How Cadre helped IMG Push Out 85,000 Orders in a Single Weekend…Now they are up to 100,000 orders.
For any distribution or 3PL company, the holiday season takes preparation to make sure packages get out the door as quickly as they came in and that quality is not sacrificed for speed.
But for the International Marketing Group (IMG), located outside St. Louis, moving more than 85,000 orders in three days meant far more than
preparation — It required optimizing and enhancing their pick / pack operations in all aspects. IMG’s use of Shipping Label Picking (SLP), a Cadence software module designed to deliver fast fulfillment for
e-commerce orders, needed to be enhanced so it could push through even higher volumes while
continuing to accomplish multi-channel fulfillment distribution. That meant collaborating with Cadre Technologies to successfully deal with the rush and position it for future growth.
“Luckily, they got it to us in the nick of time,” said Bobby Dewitt, vice president of technology for IMG.
Facing Massive Ordering Volume, IMG Turns to Cadre for Help
It was anticipated as IMG’s “biggest event in the company’s history,” said Dewitt. That’s because it was its largest television broadcast partner’s planned date to promote a new electric toothbrush by Philips, one of IMG’s largest vendors. Coordinating logistics between broadcast and online merchants and electronics and household goods manufacturers is IMG’s specialty.
Since 1984, IMG created a business model where it interfaces between product vendors and its customers, primarily the two biggest home shopping networks in the U.S., reaching millions of viewers.
That means when a company like Phillips announces a plan to promote in the Broadcast Channel during the height of 4th quarter, IMG works with both sides to push orders out the door within two business days of broadcast.
IMG first went online with Cadre in 2008. Given IMG’s focus on high volume fulfillment, Cadre worked with IMG over the years to enhance its more traditional WMS solution to enable a different type of fulfillment business — one that focused on high volume projects.
While there continued to be some enhancement requests, nothing compared to what Cadre would need to do to accompany the November broadcast, which promised to produce the highest volumes of orders the company has ever handled within such a short time frame.
IMG found out six months earlier that orders could top 85,000 in a day, so it started working with Cadre to figure out how to make sure orders were validated more efficiently through automation rather than an overreliance on human labor that could lead to slowdowns. And considering the challenge that distributors and 3PLs routinely face with finding qualified labor, the need to automate was not just nice to have, it was a requirement for success.
“Because of the extreme high volume of orders we were facing, the new system had to be very fast. We are running seven processing lines simultaneously
— If there was a system issue that locks up, that would affect our downtime and throughput,” he said.
“Performance had to be huge while not sacrificing the quality that IMG has been known for in the industry.”
Cadre Automates System, Increasing Speed in the Process
The first solution Cadre delivered was an enhancement to Cadence SLP module and processes. In the past, SLP gave IMG the ability to pick and confirm orders in batches quickly. All the workers needed to do was produce a carrier-
compliant label and packing list, apply both to the box, scan it and ship — While still using Cadence WMS for maintaining tight control of warehouse locations, receiving, putaway, inventory, and other more traditional order/pick/pack operations.
Cadre enhanced its software to make the process even less labor-intensive: The product travels down the conveyor, is put into a box, and then travels to the validation station where an operator opens the box and, using a handheld scanner, confirms the order is correct.
If the number isn’t correct, Cadre made sure the software sends an audible alert — important for a workforce with eyes glued to the screen and not the package itself. Once Cadence receives that all-clear signal, it tells the conveyor to automatically move the package to the next phase without requiring the operator to push it forward.
With some orders capable of weighing 75 pounds or more, and order volume expected in the tens of thousands in a single day, reducing the manual component was a major plus for increasing both efficiency and speed without compromising accuracy.
Handling the boxes “becomes wearing for the operator,” Dewitt said. “Now the conveyor moves the product itself. It’s a pain-free operation. And we can scale upwards for even more volume as we grow.”
The second modification involved accommodating delivering shipping labels at a high rate of speed. In the past, packing slips and shipping labels rolled out of laser printers in the company’s order management office.
Not only did that step take place away from the conveyor, the laser printers were only capable of printing — at best — 40 pages per minute. Given the high volume of printing IMG planned to handle for that event, it needed printing automatically
IMG purchased a print and apply labeling system and configured it to the conveyor. From there, Cadre tailored Cadence so that the moment an order is validated, Cadence sends the information to the printer, which prints and applies the label to the box the second it arrives. That reduced manual labor — Before, IMG had workers crack and peel labels manually. Skipping that step “allowed us
to use high-speed capability to do high-volume orders,” Dewitt said.
There is also an added bonus: Because of the high volume of orders that IMG typically handles,
paperwork could potentially get lost in the shuffle; pack slips could fall to the ground, for example, and this solution removes that potential issue. The added automation allows for significantly lower temp labor costs and a reduction in risk regarding using a temp labor force.
Thanks to Cadre, the new system not only validates everything that needs to be in the box, but it confirms that the box successfully was verified.
Cadre “Surpassed Our Expectations”
The new automated features now prepare IMG for future efficiency. That’s because it allows the
company to capture data in reports to assess details like average scans per minute, hour, or day. These key metrics are important for IMG’s management of their business and evaluation of future projects.
What they discovered so far is that the efficiencies helped reduce its temporary labor pool from 15 to five people per line. Dewitt said those measures give the company the ability to add more lines over the next 12 months.
“Our goal is to automate as much as possible, especially on these kinds of high-volume events. [Cadence] justified the fact that we are moving in the right direction. The ROI is much faster. The
reports provide hard and fast numbers to support that, versus guessing or assuming,” he said.
Now that IMG handled 85,000 orders in a weekend, the sky’s the limit.
“The new speed of our system surpassed our expectations,” he said. “Doing something at this volume was inconceivable before. Now we can.”