Inc. magazine twice listed Mud Pie as one of America’s fastest growing private companies (“Inc. 5000”). Woman-owned and woman-led, the innovative wholesale company is known for its popular lifestyle brand and rocket-fueled growth to national prominence. Mud Pie award-winning baby & kids apparel, fashion & accessories, and home pieces are available in 16,000+ specialty retailers and department stores worldwide..
Warehouse Automation with ERP, WMS, and WCS Integration
Mud Pie’s move to a totally automated environment was rapid and seismic in terms of operational impact. Just two years before the transition, inventory control was entirely paper based and fulfillment utterly reliant on labor-intensive piece picking.
The company followed a common trajectory for high-volume, fast-paced ecommerce fulfillment environments: sizeable investment in physical automation in response to increased demand—but without adequate ERP, WMS, and WCS integration.
When QSSI was first engaged, Mud Pie had already implemented robotic systems for piece-picking and packing. PowerHouse brought improved visibility and operational insights to conveyance and sortation, as well as to automated storage and retrieval. In effect, PowerHouse brought the business intelligence for effective automation orchestration.
Adapting to Existing Warehouse Automation
“Steel is steel,” said Russ Schumacher, QSSI’s VP of Application Services, referencing the hard reality of working with an existing complex conveyor system. “You adapt the software to the steel, not the other way around.”
QSSI developed a customized, multi-pronged strategy, involving both people and infrastructure-driven processes, to ensure that Mud Pie would see maximum returns from their significant capital investment.
For example, we made labor more efficient with task interleaving and wave planning. We also equipped people with the right tools for the task at hand. Our team was there for Mud Pie at every step of the transition from pick-and-pass to more complex order picking/restocking methodologies (zone-batch-wave) using tablets and wireless handheld devices with pick-to-light technology.
In addition, we simultaneously made smart functionality for warehouse controls a priority.
Split Orders and Other Integrated Decision-Making
PowerHouse provides Mud Pie with insights into any number or combination of automation performance metrics (pile-on, pod-station visits, throughput, etc.), but order sequencing decisions ultimately reflect a deeper logic. During PowerHouse implementation and on an ongoing basis, the results of models in different instances are compared with various potential sequential methods. The result is a structured, integrated response.
A standout scenario for Mud Pie is splitting orders.
Diverse retailers mean diverse customer orders, which can lead to severe inefficiencies in how search and travel tasks are performed. Therefore, it’s critical for the wholesaler to be able to differentiate between oversized, non-conveyable items and conveyable items for warehouse pricing flow. In response, the QSSI team concentrated on the operational logistics of splitting an order. PowerHouse introduced pick pod selection and path planning protocols to improve automation controls. Similarly, pod repositioning protocols address the replenishment process.
Stone Mountain, GA
- 250,000 square feet
- Furniture/home furnishing
- Gifts and novelties
- Wholesale trade
- Small independent retailers
- Big box stores
- B2B, B2C, D2C
- Complicated sourcing requests
- Split orders
- Low minimum order requirements
- Combined order and customer processing
- Just-in-time delivery
Solutions in the Design
- Scale counting and scan & pack
- Automated customized compliance labeling
- Automated rate shopping
Global Supply Chain
- China (manufacturing)
Order picking can constitute 50%-65% of Mud Pie’s operating costs. Processing orders quickly and accurately is a competitive advantage. PowerHouse brings the brains to the machinery that is the company’s lifeblood.
Redesigning a Warehouse for Optimal Efficiencies
Mud Pie has continued to grow its business exponentially. Subsequent warehouse floor modifications and expansions build on the efficiencies originally introduced by QSSI. As part of our next project for the company, PowerHouse supported 9,000 new locations. The new multi-level facility contains 24 zones/pick modules. With Mud Pie, the QSSI team developed and then helped implement a high-bay, narrow-aisle picking concept to maximize the space for a new conveyor system, an impressive 28’ in length.
Our collaborations also extended to Mud Pie’s manufactures with innovations in packaging. “More conveyable” items inevitably lead to less touches with each induction. With the improvements, 60% to 70% of boxes interface with the conveyor only. This work also resulted in measurable improvements in quality control and speed to resolution.
WCS-Based Automation Visibility
The PowerHouse dashboard is credited with much of the success of the narrow-aisle picking concept. “When you can see all, you can direct all,” said Schumacher. “And, more importantly, you can direct with specificity.”
The dashboard captures critical information, which means that even in tight spaces it’s possible to follow a serpentine, one-pass packing method. In addition, floor managers can access a graphic of each cart’s contents. RF devices also incorporate graphic displays.
So much more than the sum of its parts, PowerHouse serves as data aggregator and integrator, as well as smart middleware. It eliminated the need for Mud Pie to interface directly to control systems for individual pieces of automation. But, perhaps, most importantly, we introduced a higher level of accountability into the fulfillment process. Warehouse planning and execution are made more intelligent precisely because of the quality information coming from the automation level.