SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- Price Chopper Supermarkets here plans to improve the tracking of its inventory upon receiving and shipping, when it expands its warehouse management system to its frozens and general merchandise warehouses starting this summer.
"This system, coupled with radio frequency technology, will allow us to convert all our warehouse activities into real time, and work toward a paperless environment," said Renato Cellupica, vice president of distribution for Price Chopper.
Use of the system in other Price Chopper warehouse facilities has improved cube efficiency by 7%, and resulted in 6% to 7% time savings for lift operators during put-away and replenishment, Cellupica said.
Price Chopper's frozen-foods depot will implement a warehouse management system in August that will instantly report the positions and movements of pallets throughout the warehouse.
Following the frozen-food depot's installation, Cellupica said, a computerized system is slated to be installed in its general merchandise/health and beauty products warehouse in December.
"It is time to move into an open architecture system that will allow us to utilize RF technology," he told SN. "By using it, we will also be able to take advantage of the capabilities of the UCC-128 extended bar code."
RF technology will be mounted onto forklifts, allowing operators to scan the bar codes of pallets entering and leaving the depot.
As the pallets are scanned, the information is uploaded instantaneously into the system.
By tracking cases electronically, pallets can be traced throughout the receiving and shipment processes, and inventory positions can be accessed in real time.
"Real-time capability allows us to know what spots are filled or ready for replenishment at the time the receiving and shipping transactions occur," Cellupica explained.
Since the computerized system alerts forklift drivers to where pallets are located or are destined to be placed, it will reduce the number of pallet moves in the depot.
"Through the system we can control the movement of product from the minute the purchase order is placed, until the time that shipment's pallets arrive at the stores," said Cellupica.
According to Cellupica, purchase orders are sent to Price Chopper through electronic data interchange and transferred into the warehouse management system.
"Once the computer system takes hold of that shipment order, the system measures the activity and controls the movement of that shipment throughout our supply chain," he explained. "This includes whether product flows through the warehouse, if it is shipped out of the distribution center, or if it is put away."
Price Chopper installed a warehouse management system in its grocery warehouse last year, and implemented another system in its medium-temperature perishables warehouse earlier this year. The retailer credits the system for increases in space use and productivity in the two warehouses.
"We increased our space utilization, or cube utilization, by 7% within the warehouses using the system," he explained. "We are experiencing better utilization of space because the real-time reporting lets us know which slots are free quicker than with the old system."
Similar increases were noted in productivity.
"There is a 6% to 7% time savings for lift operators during the put-away and replenishment processes," Cellupica said.
Since the lift operator is being directed by the computer and through labor standards, "there is a time frame assigned to the tasks, and we see the operators taking less time to complete the assignments," he added.
Before installing the computerized warehouse system, Price Chopper relied on paper transactions to record when products were shipped and received, and which slots were available.
"Paper transactions caused a delay from the time the product activity actually occurred to the time that the movement was manually entered into the system," he said.