Bed manufacturer Auping annually provides many new customers around the world with a pleasant night’s rest. The parts for all those beds are picked, combined and dispatched from a warehouse in Deventer, the Netherlands. Since 1 February 2010, the warehouse operations have been directed by means of Astro WMS, by Consafe Logistics. The number of errors has significantly decreased since that time and productivity has increased considerably. “We should be able to achieve a return on investment within a year and a half to two years,” Arno van Ingen, Auping Logistics Manager, comments.
Nobody refers to ‘beds’ at the Auping warehouse. The key words are mesh base, mattress and bed frame. There is no bed until those parts are assembled in the consumer’s bedroom. Auping beds can be customised to meet virtually every taste. “We have some 5000 item numbers, including 1300 different mattresses and 250 different mesh bases. Multiply those numbers by the number of different bed frames and the range of colours we offer and you will easily come to about a million different combinations,” says Arno van Ingen, Auping Logistics Manager.
All items are dispatched from the warehouse that Auping built in 1998 adjacent to the mattress factory by the A1 motorway in Deventer. The mesh bases and bed frames, which are transported to the warehouse by means of a shuttle truck from the Auping branch on the other side of town, are here as well. As are the box-springs, which are manufactured in Eindhoven.
For years the operations at the warehouse involved a completely manual process with hard copy picking lists. The only location management system was the one inside the employees’ heads. “The manual process was time-consuming. Moreover, we made a lot of mistakes and stock reliability was poor,” Van Ingen relates.
Expanding the ERP system that had been developed in-house was not an option for IT Manager Frank Scholte. “Why should we develop something ourselves when you can buy a standard solution?”
Start up as soon as possible
Auping made its decision in early 2009: they had to implement a warehouse management system, preferably as soon as possible. The WMS had to be running as early as 1 January 2010. “We had calculated our return on investment to a year and a half to two years. Once you know that, you want to start up as quickly as possible. Every month’s delay costs money,” Van Ingen explains.
Although Auping was looking for a standard WMS, its requirements did include several items that distinguishes Auping’s operations from the average warehouse. One example concerns the box-springs, which may look radically different due to different fabrics and colours, despite having an identical item number. “As we customise the items, it is important that we can immediately link a customer number to each box-spring,” says Van Ingen.
After a thorough selection process, Auping decided on the Astro WMS by Consafe Logistics. Auping did not wish to procure a completely customised system, and Astro WMS met the full package of wants and needs. “Furthermore, we were looking for a good match: a party that was neither too large nor too small,” Scholte adds.
After three months of hard work, Van Ingen and Scholte decided to postpone the launch of the system to 1 February 2010. Both gentlemen wanted to be absolutely certain that the transition to the new WMS would not result in delivery problems. “We used that extra month for additional tests and training,” Van Ingen states.
Picking in loading order
The process at the warehouse now actually starts at the various production departments. As soon as an item is reported ready in the ERP package, a pre-notification is automatically sent to Astro WMS. Once the item has been received and checked at the warehouse, one need only to scan the barcode to book it into the system. The WMS will then propose a storage location. “Our people used to decide individually where to put the products,” Van Ingen adds.
The order picking process also starts in the ERP system. The system combines the orders into routes that can be delivered by a single lorry. These routes are forwarded to the WMS, including the sequence in which the orders are to be delivered, hence the loading order. After this, every order picker is assigned a route that he is to complete from start to finish. In doing so, every order is released via the scanners, line by line in the correct loading order. Every pick is confirmed using barcode scanning.
The fact that every order is immediately loaded after picking is exceptional. At most warehouses, all orders are first collected at dispatch, only to be loaded when the entire shipment is complete. This additional step is skipped at Auping, which increases productivity.
Six fewer employees
The focus during the implementation was on the transition from the existing process to the new WMS. Now that the system is operational, it is time for optimisation: a process that Van Ingen believes will never end. “For instance, the mattresses from the adjacent factory are currently booked automatically, without the need to scan them. That saves another step.”
The improvements that Auping hoped to achieve prior to implementation have indeed been realised. The number of complaints about incomplete deliveries has decreased by 20 percent. At the same time, stock reliability, as measured from the ERP, has increased from 80 to no less than 95 percent. Productivity has also increased significantly. Auping currently uses six fewer employees to do the work than before. “Our people do not lose as much time searching and correcting errors nowadays,” Van Ingen mentions.
Both Van Ingen and Scholte are very satisfied with the solution that Consafe Logistics provided. “The system has the desired results. We are certain to achieve our return on investment within the specified span of time,” Van Ingen concludes.
Royal Auping bv is the largest independent Dutch bed manufacturer, with three production locations in the Netherlands. As of 2013, production will take place at a new site in Deventer, implementing the ‘Cradle to Cradle’ philosophy. The company has branches in several European countries. Auping started out in 1888 as a blacksmith’s business in Deventer. Johannes Auping started a new trend with the invention of the mesh base more than 120 years ago. After this, the company specialised in mesh base beds and later included mattresses and box-springs in its range. In this way, Auping developed into the bed specialist par excellence, and became market leader in the Netherlands. By constantly investing in innovation and design, Auping has always been trendsetting in terms of sleeping comfort. It focuses on three core properties: ventilation, support and reducing pressure.