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Spencer Gifts, based in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., operates more than 700 retail outlets under various names, including Spencer Gifts, DAPY, GLOW and Spirit Halloween Super Stores. Its products are devoted to humor, horror, entertainment and collectible and unique merchandise. While its business is all about promoting fun, Spencer Gifts is very serious about making sure that customers find the exact items they are looking for whenever they enter one of their stores. To make that happen, Spencer Gifts relies on supply chain execution software from Provia Software, Grand Rapids, Mich., to coordinate the flow of goods through its global distribution network.
Provia's ViaWare software suite manages the flow of goods that takes place within the high velocity distribution and cross-dock centers with functionality to control receiving, put-away, picking and packing and shipping. The system employs radio frequency (RF) technology to direct workers' activity and to collect data on the movement of inventory. It also provides capability for managing value-added services such as kitting, assembly, packaging and labeling.
According to Jeff Lovelace, manager of distribution center systems for Spencer Gifts, ViaWare has exceeded expectations since Spencer Gifts implemented it at the company's 500,000-square-foot distribution center (DC) in Charlotte, N.C., more than two years ago. From just this one primary DC, Spencer Gifts manages the movement of goods from its suppliers to its 700 stores around the world.
Spencer Gifts is a subsidiary of Universal Studios, and the Charlotte facility also supplies merchandise to three Universal Studios stores in Orlando and California. In fact, the smooth integration of the Universal Studios line into Spencer's distribution network provided the ultimate proof of ViaWare's value, according to Lovelace.
"When we originally purchased our warehouse management system (WMS), we mapped out a plan for how it would be configured and how it would operate over the next several years," says Lovelace. That plan had to be modified with the addition of the Universal Studios products. "We were asked to incorporate product and handle deliveries for three Universal Studios stores outside of the Universal Studio theme parks and needed to rethink our original plan to incorporate this. The robustness of the software allowed us to handle additional product."
In essence, Lovelace and his staff reviewed the training on the package they received from Provia and realized how easy it would be to manage this separate line of business. "All we had to do was set up a separate warehouse within the system and give that warehouse its own set of rules for picking and packing and selecting material," Lovelace explains. All this was accomplished with Provia's standard product by simply adjusting certain parameters and altering a few user-defined fields within ViaWare.
One of the driving forces behind Spencer Gifts' quest for a new system was a requirement to have real-time notice of when the supply of individual items reached re-order points. With that, those items could automatically be replenished in time to prevent the stores from having to place them on back order. This was something the company's legacy system could not offer. "When we were using the legacy system, we only returned data about picking and packing activities to the host system once a week," Lovelace says. "And workers only acknowledged that individual items needed to be replenished after they had finished processing an entire order. If they picked the last item on a shelf during the early part of filling an order, it could easily be half an hour later before they entered a notice that it was time to replenish that particular item. With that system, our back orders would automatically go up as our sales volumes increased."
With the implementation of ViaWare, Spencer Gifts' warehouse staff automatically creates out-of-stock notices as they pull items from the shelves. "With this real-time updating capability, the replenishment of items is triggered immediately," Lovelace says, "and, theoretically, we should never have a back order."
One of the main goals when Spencer Gifts implemented ViaWare was to reduce its back-order rate, according to Lovelace. "We blew our goal right out the window as we're now averaging about a 1 percent back-order rate. In fact, we had a 16- to 20-week stretch where we were below 1 percent."
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