Logistics

Customized high-tech

David Houser, Senior Vice President International Sales and Operations at HighJump.

Transport routes and supply chains can best handle the booming e-commerce sector with the help of smart software and the latest infrastructure. Experts from HighJump, together with partners like Fortna and iWMS, are working for retailers worldwide. They have helped to set up a logistics center in South Africa that is one of the most modern on the continent.

Globalization, new technologies, and market players are putting greater demands on logistics around the world. “This is a revolutionary time for the supply chain. The level of automation, in particular, is increasing at an unprecedented speed,” says David Houser, Senior Vice President International Sales and Operations at HighJump. The company, which has its headquarters in Minneapolis, USA, belongs to the Körber Business Area Logistics Systems. HighJump develops digital supply chain management and cloud solutions for more than 4,000 companies, ranging from medium-size enterprises to big corporations. According to logistics expert Houser, this development is being mainly driven not only by technological innovations but also, above all, by the changed consumer behavior of a new generation of digital shoppers. After all, being “always on” is an essential element of the online commerce ecosystem. 

lThis is a revolutionary time for the supply chain. The level of automation, in particular, is increasing at an unprecedented speed.r

David Houser, Senior Vice President International Sales and Operations at HighJump

Young consumers as the drivers of logistics

Younger consumers have high expectations, are digitally savvy and have demands that include the ability to quickly check product availability and to pick up or exchange ordered goods in a nearby shop. “Although younger consumers don’t yet generate the highest sales, they will be the buyers of the future and so should get the kind of service they expect. Otherwise, they will immediately switch to the competition,” explains Houser. It’s no longer enough to simply meet the demand —e-tailers have to instead learn to anticipate developments and offer smarter and faster solutions. This is a huge opportunity for e-commerce and its supply chains, as companies need to deliver more and more goods faster and faster around the clock. As a result of this online boom, many dealers have to optimize their processes. An example of this is the Mr Price Group (MRP) in South Africa.

Online shopping is booming worldwide and is set to grow further. In order to be able to professionally handle e-commerce, the supply chain has to be equipped for this growth.

A Herculean task in record time

The retail company sells clothing, furniture, and household goods in numerous African countries and Australia. In addition, the company has a network of more than 1,500 branches and franchise shops. For a long time, the retailer’s logistics backbone consisted of two warehouses in the metropolis of Durban on South Africa’s east coast. However, neither of these facilities was automated and they had been operating at the limits of their capacity for years. To ensure MRPs future viability, a central warehouse had to be created that would combine the latest technologies under one roof. It was an ideal starting situation for HighJump’s warehouse of the future.

“Warehouse management systems (WMS) with automated intralogistics are absolutely crucial for the success of MRP and its two sales channels in the competition for a highly efficient supply chain,” says David Houser. The advantage for MRP is that the WMS from HighJump is currently the only software on the market that has a core architecture that can be adapted to customer’s needs without requiring extensive programming skills. Despite this, system upgrades and support services are compatible and ensure very low operating costs. Nevertheless, the job at MRP was quite challenging, even for an experienced logistics expert like Houser. HighJump had to guarantee that the existing warehouses could continue to operate smoothly without interruption, and the new building covering an area of 61,000 square meters had to be completed in just six months. The task was nothing less than Herculean. 

Today, no modern logistics center above a certain size can do without a warehouse management system, or WMS for short. This software is an indispensable element for the real-time control and administration of warehouse inventories and storage locations.

Extreme demands on speed and control capacity

In spite of these challenges, the HighJump project team was able to complete the task quickly, putting the new center into operation in just four months. Located in a barren region 50 kilometers northwest of Durban, the new warehouse is one of the largest and most modern logistics centers in Africa. Almost everything automatically interacts here like clockwork because HighJump adapted the WMS precisely to the building’s structure and the customer’s logistics processes. “The new central warehouse was tailored to Mr Price’s growth strategy and combines two previously separate locations into a single facility,” says Houser. Among other things, the completely new warehouse has a package and unit sorting system that is combined with an inline label printer. This innovative technology enables labels to be printed with tactile matte and glossy effects.

The numbers are impressive, as the logistics center has capacity for more than 24,000 palettes. The system processes and handles now eight times more than before. Around 250 carton volumes are moved per minute through the central tilt tray sorter and the system has a sorting capacity of well over 15,000 units per hour. For crossdock merchandise it takes a carton only four minutes to go through all of the various stations in the warehouse until it reaches the waiting delivery vehicle. As a result, the warehouse puts extreme demands on the speed and control capacity of HighJump's WMS. 

MRP received HighJump’s Customer Innovation Award for its merger of two warehouses into a single facility featuring a very high level of automation. According to David Houser, “The project’s success is a testimony to our commitment and to that of our partners around the globe. Our creative and automation-appropriate software solutions enable companies to exploit their full potential — now and in the future.”

www.highjump.com 

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