should they choose not to pick the item from the suggested location because, say, the product was damaged, it forces the picker to enter a traceable “Reason Code” for not following the directive. It then displays additional locations where the product is stored.

But the best part of the system is the Command Center functionality. Before, if a customer wanted to make a change to an order that was already printed, the warehouse supervisor would have to find every picker to see who had that customer's order. “It was a nightmare with order changes,” said James Walsh, a command center specialist. “Now Gary, our supervisor, simply comes to me and I can tell him who is picking the order, which line of the order they are on, and we can even delete items off of the order without the picker ever knowing the deleted item was there. It is much more efficient.” The Command Center also has the ability to monitor orders, review the receiving process and keep track of the daily workload to change resources depending on the time of day and the amount of transactions to be processed.

The overall goal was to be more efficient, reduce branch operating costs and provide an unmatched level of service to Bardon’s customers. With the implementation of the system and warehouse layout changes instituted by Total Logistics Solutions, the Barrie branch has achieved the following:

  1. Fewer than two errors per 450 orders shipped
  2. Inventory accuracy, which is normally in the mid 80’s with most distributors, is now in the high 90’s and improving
  3. Receiving errors have dropped by 80% and continue to fall as the receivers become more comfortable with the system.
  4. The same amount of work is being processed with two fewer people, who were transitioned into other areas of the business
  5. Returns, because of shipment errors, have decreased by over 90%

Bardon Supplies Limited is a division of Groupe Deschenes Inc., a privately held, family managed corporation. Bardon Supplies was established in Belleville in 1969. Groupe Deschenes acquired the company in June of 2005, bringing the total number of branch locations in the network to 69 in Ontario and Quebec. Visit the company’s Web site at www.bardonsupplies.com.

Total Logistics Solutions Inc. is a privately held Supply Chain and Logistics consulting organization. TLS was established in 1997 in Burbank, Calif. TLS focuses on improving the warehouse operations of manufacturers and distributors. Customers include Home Depot, Ryan Herco Products, Builders Plumbing Supplies, Kitchen Distributors of America, Westburne and many others. Visit the company’s Web site at www.logisticsociety.com or send an email to info@logisticsociety.com.

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