Case study: how Java technologies can improve your warehouse operations
We’ve been involved in lots of challenging projects. In this article, we’ll reveal the story behind building and optimizing the warehouse system of a big company.
Who we are
Over the years modern technologies have facilitated the process of warehousing and brought it to a new level. It’s not only about revolutionizing things; it’s about finding smart software solutions and getting the warehouse processes done (right and smooth).
Here is where “ISD” steps in. We call it “our software solutions hub” and for most of us it’s the place where we turn our passion, knowledge and experience into great software. We are a team of young, talented Java professionals focused on innovation, product development and maintenance. Since 2008, we have been developing great software solutions for European companies like: Inther Group, DHL, Aldipress Swets, River Island and others.
About the project
Imagine that you own a big pharmaceutical company and have a large network of pharmacy stores, a strong distribution network, hundreds of employees, lots of business partners and customers. You have a vast warehouse capacity but warehousing system is not keeping up with the amount of work. What would you do? You will search for solutions, right?
Actually, the management of a big pharmaceutical company really had these issues. They approached ISD and asked for our help and expertise. After studying all the process, difficulties, challenges and all the other details, we started the work on a completely new WCS (warehouse control system). We were determined to change the way their warehouse system works, and we did it.
How we have actually built the software solution?
- Interaction: we were constantly in touch with our client, getting his feedback, defining the specifications and requirements together. Generally the management of a company doesn’t exactly know how to start and what to do: here is where we can help.
- Technology: having a solid experience in Java, we created the project using these reliable frameworks: Spring, JPA, Hibernate, Camel, JaxRS, Maven, JUnit, SLF4J and other technologies. We’ve used Spring as the main development framework to build a high decoupled and secure system. As ORM framework we’ve used Hibernate to link domain model with database structure. We’ve chosen a free RDBMS PostgresSQL to reduce the total cost of the project. Our system is a distributed application that is comprised of multiple modules which makes our software easy to maintain and reliable. The communication between modules is assured with JMS under Apache ActiveMQ broker. The integration with the host system is implemented through REST APIs. The application offers a user friendly interface (accessed through a web page) which offers the possibility to monitor and control the system. We’ve used Maven (with custom goals) to speed up de development process. The combinations of all these frameworks and tools gave us the possibility to deliver a reliable and complex software solution in a reasonable period of time.
- Productivity: we love Agile methodology and, of course, we used it for this project. The software solution was actually delivered sequentially and the customer had been testing certain features before the whole system was ready. We’ve made an investigation to measure the achievements after the implementation of picking automation software. The calculation is done for one average day of work. According to these numbers: the efficiency increased by 25% and we see a huge decrease of picking errors, by 95%
- Flexibility: the system is expandable and is ready for new features and optimizations, for example SMS or email notifications when some products are out of stock. The possibilities are really impressive.
- Maintenance: we are not only delivering the software solution but are constantly maintaining it, resolving possible issues and implementing new features. We care about the success of our clients as of our own.
What has the client achieved?
This is probably the most interesting part, as we can see what the actual output of our work was and what were the results and benefits for the client:
- Full control over the warehouse operations
- 95% decrease in frauds and picking errors
- 25% more efficient workflow and faster orders
- Precise estimation of work volume, available stock, top orders, notification system, statistics, user friendly web interface and much more.
- Administrative data = physical data
- Workforce optimization
- Satisfied customers and business partners
The process before ISD
The old process of warehousing at this company looked like this:
- A supervisor defines a vast list of pharmaceutical products (on a hard paper) and passes it to the operators
- An operator is walking to certain areas within warehouse to identify the products
- Once he gets there, he compares the product name on the shelf with the one on the list, takes the amount of products he needs and places the products in special boxes. Finally, he passes the order to logistics department
The process after ISD
The new software solution delivered by ISD changed the way people work in the warehouse. The picking process is smooth and efficient and looks like this:
- A supervisor has a web interface where he can see all the orders. He is capable to see the statistics, set up priorities and evaluate the volume of work for operators and assign new tasks
- An operator picks up a wearable device (Ex. Motorola WT4090 wearable terminal) and reads the instructions which guide him through the whole process (step by step). No advanced knowledge is needed; the software is easy to use and intuitive
- He scans the bar codes of the products and places them in boxes (the software has all the information about the name of the product, quantity, availability, etc.). Finally, he passes the order to logistics department
It was a challenging and interesting project for all of us. We helped our client to optimize the warehouse system and reach all his objectives. Everyone is happy with the results, the quality of work, the time of execution and costs. Currently, we continue to support the software and implement new features. There is still room for growth, so we are willing to make it even better.