At Warehouses Run
by ATC Logistics,
BY ROBERT J. BOWMAN
The specialist in third-party logistics services for high-tech customers needed a warehouse-management
system that could do much more than just store product on the racks.
he standard warehouse management system (WMS) is intended
to boost the efficiency of basic
functions such as receiving, put-away and picking. It can end up
saving the user large amounts of time and
money—but it seldom directly addresses the
critical element of customer service.
ATC Logistics & Electronics needs more.
A major provider of third-party logistics
(3PL) services to makers of high-tech electronics products, the company stakes its
reputation on the ability to meet nearly 100
percent of service-level commitments.
That’s no easy task, given the scale of ATC’s
operations: more than 61 million items
processed annually, including 11 million
returns and exchanges, and the packaging
and kitting of 8 million pieces.
The physical size of the operation only
adds to the complexity. ATC runs six distribution and fulfillment centers, three around
Fort Worth, Tex., and three others in Matamoros, Mexico; Mississauga, Ont.; and
Memphis, Tenn. Together they amount to
more than a million square feet of warehouse space, according to ATC president
Prior to 2001, ATC had been relying on
legacy technology, in the form of a material
requirements planning (MRP) application,
to run its facilities. It was time for something
more sophisticated. “We were looking for a
top-tier WMS that specifically would do
high-velocity serialized inventory,” says
Marc Sherman, vice president of information technology. Other requirements were
the ability to integrate with an Oracle Corp.
backbone, run on mid-tier UNIX hardware,
and be highly configurable.
That last element was especially critical.
In serving its customers, ATC has to be
almost infinitely adjustable. New product
comes in every day and must be turned
quickly. The success of ATC’s clients
depends on their ability to satisfy customer
demands for rapid replacement of faulty
product. Equally important is the manufac-
turer’s ability to refurbish items and return
them to the market as quickly as possible.
The exceedingly brief lifecycles of most
consumer-electronics items leave little
room for delay.