Colorpak Limited is a leader in the paper and board packing industry. Established 90 years ago, the company has experienced strong growth in the last 40 years due to selective acquisitions. Today they employ more than 650 people and have revenues in excess of $170 million. Operating three plants across Victoria, New South Wales and Auckland, Colorpak have developed a reputation for quality products and a commitment to customer service. In 2010, Colorpak was about to quadruple the size of the company by undertaking its largest ever merger with the acquisition of Carter Holt Harvey. Faced with such rapid growth, the company had to overcome a number of challenges, with their warehouse management software impacting their overall operations.
Colorpak CIO, Paul Grobler, outlined the first issue: “At the time, the warehouse was already running pretty much on the memory of the people in the stores. If you wanted to locate a pallet, you would rely on someone remembering where it had been put, or you would have to walk around the warehouse to find it.”
Naturally this method was out of step with the size of the company and Paul explained, “We got to the point where it was nearly impossible to keep up with where all the stock was located. Once a job was finished on the production line and went to the warehouse, we lost any ability to electronically track the stock.”
A Warehouse Management System That Allows For Customisation
With this challenge in mind, Colorpak began to approach a variety of warehouse management software providers in Australia with the purpose of adopting a suitable Warehouse Management System (WMS), but this proved problematic as well.
Grobler explained, “We operate in a niche market, and a lot of the warehouse software solutions we rely on are niche as well. This means there’s not a lot of off-the-shelf software that is suitable for us, and we were very specific about our requirements.”
Due to these reasons, Colorpak needed a Warehouse Management System that would handle raw materials, inward good and finished goods, but also integrate with existing MIS system. With the level of complexity required, they discovered many companies were not interested in assisting Colorpak and declined the opportunity to work with them.
Logistics Software with an Integrated Approach
Finally, a chance introduction led Grobler to Australian logistics software specialist, Infocomm. Grobler learned they had a solution called ICS, which they were willing to integrate with their MIS, so the WMS could extract the information Colorpak needed.
Grobler admits it was a tough brief that included radio frequency capabilities, inventory management, comprehensive reporting and an easy to view user interface. Initially rollout was concentrated on Colorpak’s finished goods warehouse, with other warehouses to follow later.
Grobler explained, “The density of our stock interferes with radio frequency, but because of cost we didn’t want to have to wire the entire warehouse with WiFi access points. We needed to be able to capture information when out of range, then upload the data when back in range.”
Implementing Real-Time Warehouse Operations
Despite the detailed brief, new requirements were added during the implementation phase and roll-out was delayed because Colorpak decided to change the specifications. Grobler states that Infocomm dealt with these changes well during the six month deployment phase which commenced in early 2011.
When the WMS system went live they adopted a parallel approach that involved running the ICS alongside the old manual processes. This was beneficial for a number of reasons. Firstly, it allowed any issues in the system to be easily identified and resolved promptly. Secondly, it gave staff time to adapt to the new system and gain confidence in it before putting down their manual spreadsheets, pens and paper for good.
The highly customised end solution included the following functionality:
- full inventory management,
- radio frequency and scanning capabilities,
- receipt and put away,
- stock movements,
- pallet management, and
- forklift operations.
Warehouse Management System with Multiple Benefits
Two more of Colorpak’s warehouses focused on inwards goods and finished goods, moved onto the ICS by late 2013, with a return on investment evident early on.
Grobler explained, “As soon as a pallet arrives on the forklift, it is scanned and put into the system.” This change to their procedures reduced the time taken to find stock dramatically because using the scanners enabled staff to know exactly where the pallet is located. Managing stock became much easier and a tighter process utilising Infocomm’s warehouse management software. With the old system, stocktakes used to take up to two days, now they take only half a day. Communications with clients have improved too under the new warehouse management software. Grobler states, “There’s more visibility of what’s in stock. Sales can look at the system and double check stock levels while talking to a client.”
Colorpak also has access to a wider range of reporting and automation has removed the need for double entry of data, because information is captured in real time. Infocomm’s new warehouse operations avoid the potential for staff to pick incorrect stock and pick efficiency and accuracy has also seen vast improvements. In the past, Colorpak relied on manual methods with Grobler admitting that messy handwriting could lead to errors. Colorpak continues to work closely with Infocomm, describing the staff as very responsive and always professional.