Pero’s consultant worked with the organization to identify a number of potential warehouse management systems. After an extensive RFP process, they chose RIMS (Robocom’s Inventory Management System) from Progress Application Partner Robocom. Based on the Progress® OpenEdge® platform, RIMS is a flexible, cost-effective, warehouse management system (WMS) that easily integrates with leading front-end business systems and provides supply chain visibility critical to success in today’s global marketplace.
In addition to meeting all of their functional requirements, Pero selected Robocom because the vendor was willing to meet some of their unique requests. For one, Robocom would provide an interface to Pero’s existing Famous Software ERP solution. The integration between the applications begins when RIMS receives an advanced shipping notice (ASN) from Famous with the details of what is to be received and culminates when product is shipped from RIMS; an upload to Famous closes the circuit.
RIMS also provided functionality and customization for classification of products. “We were the first produce company that Robocom worked with, so there were some unique challenges to overcome on both sides—but it was well worth the effort. Robocom was willing to do whatever it took to ensure our implementation was a success,” says Fletcher.
Robocom also supported Pero’s need to meet some of its customers’ unique requirements. Fletcher explains: “Our business mix of customers was changing, and they were asking for special packaging options. For example, we may take three boxes of commodities and combine those goods into one package. We needed a system that could track all three commodities into one unique package; that is a difficult thing to do. With RIMS we can now accommodate new types of customers and take advantage of strategic opportunities we were previously unable to pursue.”
Fletcher says that much of Pero’s decision to implement a new solution was based on the company’s goal to be forward thinking and proactive. “If you look at all the news in the produce industry, there are constant product recalls. We haven’t had to face that issue yet, but you never know what may come up in the future. Our goal was to be ahead of the curve in recognizing that there could be a problem in the future. We knew one of the keys to our success would be having quick access to information and control over our inventory—and that would require a whole new infrastructure.”
According to Fletcher, the final cutover to RIMS was seamless, and the business did not experience any slow down. Pero went from a 40,000 square foot facility to a 300,000 square foot facility, of which about 180,000 square feet are under refrigeration. “The day I opened the Florida facility I was able to turn on the switch, and the system was working.”
Training posed a challenge because many of Pero’s employees speak only Spanish and most had never used a computer; they were intimidated by the new system. Robocom was able to provide bilingual training, which was essential to getting users comfortable with the new system. “The trainer they sent was phenomenal—patient and did a great job,” says Fletcher. “It was a tough transition, and many employees were fearful of the whole process. However, today our employees love RIMS and realize how much easier it is making their jobs.”
Today, pallets of produce are received in RIMS and then stored as per the rules for the item on the pallet. “With three-high, five-deep racking, our RIMS solution helps us locate and store all of these goods without losing the ability to do the proper rotation based on size, needs, etc.,” explains Fletcher. RIMS not only tracks lot control for Pero, it also bases its putaway logic on the temperature of the storage room so that each product line is properly stored. Since fresh produce has a relatively short shelf life, strict FIFO (First In, First Out) is paramount in the Pero environment.
RIMS manages Pero’s FIFO stock rotation through the use of sophisticated algorithms. For example, RIMS recognizes that some pallets come into the distribution center already prepackaged for a specific Pero customer. In those instances RIMS knows to bypass FIFO rules and ship the specifically packaged product to the proper customer.
One of the major reasons Pero implemented RIMS was to manage inventory in the repackaging operation. Here pallets of products are pulled from inventory and sent to the repack operation to be packaged into smaller retailer packs. RIMS allows Pero to keep control of freshness and ensures that the complicated and fast-paced operation results in attractively packed and fresh product for the customer. Pero handles a large variety of produce items, and each has its own set of requirements. RIMS manages these diverse requirements while optimizing space utilization and efficiently directing personnel and material handling equipment in a real-time, paperless environment.