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Case Studies

A Streamlined Solution; Forney Industries Optimizes Warehouse Operations with Intermec CK3

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Forney Industries Optimizes Warehouse Operations with Intermec CK3Forney Industries is one of the United States’ longest operating family-owned welding and metal working product companies. Headquartered in Fort Collins, Colo., the company was founded in 1932 and introduced the first publicly available arc welder in the 1940s. Today, it offers more than 5,000 products for the automotive, hardware, farm, ranch and do-it-yourself markets, and delivers products to all 50 states through its extensive customer network.

All of Forney’s products flow through two warehouses – one in Fort Collins, Colo. and the other in Horseheads, New York. The Colorado warehouse is 56,000 square feet and ships 60 percent of all the company’s products to customers located west of the Mississippi River. The 19,000 square-foot warehouse in New York ships the remainder to customers east of the Mississippi.

Forney prides itself on providing outstanding customer service and sought a way to improve its speed to market while reducing costs.

The solution: the Intermec CK3 rugged handheld computer and WMS software, Warehousing™ for AX, developed on the Microsoft™ Dynamics™ AX™ platform.

Streamlining the System

Forney’s receiving and shipping operations evolved from a paper and computer system. Previously, computers were distributed throughout the warehouse. This forced employees to walk to the nearest computer to locate parts and items, retrace steps to shelves, and pick parts for shipping. The system created opportunities for errors in the various warehouse processes. Forney didn’t have a real-time view of product location at any one time. As part of an ongoing company journey to lean operations, Forney decided to make a change.

By the end of 2010, Forney chose Intermec’s radio-frequency CK3 handheld mobile computers. They liked the CK3’s durability and ruggedness for their warehouse environment. They also liked the ergonomics, especially the keyboard layout. In 2011, they installed the new process in both warehouses.

Intermec set up the wireless network by installing wireless antennas throughout each warehouse. Under the new system, Forney employees use the CK3s to automatically track purchase order numbers, parts numbers, parts descriptions, inventory locations and more. Utilizing wireless technology, the CK3 mobile computers permitted true mobility to Forney’s warehouse employees in their daily job activities.

Forney also implemented warehouse management software (Warehousing™ for AX), developed on the Microsoft™ Dynamics™ AX™ platform. The system is intended to integrate advanced supply chain capabilities into Forney’s ERP warehouse operations with a “one view” system. WAX™ creates a real-time global view by integrating business and inventory data collection using the CK3 handheld units. Blue Horseshoe, a business applications consulting firm, worked with Forney to interface Intermec’s CK3 handheld computers with the warehousing software, and streamlined the flow of 7,500 SKUs though its two warehouses, from receiving through shipping.

Clear Results

As a result, Forney estimates it has saved more than $7,000 annually in paper, ink and printer costs alone.

"When we installed the RF system, it created a strategic impact on our business," said Forney Chief Operating Officer Kyle Pettine. "On its surface, it seems like this is simply an inventory control process but in fact, it’s a prime example of how we’re constantly looking for ways to create the best solutions for our customers and to exceed their expectations. It is about the ability to collect and utilize business intelligence."

There are 7,500 different inventory items with quantities ranging up into the thousands stored in each warehouse and each unit is tracked throughout the facility as it is received, shelved, picked, placed in bins, packed, and readied for delivery to customers across the country.

"Now we can troubleshoot on-the-spot with real-time data," said Christoph Schindler, Forney’s Operations Manager. "This is a proactive system with many benefits. Besides helping us keep shelves stocked properly, it has increased our accuracy, movement and time functions within the warehouse. Once we started using RF it not only increased our efficiencies, it decreased our costs."

As an example, Schindler said the company previously required eight employees to work overtime on Fridays to count inventory. Now with RF capabilities, they only need one person for that task and it doesn’t require overtime.

The speed of operations in the warehouse and in the sales field has also increased exponentially.

Today a Forney sales representative can use the CK3 mobile computer to collect inventory information on a customer’s shelf in Kansas. For example, the rep’s CK3 can read how many aluminum oxide metal cutters used in metal cutting and fabrication are still left on the retailer’s shelf and send that data electronically to the Colorado warehouse. An order is generated, metal cutting products can be located, packed with an invoice, and shipped to the customer within 24 hours to restock inventory.

"The number one benefit of RF is inventory checking and increased productivity both at the warehouse and in the field," said Schindler. "Interestingly, it's also been a positive transition for our team of 65 employees. They've seen how accurate our operations have become. They now want to know how they're performing and it has improved morale through a sense of accomplishment that can be accurately tracked."