Headquartered in San Carlos, California, Farmer’s Business Network is a global farmer-to-farmer network and agriculture tech company. With FBN Direct, it has built what it describes as “the world’s first comprehensive online store offering a wider array of products so farmers can compare prices and weigh risk.” Most of the seed, farm chemicals and livestock feed moving through the service are shipped direct to customers from the warehouse.
Demand for FBN’s products and services was soaring, but with only a NetSuite enterprise resource planning (ERP) system acting as an interim warehouse management system (WMS), the company’s pick policy was neither efficient nor consistent enough to facilitate a rapid multi-site rollout.
FBN was relying heavily on established labor knowing which items to pick and where to pick from, utilizing inefficient manual loading. The company needed to adopt fully automated and standardized processes to save time, money and resources, and reduce the risk of inaccuracies.
In addition, FBN’s ability to remotely implement and self-configure the new and improved WMS was essential to overcoming the challenges of the global pandemic, decreasing rollout time and providing greater control, independence and internal system expertise.
The answer came in a partnership with SnapFulfil, developer of a remote WMS implementation tool. FBN cites the model’s rapid return on investment, along with its ability to scale with growth, as key reasons why it chose SnapFulfil.
FBN was also keen to explore how the tool might facilitate its own on-site implementation. It offered its distribution center in Newton, Iowa, covering 186,000 square feet, as a blueprint for subsequent engagements, with a tailored “self-implementation” program developed to guide FBN in both project control and execution.
The initiative drew on detailed technical support upfront, making possible seamless integration of the new WMS with NetSuite. In addition, it allowed for bespoke order transfer and stock-management functionality, giving FBN the essentials for seamless rollout across its DC estate.
The Newton DC saw rapid benefits, with improved picking and space-saving efficiencies in the range of 30%, FBN says. The automated approach allowed for the elimination of manual tasks and set out a model for future implementations at additional sites.
New radio frequency (RF) guns made possible rapid and easy integration, both for current staff and newcomers who lacked previous DC knowledge and experience. They were picking by the pallet load within 30 minutes of instruction, the company says.
Darci Fluit, FBN’s system engineer, implemented the environment setup, rules engine and required training via web conferencing. In the process, she and her team were able to install and configure the WMS in the new DCs on their own.
Using the new self-implementation documentation, they proceeded with data gathering, configuration of the technical infrastructure, user preparation and verification to data migration, stock take and validation, and go-live support.
"The SnapFulfil team were strong partners who provided clear instruction and advised me on how best to interview our operational staff about their specific order volume and storage requirements, then map out the intricacies of the processes needed and phased implementation from the very beginning,” Fluit says.
“With each go-live, we saw increased speed and ease of implementation” she continues. “After the first three DCs were handled remotely and seamlessly, we moved on to three simultaneous sites coming onstream, just a week apart. The program we had in place made that possible, and the economies of scale implications were obvious. We were also able to handle more complex integrations.”
With the self-implementation program in place, FBN was able to fast-track its expansion plans, and within a year saw 15 new DCs made fully operational and supported by the SnapFulfil WMS.
Volumes have increased “exponentially,” the company says, even in its micro-DC operations, which have resulted in faster and cheaper shipping and supported FBN’s rapidly expanding business.
FBN says it has also built its transportation management software (TMS) system around the SnapFulfil tool. Further rollout of the distribution network is underway in Australia and Canada, aided by the use of custom application programming interfaces (APIs), the company says.
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