Life Extension is one of the world's largest distributors of high-end nutrients, vitamins and supplements. They focus on helping customers improve the quality of their health and extend their longevity. Just 300 employees support over two million customers in the quest to live healthier lives.
Life Extension was using a manual process with manual pallet tags and notes to record where inventory was located in the warehouse. The warehouse team was unable to locate specific lot numbers, and having warehouse employees investigate where inventory was located took significant time away from receiving inventory and fulfilling orders.
The Life Extension executive team realized they had reached a point where they needed to automate key warehouse processes to continue growing as a business. They began researching a solution that would build efficiencies and improve order accuracy by automating manual, labor-intensive processes, and could seamlessly integrate with their JD Edwards EnterpriseOne ERP system.
Their primary requirement was a lot control system. Through lot control, the company would be able to manage inventory more effectively, employ a more granular approach to first-in, first-out (FIFO) picking rules, and establish greater product traceability.
We needed rapid access to information that could answer questions about who received product, where a specific lot was distributed, and when those items had shipped. --Jorge Gonzalez, Senior Business Analyst, Life Extension
Jorge explained, "We needed rapid access to information that could answer questions about who received the product, where a specific lot was distributed, and when those items had shipped."
Gonzalez began the search for a warehouse solution with lot control by reviewing three possibilities, including a solution he had used at a previous employer. However, only RFgen used open-source code, enabling the company's internal development team to easily make modifications in-house--ultimately saving time and money. Because of this, the Life Extension team selected RFgen Mobile Foundations for Oracle's JD Edwards to implement in their main warehouse in Edison, New Jersey, as well as (in more limited form) in several Florida-based retail stores.
"In my experience, one of the shortcomings of the solution I used previously was that we never had the source code," Gonzalez explained. "Any modifications or customizations we had to do to meet our business needs required consulting. At Life Extension, we have in-house developers who understand VB Script applications. With RFgen's Mobile Development Studio, we have the source code after Go-Live to make minor modifications to the applications ourselves. That's the biggest reason we chose RFgen."
RFgen is a suite of pre-built, Oracle-validated mobile data collection solutions that enable companies to benefit from real-time barcode data collection and roaming mobile applications while creating a zero footprint on the JD Edwards application server. In this case, Life Extension would be using RFgen for inventory management and transfers, purchase order receiving and picking order fulfillment, plus additional integration with Loftware for on-demand barcode generation and label printing. Since Life Extension is both a wholesaler and retailer, RFgen offered the flexibility to use directed picking for bulk inventory as well.
According to Gonzalez, RFgen met the company's "very aggressive" timeline for deployment. When Life Extension later decided one of the key processes needed modification, RFgen reacted quickly, creating, testing and deploying the modifications in just weeks. Not only that, but RFgen provided training to Gonzalez and other IT personnel to ensure Life Extension could train their warehouse team internally and get the most out of their new software investment.
In my experience, one of the shortcomings of the solution I used previously was that we never had the source code...With RFgen, we have the source code after Go-Live to make minor modifications to the applications ourselves. --Jorge Gonzalez, Senior Business Analyst, Life Extension
The Life Extension team was excited to implement RFgen in its operations. Not only did RFgen solve their challenges in inventory management, accuracy and efficiency, it also improved product visibility with lot control and could be continuously modified to adapt to future needs as well. More specifically, RFgen provided Life Extension with:
Previously, the Life Extension warehouse team managed inventory only to the item level. RFgen equips the team with the tools they need to maintain tighter, more accurate inventory control--including internal transfers. Now they have full visibility and tracking down to the lot level for every order. The granularity of this inventory information empowers Life Extension with better insight into real-time warehouse operations and inventory levels.
"I'll be honest--it's night and day inventory control," explains Gonzalez. "Our prior inventory system was only at the item level. Physically, we knew where things were from a report showing the original putaway location. After that, we didn't know how many units were still in that location or which lot numbers. We went from an item-level only inventory to having true visibility of item, location and lot number with RFgen."
I'll be honest--it's a night and day inventory control...We went from an item-level only inventory to having true visibility of item, location and lot number with RFgen. --Jorge Gonzalez, Senior Business Analyst, Life Extension
Life Extension assures customers that their orders will be fulfilled and shipped within one business day. RFgen's directed picking process and automated data collection help the warehouse satisfy this guarantee by optimizing accuracy, efficiency and speed.
For example, the warehouse team uses two different picking methods for bulk product orders (full boxes, cases or pallets) versus loose bottles. Orders for less than a full box are printed on pick tickets and employees have a pick zone set up like a conveyor line to fulfill them. RFgen automates the picking of orders from bulk storage locations within the warehouse through its directed picking process while enforcing FIFO rules. Employees use handhelds to pull orders by hard committing inventory at the bulk location using the scanned lot number and then moving on to pick the next line on the order.
To maintain hot-selling items in the most desirable warehouse locations, RFgen deployed Zebra printers and the Loftware label printing solution. In just a few seconds, the warehouse team can populate, then print labels for pallets and boxes on-demand. When the sales of certain items slow, employees can quickly transfer inventory in RFgen, then print a new label and move it to a lower-velocity pick zone.
"If an item is coming in and it's classified as a great seller, we'll place it closer to the pick zones, so the commute back and forth for replenishment is shorter," explains Gonzalez.
With RFgen, warehouse employees complete a three-step process to receive inventory on a purchase order. The RFgen-assisted process helps correctly identify and label inbound orders to minimize errors and improve customer satisfaction.
First, workers scan a UPC to identify products and ensure they have the correct purchase order. Barcode labels can be generated and then affixed to the pallet or case. Next, RFgen helps by streamlining the inspection process for the quality control team by adjusting sample quantities out of inventory and releasing them from inspection to make the quantity available for putaway.
"We're able to accurately identify the inbound Purchase Order by scanning the case or bottle barcode. RFgen displays a list of open POs that include the item scanned, allowing the warehouse to select the PO," says Gonzalez.
The ability to modify their RFgen software installation as-needed with their own in-house developers was a major selling point for Gonzalez and the Life Extension team. RFgen Mobile Development Studio simplifies the entire process of designing, testing and deploying wireless and mobile applications, making it flexible enough to meet almost any requirement. Modifications are quick and easy, even for junior developers, and ensures the long-term viability of the RFgen platform as Life Extension's business needs change over time.
Working with the team at RFgen, Life Extension deployed effective automated data collection solutions and was able to modify them to match the company's business processes within a short turnaround time. These new processes enabled the company to gain greater control over their operations, improving accuracy, efficiency, and visibility. Beyond that, Life Extension acquired valuable insights into future potential as well, ultimately broadening their horizons going forward as the company prepared for continued growth.
"RFgen has a really good team that makes sure their customer has what they need, both in solutions and training," commented Gonzalez. "I appreciated that RFgen was able to meet our unique business needs."
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