Merchandise Inc. Technology Upgrades Solves Single Point of Failure


Since 1964 Merchandise Inc. has provided discounted over-the-counter and other drug store commodities. They ship 11,000 items from a warehouse in Miamitown, OH near Cincinnati. Specializing in small quantities, they sell over 90% of the SKUs by the piece.

Merchandise Inc. was struggling with an outdated order picking system. They walked a technology tightrope in the warehouse; support for their software had ceased long ago and replacement devices and spare parts no longer existed for the hardware. A failure in either would have meant a catastrophic return to paper-based picking causing increased errors, delayed shipments, and a jump in labor costs. Merchandise Inc. needed a new picking system that would not require them to replace the other connected systems that worked well and that their employees understood. They needed a system that would be easy to integrate, use and learn as well as a system that functioned the same way as their current system by downloading the data and then batch picking.

Merchandise Inc.'s accountant recommended AbeTech because of our ability to provide targeted solutions. AbeTech engaged their partner IHS Software for their ReadyToShip (RTS) picking system ( RTS delivers accurate and fast picking of single or multiple orders during one direct pass through the warehouse.

Merchandise Inc. continues to print each order when it is ready to pick. When an order picker scans the order ID, the information for that order downloads to a wireless handheld mobile computer. The software guides the operator through the warehouse to the pick locations where he or she scans each item picked for verification. At the end of the picking process the handheld computer transmits data wirelessly to the host computer. RTS handles multiple units of measure so Merchandise Inc. can ship single items, inner packs or cartons. Although Merchandise Inc. picks one order at a time, RTS also supports picking multiple orders during one pick session. This efficiency counts most when the work load is a large number of small orders.

The ease of integrating RTS with an existing system contributed to the success of the project. RTS is designed to integrate into almost any business environment, providing accurate and efficient picking while not requiring all business systems to be replaced with the long learning curve, high costs, time and risks that would entail.

Merchandise Inc. also needed rugged handhelds for their warehouse. AbeTech provided new Motorola MC3190-G handheld computers to run the RTS software. Don Karches, President of Merchandise Inc., felt the MC3190-G offered the right combination of durability and price. In addition, the new handhelds are much faster and easier to hold than the previous devices. AbeTech configured the initial device and taught Merchandise Inc. employees how to set up the rest of the handhelds. AbeTech also installed Cisco wireless infrastructure that enables the transmission of data to and from the handhelds.

Don Karches stated, "I like RTS better than the other systems I've seen. Some of our orders are up to 500 items and it can take all day to pick one of those orders. We are still able to print out a piece of paper that has an order on it, so it works like my previous system. I like that."


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