Coastal Pet Products futureproofs warehouse with Indigo WMS


Ohio based Coastal Pet Products has been making restraints for pets since it was founded by Jim Stout (Chairman) in 1968, led by Kim Stout (President) today.  Clever materials innovation and stand out product quality led to rapid expansion and today, the company is a multi-channel manufacturing business with an international B2B customer base.

On a typical day over 90,000 product items, from a range that exceeds 6,000 sellable SKUs, are shipped to customers all over the Americas, Canada and Ireland. Operating one of the busiest warehouses in the area, the purpose-built, 400,000 sq. ft site processes a combination of bulk orders and drop ships for e-commerce sales.

Issues to be solved with Indigo WMS

In any fast-moving industry, efficient logistics with quick, accurate delivery is an important brand differentiator. The same is true for Coastal Pet Products. Although the company has introduced many technological enhancements over the years, a Warehouse Management System (WMS) was the missing link. Further productivity, accuracy and financial gains could be achieved by implementing a dedicated WMS system – one that offered more advanced warehouse management functionality than is available within Infor’s existing ERP as standard.

In 2019, the management team began evaluating WMS software options, with a target to find a best of breed product that could integrate with the existing Infor ERP system and conveyor systems plus the Vocollect (now Honeywell) voice technology used for picking and replenishment. A new system would need to support up to 85 operatives working concurrently and allow legacy systems to continue being used in the short term, but with the scope to introduce a new ERP in the future. “We didn’t have a true WMS, at the time we were using Honeywell and Vocollect voice devices,” says Dana Duff, IT Manager at Coastal Pet Products. “We purchased an interface which acted like a WMS and handled a lot of our processing, but the functionality was limited.”

Integration with other systems was a key requirement because one of the disadvantages of not having a dedicated WMS was a lack of real-time data to enable efficiency improvements. Updates to back-office systems were run in batch and warehouse data showing stock levels was always a day behind. This meant extra stock management shifts were needed at weekends to reconcile stock counts with actual order information. Coastal Pet Products also needed sub-second transaction processing because during busy periods, three or more events would need to be processed every second and each order needed a unique date and time stamp for auditing purposes. 

“We require real-time inventory accuracy at every warehouse picking location to avoid having to wait for the system to be updated and we also want to support more efficient floor delivery in the manufacturing area,” says Steve Caruso, Project Manager at Coastal Pet. “Currently, raw material replenishments are directed to multiple locations across the entire production facility and a significant amount of time can be spent delivering items when travel paths are not optimized.”

Problems solved with Indigo WMS

Indigo WMS could deliver real time inventory accuracy and every transaction completed would show on the system immediately, even in split second time intervals. This would eliminate time delays between inventory transactions, for example, when items were either awaiting put-away or dispatch. Stock would always be tracked and rotated properly, based on first in first out principles. 

Overall, Coastal Pet’s investment in Indigo WMS has delivered significant productivity and cost savings, resulting from the greater throughput of orders completed every day.  The manpower required to operate the warehouse at this level has dropped and employees are being re-assigned to support other areas of the business. It means the company can scale the business without increasing headcount and other benefits are seen right along the entire supply chain, including customer satisfaction ratings.

“Although our picking was already optimised with voice picking, the lack of a WMS meant that we could not process inventory transactions in real time and resulted in missing time sensitive information about whether items have actually been picked from the location. This in turn impacted our ability to accurately cycle count and improve stock auditing and replenishments,” adds Caruso.

The following key improvements have been made to warehouse operations: 

Improved inventory management. By introducing Indigo WMS, Coastal Pet Products have switched to real time cycle counting and perpetual inventory management. As soon as products are picked, the operation is linked back into the cycle counting process and stock number changes immediately register in real time as a works order booking. “Previously products would be entered into picking locations even if the product wasn’t there, which made trying to do a cycle count very difficult. We didn’t have real time visibility of picking slots whereas today we have that data as soon as products are put-away. It gives us a huge advantage,” says Duff.

Automated inventory put away upon receipt. Indigo WMS guides operatives to empty warehouse locations, improving space utilisation. “In the past we had to walk around looking for empty locations, there were no directions from our old system telling us where we could find free space,” says Duff.

Flexible pick routing. Previously Coastal Pet Products experienced difficulties when changing walking paths, especially when picking raw materials from the warehouse for production lines. Routes were pre-set and could not be changed but now the company has this flexibility to change walking paths.

Automated overstocks tracking. Coastal Pet Products uses totes for multiple item orders and now benefits from location driven replenishment to key pick points. Indigo WMS directs pickers towards the relevant totes to complete an order. This has created huge time savings since the original process was entirely manual and operators would waste time searching through random totes to find the missing items. Now the whole process is driven through Indigo.

Automated accuracy checks. Indigo WMS builds quality checks into each order because the software requires each stage to be validated. It means mistakes are identified very quickly and incorrect orders cannot end up in the dispatch area.

Reduced wastage. Previously, Coastal Pet Products would generate rolls of labels in advance of picking orders, regardless of whether the items were required. Given that up to 90,000 items are shipped daily, over a million labels would be printed every month, wasting money on consumables and time spent manually sorting the output and walking to and from fixed printer stations. Now with Indigo WMS, pickers use their mobile devices and mobile printers to generate labels on demand, a substantial saving in labour per day. The new process also avoids wasting consumables during bulk print runs.

Remote implementation success

Indigo’s consulting team began working on the Coastal Pet Products implementation at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the solution was one of their first to be deployed remotely. From start to finish, the project went according to schedule and despite the 3,500 mile geographical distance between team members, milestones were reached in record time and the company has never looked back. Since the early days of using the new system, 10s of millions of transactions have been processed and Coastal Pets continues to reap the benefits. 

“Right from the outset we felt very confident that choosing Indigo as our WMS technology partner meant we would minimise implementation risks and maximise business continuity, which now, means migrating to Oracle NetSuite ERP. The company’s consulting team quickly developed an in-depth understanding of our business and how processes could be improved using their WMS technology, plus we are very reassured by Indigo’s ERP integration capabilities, which had been proven across many reference sites,” says Duff. “Overall because Indigo is a best practice system, it has helped us to tighten up all our processes for the better and ensure we have a much better grasp of inventory.”

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