Endries International looks to optimise warehouse efficiency and employee learning with Infor

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez November 24, 2020 Audio version
Summary:
Fastener distributor Endries International has had a long partnership with Infor, but needs a new WMS to help it scale.

An image of an Endries International warehouse
(Image sourced via Endries International)

What started as a small family run operation almost 50 years ago, distributing fasteners out of Northeastern Wisconsin, Endries International has scaled to a $400 million business with nearly 1,000 employees and 10 warehouse facilities in the US. Endries has scaled its business working with original equipment manufacturers and now manages over 500,000 SKUs for fasteners and related products across its warehouses. 

The company has had a long standing relationship with Infor, where it implemented now outdated systems for ERP and warehouse management back in 1994. However, Endries is now updating its software to Infor SX.e, a distribution and warehouse management product, in order to take advantage of advanced automation, labour tracking and more sophisticated integrations. 

Todd Fischer, VP and CIO at Endries International, explains why this is necessary for a modern, scaling organisation and how the needs of the warehouse managers require better software. He said: 

We've had a long relationship with Infor and really grew the business and software systems together. You always have bumps and things you hit in the road, but the key was that Infor has helped us through it. We've always been really happy with the support and we've gone through many ERP updates. We are now implementing SX.e.

Obviously Infor is moving a lot of their systems to the cloud and we've been on the Infor platform since 1994. So it's been a lot of years of development and things we've done internally. And one of the big things that we had was that the warehouse logistics systems had a lot of custom mods in it for our fastener product, which was really preventing us from upgrading all the systems. 

That was a huge pain from my perspective as CIO and a big stumbling block. We were limited with what the system could do and we were looking at additional features and things that we needed. 

Fischer explained that Endries needed better automation capabilities as it looks to cube its warehouse. Not only this, but the warehouse managers are seeking to improve the user experience for employees. Fischer is particularly interested in the labour tracking tools in SX.e, for training purposes. He explained:

It's very difficult to see where they're having problems with [the old Infor system]. The warehouse managers really want to do some labour tracking. Not for disciplinary purposes, but for training purposes. To understand, why is this person doing it better or faster? Maybe the work is different? We're not identifying that, so we're looking at software to help us improve the process, as well as the employee experience. 

Working with complexity

As noted above, Endries has approximately 1,000 employees, 250 of which are warehouse employees working across 10 locations. Not only this, but across all warehouses Endries has around 70,000 potential products in stock at any given time. The nature of the company's business is that there isn't uniformity across the customer base, which creates complexity in the warehouse. Fischer explained: 

Some of the challenges that we have with our customer base is that up to 75% of our material is unique to a customer. That poses a lot of problems for us and optimisation in the warehouse. We're doing random storage, the current logistics system also didn't really allow for the different types of units and measures we needed to carry. What we're really creating is customer zones. You could have a customer that has a whole roll, just for their product, and right now it's scattered throughout the warehouse.

Fischer hopes that this can be simplified, and automated, through the use of the new SX.e system. He added: 

With SX.e we will be able to create put away and pick strategies, where at a click of a button it would tell you how to pick the inventory out of the system. That was huge. So we were able to redirect our pickers to go to the appropriate spots and [the system will tell us] ‘hit buyback inventory first before we hit main stock inventory'. That completely eliminated a huge modification for us in that area. So we've been excited to get that rolled out into our facilities. 

Again, we're pretty complex. We have our own packaging, we count down the material, there's no standards in our industry, which poses a lot of challenges for us. But SX.e seems to be able to slide into that slot a lot better and handle it. 

Endries has also been working closely with Infor on the development of SX.e, as it is one of the first customers to be using the new system. This co-development approach has helped Endries to build out the necessary integrations it needs for the future, Fischer explained: 

Obviously we've integrated a lot of other systems with it, which is always a challenge. A lot of the systems we've integrated, we wrote, which is always a little easier. But when you start talking about a logistics systems, there's a lot of communication back and forth. But what was nice is that because we are one of the newer customers on SX.e, we identified areas that we felt needed to be beefed up and Infor came back and provided that. 

For example, we've now got integration for VA, so SX.e can handle the value add and process value add. There's also better linking with order entry in warehouse transfers, so we don't have errors going on when somebody is changing an order when it's down in the logistics system. So Infor came back and provided that at no charge, as they knew the connection needed to be there. 

Getting the help you need

Finally, Fischer noted how in the past Endries has attempted to tackle large technology projects on its own, without the help of outside support. However, this time around it chose to work closely with Infor on the implementation, which Fischer said has been greatly beneficial to the project's success. He said: 

The SX.e system is very configurable and very flexible, but obviously with that you've got to be using the help you need to be guided through it. Right from the get go, the knowledge that the SX.e group brought to the table was fantastic. The SX.e crews know the software inside and out. They were doing stuff while we were implementing - we'd have a question about something and they would actually configure the screens as we were talking through it. It was exciting to see the knowledge that they had, the ability to understand what we were doing and allow the software to meet our needs. 

Now we do have a couple of mods, but the exciting thing is that the software is looking really good and fitting those needs. We meet on a weekly basis, and if we are not on target the team will push back on us, and we will push back on the team, it's a give and take. We are staying within budget, which is key. 

We are in our final stages of testing and we are really confident we will have a lot of success across our locations. We've been training our teams and we've had a lot of positive feedback, so there's a lot of energy around the implementation.