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In order to meet the ever-increasing demands of modern logistics, Kobout, supplier of fasteners, has decided to implement a high-end Warehouse Management System (WMS). Xtend will connect the Arrow WMS system to the current ERP system after conducting an extensive process analysis. Kobout expects to gain results on inventory management efficiency and speed of delivery.
Kobout, based in Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, has been supplying fastening materials since 1979. The company roughly distinguishes three market segments: hardware retailers, industry and construction. The company is no longer just active in the Netherlands. It has a strong presence in Germany and the Scandinavian countries, but is also active in several other European countries. The purchasing side of the business is also strongly internationally oriented: almost 80% of the stock comes from the Far East. Kobout is conveniently located near the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp and new stock can quickly arrive at Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht. There it has approximately 10,000 m2 of warehouse space containing over 25,000 different SKUs. The stock literally counts millions of items and without any exaggeration it can be characterized as extremely diverse. At the site, 85 employees work daily on the strengths of the company: they seldom sell a 'no' to the customer and the delivery speed is excellent. Typically of Kobout is that it acts as a real family with employees being 100% dedicated to the customers, suppliers and overall business.
Yet the company does not rest on its laurels. Joost Kunst, managing director at Kobout, says: "Kobout has been doing very well for decades, but we must keep looking ahead. We notice today that an increasing amount of customers are raising the standards. Where previously the customer was already satisfied with delivery in boxes, we now get more and more requests at item level, so we have to prepare ourselves for piece picking. The demand for value added services is also growing strongly. Composing kits and certain product combinations or repackaging into private labels has become part of the daily activity."
In the current situation, Kobout still works with a standard WMS module from the ERP system, but that one has reached the end of its possibilities. The expectation is that features such as traceability, scanning and easy linking to existing ICT systems should not be a problem for a modern WMS. That is why the company started a year ago with a study about what the market has to offer.
Joost Kunst continues: "Especially at an ICT & Logistics exhibition you really are overwhelmed by the offer. We therefore decided quickly to first make a list of functionalities and subsequently engage into discussions with our existing partners to request for references. Four parties were eventually invited for an interview and in the end Xtend was awarded the contract. "
According to Kunst, there is enough quality on the market. "There are undoubtedly many good WMS products available. The choice for Xtend is mainly motivated by the fact that this company works together with system integrator Costo from Gorinchem and combined they have much greater knowledge about warehouse processes, storage and order picking systems."
An interesting detail is that a large part of the picking process at Kobout takes place with 44 vertical lift modules from Hänel. Costo was also recommend by this specialist, as Xtend created specific modules within the Arrow WMS to control the Hänel lift modules. Kobout expects in the near future to further automate the logistics process; the WMS supplied by Xtend can then easily be linked to other storage systems.
Besides using the vertical lift modules, Kobout still picks goods in a conventional way with a forklift truck and order lists within the racking warehouse. The expectation is that this activity will diminish with the WMS. Besides this, the order and tidiness in this warehouse with so many SKUs is beyond belief. A special program, called the principle of the White Swan and based on the 5S in logistics, ensures a spotless operation. Unsurprisingly, this company has a quality department that ensures the company qualifies for the necessary ISO certificates (1400, 9001).
The new WMS will bring better traceability, but will also give more insight into the expected work load in the warehouse. The manager can act timely if the available resources may not be sufficient to get the orders shipped in time.
The WMS is also expected to improve efficiency and speed in various processes. For example, at the incoming goods, the WMS (after weighing) will determine where the items should be stored. Today this is still a manual decision and a pretty time-consuming one too. To give an impression of the quantities: an average of 280,000 kilos of product arrives every week and in peak periods this grows to about 400,000 kilos! There has jokingly been made a comparison with an amount of animals to get a better picture: the equivalent of the weight of 22,000 cows or 3,400 elephants is what goes through this warehouse every year.
Finally, the WMS is expected to reduce the already low error rate (<0.3% at order line level) in picking. All in all, the WMS has to reinforce the traditional strengths of Kobout: the ability to deliver always well and fast thanks to an impressive stock.
Hans van den Berg, commercial director at Costo, concludes: "Since we actively engaged into the WMS market with our sister company Xtend, we have noticed how many customers appreciate it to work with someone who has real knowledge of warehouse processes. Add to that advantage the fully featured Arrow WMS and customers are offered an excellent opportunity to further improve the performance of their warehouse."
Kobout aims to have the Arrow WMS system operational by the second quarter of 2018.
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Xtend was co-founded by system integrator Costo and therefore has real, in-depth knowledge about the automated storage systems. Over the years, we have gained an extensive experience with implementing IT solutions in warehouses and distribution centres in Europe.
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