Real-time tracking also improves customer satisfaction.
“R.O.I. is always thought of strictly in dollars,” Mr. Grimaldi said. “This is not necessarily true. Profits can be realized just by streamlining operations and eliminating potential mistakes. A properly implemented WMS can easily eliminate mistakes, as well as provide better control over inventory. This will provide better scheduling to eliminate waste and unnecessary production.”
These indirect or “soft” costs can damage a company’s reputation in a market and cause unnecessary waste, both of which impact the bottom line in the long run. Often, fixing a short order or incorrect delivery helps maintain close relationships with valued customers.
“You don’t discover 24 hours later that some product is missing or was overproduced,” Mr. Braun said. “You avoid having customers reprimanding you because they didn’t get the product they wanted, and you have no idea where, when or what’s missing. With WMS, your production team can now tell you everything was produced that was ordered that day.”
WMS also plays a vital role especially when it comes to implementing an updated food safety program.
“Bakers need to ask, ‘Can a full recall be accomplished from ingredients to the customer?’ ” Mr. Grimaldi wondered.
When it comes to traceability, bakers and snack manufacturers need to obtain information immediately at the slightest indication of a potential problem.
“Our system knows which batch was picked for which order,” Mr. Ulmer said. “This is a must-have for up-and-down tracking of goods in case of recalls.”
McCook Cold Storage uses Datex for receiving, putting away, inventory tracking and billing.
“We want to be able to provide our customers with a visible inventory of what they store in our warehouse,” Mr. Kucharski said. “Customer needs have changed greatly in the past few years, so we’ve made sure our WMS has changed with them. Traceability has gone from tracking by truckloads to tracking by pallets and even down to the case level.”
Should recalls happen, McCook’s on-line portal gives bakeries full transparency of their inventory.
“They can trace their inventory as if it were in their own warehouse,” Mr. Kucharski said.
Another good question involves the software’s versatility and adaptability to enterprise resource planning (E.R.P.) systems that might be a few years older and costly to change.
“These systems need to adapt to the users rather than have the users adapt to the system,” Mr. Grimaldi pointed out. “Most technology that can be used in these systems was available five years ago. The main difference is that the technology today is more readily available and at lower costs.”
Moreover, MiT’s “middleware” software serves as a link between its new mobile devices and a bakery’s I.T. system. With middleware software acting as a go-between, bakers don’t have to change out or upgrade their E.R.P. system or accounting software when implementing a new mobile solution.
“It’s important to consider how flexible a system is in accommodating common complexities found within the baking and snack food industries,” Mr. Maraj said. “This includes companies that rely on a mixed solution environment to provide the required functionality for various operational aspects of their businesses. Strong software vendors will have experience with database management that integrates into third-party systems.”
The bottom line?
“Bakers need to determine what their biggest pain is,” Mr. Braun said. “For some, it’s the fact they have too many people running around the back or too many people trying to coordinate shipping to get the product out. For others, it’s making sure to ship the product to the right customer or eliminating product waste. You need to know the problem that you want to address first and foremost.”
That’s one way to ensure that everything is all accounted for.