Partnership Profits From Simplicity
Color Point, Inc., owned by Art and Ken VanWingerden, spans more than 4 million square feet of greenhouse space and serves big-box retailers such as Lowe’s and Sam’s Club. Needing to address the challenges of a compressed shipping window and uncertain inventory logistics, Color Point partnered with SBI Software to develop cutting-edge solutions (see Challenges and Solutions below).
3 Factors For Success
There were three reasons this project was destined for success. First, the VanWingerdens believe in the KISS principle (keep it simple and straightforward). It is easy to accept complexities presented in the business process, but if challenged, a much simpler solution can be attained. The simpler the software, the more profit that stays within the company.
Second, SBI embraces change and believes in building a better, faster and simpler software that results in higher profits.
Third, communication between both teams was effective, with Color Point assigning a small group of leaders to communicate key details, while ownership stayed involved for critical decisions. Both teams refused to make assumptions and strived for clarity.
Areas Of Improvement
Order entry was the first area addressed by the Color Point and SBI teams. The battle between orders and inventory created operational bottlenecks when trying to maintain both effectively. The order entry interface was completely re-thought and redesigned into a flexible and efficient, Excel-like grid. The interface is adaptable at the user level and allows users to setup different order entry templates for different stages of order management.
One template can be designed for fast and easy order generation, while another template configuration might be for reviewing rack contents or viewing orders by loads. This has greatly impacted how quickly users can complete their work.
The two teams also focused on the simplification and automation of the electronic data interchange (EDI) process. Much of the EDI process is now automated without any user interaction and occurs before critical EDI cut-offs, which is mandatory for many big-box store suppliers. This resulted in a much simpler experience for the users managing EDI.
Rack management, optimization, kitting, labels and rack scanning for order fulfillment was another area both teams were determined to improve upon. The Color Point team helped create the first any-device mobile app for rack scanning in greenhouses. This transition away from native applications designed only for specific devices reduced expensive hardware costs and continuous support needs. SBI has been dedicated to mobile applications since 2001, and these new apps are designed to run without the Internet and work on any hardware device. SBI offers a comprehensive any-device suite of applications that will run on smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops, proving that technology can be nimble.
Brainstorming Pays Off
Color Point and SBI brainstormed to create better tools for generating weekly availabilities, resulting in the Quick Availability Application, an any-device app that allows the grower to walk through the greenhouse, adding items to the availability with a few clicks. Mobile devices can accomplish tremendous feats for key information gathering, but only if they are quick and easy to use. SBI believes in developing better software for users, even if it is reducing a repetitive five-click process down to two clicks. This can often be the difference between real success or failure.
Moving forward, Color Point and SBI are committed to their partnership of innovation and effective communication.
Challenges And Solutions
Challenge: Generating new store orders based on replenishment values was too slow and labor-intensive because of a cumbersome user interface system.
Solution: Created user interfaces for the back office team that dramatically reduced the labor associated with order generation, editing orders, billing orders and inventory availability forecasting.
Challenge: A sluggish order scanning application that was not intuitive enough
for shipping product in high volumes.
Solution: Fast and easy-to-use mobile apps that run on any hardware device in
the greenhouse and loading docks.
Challenge: An inefficient system for generating weekly availabilities from the greenhouse floor made it difficult to keep up with order fulfillment and inventory visibility.
Solution: Reduced five-click per item repetitive process to a two- or three-click process, making quick work of generating weekly availabilities on a mobile app.
Challenge: Complex and costly EDI (electronic data interchange) and billing procedures.
Solution: Streamlined EDI management with intelligent automation for sending critical data at specific cut-offs required by box store partners.