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Orbit Irrigation Products, Inc.: Wireless System Gets Products from Warehouse to Customers on Demand

Orbit Irrigation Products, Inc., is an industry leader in both residential and commercial markets. The 300-employee manufacturer distributes products to all 50 states and many countries from four distribution centers, including its main center in North Salt Lake, Utah. Orbit's business is highly seasonal, and during spring and summer demand can increase rapidly. Now a wireless network lets Orbit process and ship orders as quickly as necessary to meet that demand.

Application: Automating Warehouse Operations and Eliminating Delays
During lulls in business, Orbit's paper-based inventory control card system was adequate, but during peak selling seasons, it was slow and inefficient enough to cause problems, and rapid sales growth was making things worse. Phantom or misplaced inventories hamstrung operations in Orbit warehouses because they were difficult and time consuming to locate. Forklift drivers would roam aisles at random, looking for places to stock overhead inventories. And every shipping delay potentially led to an order being cancelled and business lost to a competitor.

"We needed a system that ensured that our inventory was accurate and directed our workers as efficiently as possible, but that didn't break the bank," says Shawn Stephens, Orbit's warehouse inventory sales manager. "A wireless system, which would allow real-time warehousing transactions and bar code verifications, was the only way we could both keep down labor and inventory costs and raise customer satisfaction."

Orbit's new warehouse system includes wireless hand-held computers equipped with long-range scanners that can read bar codes even on upper storage locations. Warehouse operators use the system to transmit receiving, putaway, picking, and shipping data to the central warehouse management system; with each warehouse transaction, the system updates inventory automatically.

Benefits: Higher Productivity and Reliable Inventory from a System That Pays for Itself
Orbit's 65 Utah warehouse employees now process 20 to 30 percent more orders every day. And now that warehouse operators can find products on demand, picking and shipping delays are a thing of the past.

"Before we computerized our warehousing system, we had one person searching the aisles daily looking for products," says Stephens. "We just don't need to do that anymore." The new wireless system lets Orbit use random putaway as well as dedicated putaway, so while Orbit is making better use of storage space and doubling the hourly output of forklift operators, it's eliminating product "outs" in dedicated pick locations.

Adds Stephens: "We're on schedule to have the system pay for itself in less than 18 months."

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