C&H Sugar Gains Extraordinary Inventory Visibility with Mobile Computing

May 1, 2008
This case history about C&H Sugar comes courtesy of Intermec. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.

This case history about C&H Sugar comes courtesy of Intermec. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.

Company Background
C&H Sugar is located in Crockett, CA near San Francisco and produces cane sugar for a vast U.S. market. The Crockett refinery processes over 700 thousand tons of cane sugar annually—more than 70 types, grades and package sizes, including packaged consumer sugars as well as packaged, liquid and bulk granulated industrial-use cane sugars.

The company recently implemented SAP version 4.6c including Production Planning, Materials Management, Sales and Distribution, Finance, Quality Management, Human Resources and Warehouse Management. When they decided to implement SAP WM, they knew they wanted the extended functionality enabled by SAPConsole. The company was transitioning from a COBOL-based warehouse management system to SAP WM with SAPConsole. The legacy system provided very little visibility and many of the business processes were manual.

Implementation Goals
Increase Inventory Visibility and accuracy the native SAP data collection system was installed to improve inventory control and accuracy in the warehouse portion of the company’s 1,400,000 square-foot refinery and distribution center in Crockett, CA . This facility was built in the late 19th century and accounts for roughly 8 percent of the country’s annual production of refined sugar. “With the legacy system, we knew the overall inventory totals, but the information was partially batched, location data was done manually, and inventory data was not available to everyone in a timely manner,” says Gary Walden, Project Manager for the implementation. “Our goal with the new system was to achieve real-time location specific inventory data with company wide visibility.”

Solution Overview
Catalyst Library of Transactions and Intermec Hardware Enable Business Process Optimizations the solution consisted of a combination of SAPConsole, hardware from Intermec and consulting expertise and data collection transactions from Catalyst International. The Catalyst library of SAPConsole transaction templates was used to develop transactions for various business processes to optimize the routing of materials in the warehouse. Catalyst also built a secure wireless infrastructure with access points through out the multi-floor warehouse.

C&H Sugar chose Catalyst International as their business partner for implementation because of their expertise and experience with implementing SAPConsole and their library of transaction templates for warehouse management. “We were looking for a company that we could partner with to help us with the RF scanning devices,” says Walden. “We wanted someone who had experience with implementing the infrastructure and scanning capabilities with SAP. We consulted with a product manager at SAP and they recommended Catalyst International.” Walden is pleased with the quality of work from Catalyst and the speed of the implementation. “It was a fairly large undertaking both from an infrastructure and scanning standpoint. We had to do the development in parallel with the building of the infrastructure,” says Walden. “We gave Catalyst a relatively short period of time for development and testing and we were pleased with the responsiveness and quality of their work. This is an area they know very well. They had some very good people working on the implementation.”

In addition to architecting and implementing the custom transactions, Catalyst also conducted the end user training. Phil Peterson worked closely with the training team and was pleased with the results. “Catalyst performed very, very well,” says Peterson. “They have successfully done everything we asked of them. The main strength of the Catalyst team is their professionalism. Everyone is very professional, knowledgeable and courteous.”

Intermec Technologies Corporation provided the hardware for the SAPConsole transactions, including T2435 handheld devices and 1551 tethered scanners for forklift operations. “The RF devices from Intermec are top of the line,” says Peterson. “They are very durable and very reliable.”

System Significantly Increases Visibility and Time Savings
The implementation of SAPConsole with the Catalyst library of transactions and Intermec RF devices has enabled C&H Sugar to significantly increase their inventory visibility and accuracy.“We anticipate that with the availability of real-time inventory data, we will begin to see the benefits in other areas including sales, customer service, marketing and planning,” says Walden. The former system offered very little visibility and most processes were performed manually. “Our inventory visibility has greatly improved, and through the process, we have gained information and can provide everyone with better data,” says Peterson. “A year ago, our picking process was manual. Today the SAP transfer order contains the material, quantity, and location for the fork truck driver, so that the driver knows what to pick and where to get it.”

“Prior to the SAP/Catalyst implementation, our fork truck drivers did not use handheld scanners. Although they perform the same task, the execution has changed. SAP transfer orders now direct fork truck drivers to their location and they scan their product movements.”

“We didn’t take a small step toward technology,” says Peterson. “We took a giant step. We’ve automated a number of manual processes and in the end gained visibility and efficiency.” Many of their old business processes have been greatly improved with the custom RF data transactions.“With our old system, our physical inventory and/or cycle count process was to count everything on the floor, record it on paper and turn it into inventory control who would enter and compile the numbers manually,” says Peterson. “Now we run the physical inventory count process in SAP, which creates count documents and we automate the physical inventory and cycle count processes with the RF device.” The company has also automated the movement of items throughout the warehouse, which was a completely manual process with the old system.

“With our old system, we did not have location specific transfer orders,” says Peterson. “When an item was shipped, the clerk would confirm the product out of inventory but the system did not show from which location it was taken. Confirming transfer orders is the basis of everything we do in the warehouse with SAP. It takes inventory out of the specified plant and picking location.”

MHMonline.com welcomes relevant, exclusive case histories that explain in specific detail the business benefits that new software and material-handling equipment has provided to specific users. Send submissions to Clyde Witt([email protected]), MHM Editor-in-Cheif. All submissions will be edited for clarity, content and style.