Learn about our project to implement an automated Dimensioner and label application system
Brown & Watson International (BWI), our valued client for over 6 years with a large distribution centre based in Scoresby, Victoria, has a goal of growing its business through the acquisition of additional brands, as well as through organic growth. This client has been using our Freight Management Software (FMS) system throughout the years of our business relationship. As part of our regular conversations about improving systems and capabilities Freight Controller had identified several steps for productivity gains including:
- Integrating the FMS to Brown & Watson’s Pronto WMS system;
- Introducing an automated system for applying freight labels;
- Taking advantage of Freight Controller’s service to reconcile their carrier’s invoices;
- In conjunction with Freight Controller’s Business Intelligent Reporting services, focusing on freight expenditure.
Scope for the Project
There were multiple aspects to this complex project:
- First, to integrate Pronto with the FMS system so that Order Header data was automatically imported into the FMS .
- After priming the FMS, the automated ‘Dimensioner’ was responsible for weighing and measuring (dimensioning) the cartons as they travelled down the conveyor
- The measurements and the weight of each item was then imported to the FMS system
- Freight labels would be printed, and automatically applied to the cartons through an automated Label Applicator.
Reasons for the project
Gaps in the invoice reconciliation process.
Before the Carrier Invoice Reconciliation (CIR) process began, Freight Controller notified BWI that the invoice reconciliation could not be completed optimally because they did not provide the dimensions of the consignments in many cases and relied on the carrier to complete the cubic calculation, which is not best practice. A true reconciliation of the carrier invoice should include checking the charge weight, (as well as receiver zone and, for duplication of con notes, etc).
In order to address this concern and move to best practice CIR management reporting and data analysis, BWI asked Freight Controller to develop a proposal for the implementation of an automatic cube and weigh system within their current conveyor infrastructure.
Automated application of Labels
Even more importantly, this was the opportunity to introduce automation for the application of freight labels after dimension details and weights of cartons had been collected.
Automated import of data from Pronto to the FMS
By combining the automated import of data from Pronto with the automated printing and application of the freight label, they would eliminate all manual entry and preparation of consignments in the FMS system. Based upon approximately 150 consignments per day, and with a saving of up to at least one minute per transaction; over the year this system would save approximately 3 manhours per day in data entry alone.
By using the one source of data and receiver addresses, i.e. Pronto, Brown & Watson also greatly limits the issues associated with poor address quality causing mis-deliveries or data transfer issues. Having the FMS integrated with Pronto allows our client BWI to automatically upload data from the FMS to Pronto each day. This data consists of:
- carrier name,
- consignment note number,
- cost estimate,
- and the tracking URL.
By passing back the tracking URL to Pronto, their Customer Service staff have access to the latest carrier tracking data for any delivery enquiries. They also have the ability to now send out an Advance Shipping Notice (ASN) to their customers, providing the receiver with the tracking data which will allow the receiver to proactively track the progress and ETA of the consignments at will themselves. This provides our client’s Customer Service activities with significant time saving; a reduction of queries and therefore, staffing requirements.
Redundancy and Automation
When designing the project, Freight Controller pushed to design a system with some redundancy and automation. As a result, we have delivered to Brown & Watson a system with two printers and label applicators that can work in concert with each other. This means that in the event of printer failure the second printer can seamlessly take over and the line will remain open and functioning.
The printers are fitted with low level label sensors so that when there are only approximately 30 labels left the software will detect that low level and allow the next printer down the line to be responsible for the printing and application of labels. This will allow time for the operators to change label rolls or correct any problems with the printers while the line is still running. Using two printers in tandem like this also ensures less wear and tear on the printer and makes sure that scheduled maintenance can be completed whilst the line is still running.
What does our Brown & Watson International get at the end of the project?
Upon completion of this project they now have a state-of-the-art, fully integrated Label Application System that will allow them to continue with the brand acquisition strategy, thereby growing the number of cartons picked and processed by at least 100% without adding any requirement for new staff in the dispatching area.
Cartons will seamlessly move down the conveyor line where they will be automatically measured and weighed. Then a consignment and item address labels is created by the FMS. The labels are applied automatically to cartons. The labelled cartons are then placed upon the staging pallets for distribution at the end of the line, and consignments manifested prior to pick up. A fully automated and seamless system that will radically improve their dispatch efficiency.
BWI will also automatically capture accurate costing data on their freight, so that each and every day, week, month, (or as required), Freight Controller can show the executive team what they are spending on their freight:
- as a percentage of sales
- by consignment,
- by state, customer group
- and/or, the average cost per kg:
- by state, or customer group.
With so much accurate data at their fingertips, they have full transparency on their cost of dispatch and transport. Freight Controller uses this same data to reconcile their carrier invoices on a weekly basis. Maintaining data integrity is a critical element of ensuring that that the FMS data is accurate and relevant for the purpose of proving Business Intelligence reports that deliver better decision making.
Stage two – automated Carrier Delivery Performance Reports and POD
As a separate project, Freight Controller is now in discussions with BWI to upgrade the FMS system so that it automatically captures:
- carrier POD signatures,
- Longitude & Latitude,
- and photos of the delivery location or consignment.
This is done via Freight Controller’s new API for delivery status data. The carriers can use our simple API to upload delivery data to our servers and then, their FMS system will automatically download this data into their system, allowing their Customer Service staff to quickly and easily confirm delivery as well as run DIFOT reports (Delivery on Time and In Full) with real time data; giving our client absolute best practice delivery status data reporting information and further improving their Customer Service processes.
Brown & Watson International now has a best practice integrated dispatch and warehousing process that will not only deliver significant financial and service benefits immediately, but will also allow them to grow rapidly without requiring further infrastructure implementation or resources for many years to come.
To learn more about any of the range of services and systems that make up this tailored solution, please contact us and we will be happy to explore how any and all of the components of this solution might assist with your supply chain business goals.