Visual Warehouse Delivers
Strong Warehouse Functionality
and Complete Dynamics GP Integration
Harvest House Publishers has sold more than 100 million books worldwide. Three years ago the company implemented Microsoft Dynamics GP accounting software. “We had already outgrown our existing warehouse management system and decided to look for a new system that would integrate nicely with Dynamics GP,” said Stephanie Osborne, Director of Information Technology & Order Fulfillment for Harvest House Publishers. “We were introduced to KARE Technologies and discovered that their Visual Warehouse warehouse management system has solid integration with Dynamics GP and a wide range of other features that met all of our needs. We live in their order management window which lets us manage and release all of the orders in the system. KARE did a great job of customizing the software to handle the special process required for returns in the publishing business. They provided a solution for truck shipment that saves time by reducing the number of license plates. I was very impressed with KARE’s willingness to spend time getting to know our business and then roll up their sleeves and make their software work for us.”
At age 52, when most people are considering retirement, Bob Hawkins, Sr. founded Harvest House Publishers in 1974. Within two years, four Harvest House titles had sold more than 100,000 copies and the company landed a number one bestseller. By the late 1980s, Harvest House was among the top ten American publishers of Christian literature and has now risen to the top five by publishing more than 160 new books each year and offering a strong backlist of more than 700 titles. In 1991, at the age of 69, Hawkins turned over the reins of the company presidency to his son, Bob Hawkins, Jr., and officially retired from Harvest House. Harvest House titles fall into three major categories: self help (relationships, family, money, Christian living), Biblical (Bibles, Bible studies, topical studies), and full color gift books featuring name-brand artists.
Selection of Warehouse Management Systems
In 2004 Harvest House moved into a 65,000 square foot warehouse in order to handle all of its fulfillment from a single location. The company originally used separate systems for order entry/operations and royalty/commissions. Then the decision was made in 2007 to integrate all of these functions into Dynamics GP. The company had meanwhile outgrown its existing warehouse management system and started searching for a system that would integrate with Dynamics GP.
“Blue Moon Industries helped in locating the right WMS vendor by recommending Visual Warehouse from KARE Technologies which integrates to Dynamics GP through Blue Moon’s Warehouse Integration software. We talked to KARE and discovered that they had a lot of experience in integrating with Dynamics GP and they met our other requirements.” Osborne said.
The first step in the implementation process was tweaking the integration with Dynamics GP. Osborne met with KARE and Blue Moon to go through the company’s business process from a database functionality standpoint. “We hashed through the process and addressed issues such as “how do I look this up?” and how do I know what the status is?” KARE was already integrated with Dynamics GP so we just had to look at Harvest House specific functionality that was added in either system to see whether it needed to be transferred and if so make provisions in the other system.”
“From there we looked at how Visual Warehouse performed such functions as order picking, packing and shipping,” Osborne said. “We didn’t try to duplicate our previous methods but rather compared our earlier methods with the Visual Warehouse approach. Some of the ways it does things were clearly superior so we ended up making only small changes. For example, KARE quickly and inexpensively produced an order management window that lets us see and work on all of the orders in the system.”
The publishing industry has a high volume of returns and a number of special requirements in handling those returns. “I have found over the years that warehouse management systems do not meet those requirements out of the box,” Osborne said. There are a large number of different types of returns each of which must be processed differently. For example, some of the books that come back are out of print. If they have been out of print for less than a certain period the items are still returnable. Other returned books are salable but the price has changed so a sticker must be applied to them. Some books come back without a slip cover. If slip covers are available they will be put on the book and if not the book may be sold in the damaged market. There are also other parameters which must be considered in determining how to process returned goods. In the past, it was up to the warehouse operators to manually make this determination. This process was time-consuming and mistakes were not uncommon.
KARE developed a returns module that guides the operators through the process of entering all of the data required to determine what to do with returned goods. The software then tells the operator where to take the goods. The goods go to different areas based on what the next step is. For example, some books go to an area where they have stickers attached and are then put back into stock. The information is sent back to the host and credits are issued accordingly. The operator can override this decision but must enter a reason. This approach saves time and reduces the potential for error. The returns module communicates on a real-time basis with the financial system. In a second version of the module, the process for receiving goods was changed to reduce the number of clicks.
Visual Warehouse includes an interface to Clippership that passes the shipping information for ground UPS and Fedex shipments for preparation of the shipping manifest. Visual Warehouse normally provides real-time updates to Dynamics GP but also provides an option to delay the update. In this case, Harvest House chose to wait two hours before sending the information to Dynamics GP to leave time for corrections if needed. Another integration saves time in truck shipping. In the past, shipping clerks recorded truckload and partial truckload shipments on paper and the risk existed that the paper would not find its way to the billing department in which case the customer was never charged for shipping. Now, the shipping clerk enters the information into Visual Warehouse and it generates the packing list, bill of lading and compliance labels and transfers the details to Dynamics GP. This saves time in creating the paperwork and ensures that the customer is billed.
With the old system it was necessary to put a license plate on every box. Visual Warehouse makes it possible to ship an entire skid without having to label each box. License plates are only required if the customer requires an Advance Shipping Notice (ASN) which is sent electronically through the Electronic Data Interface (EDI) system. In the past, ASNs had to be entered into a stand-alone software package that did not communicate with the previous warehouse management system. Only a few shipping clerks were able to use this software so they were the only ones that could handle ASN shipments. Now, Visual Warehouse automatically generates ASNs which saves time and makes it possible for anyone to handle these shipments.
Replacing Physical Inventory with Cycle Counts
Up to now, Harvest House Publishers has performed physical inventory once per year. This is usually done in November and requires that the warehouse be shut down for two days during the busy holiday period. In the future, the company plans to use the Visual Warehouse cycle count module to verify inventory without interfering with shipments. “Because Visual Warehouse is a real-time system there is no need to freeze inventory during the cycle count process,” Osborne said. “This will increase our revenues and make our customers happier.”
“Based on past experience, I was expecting that it would take at least a year to get running smoothly so I am pleasantly surprised that we have had so few problems,” Osborne said. “The Dynamics integration works well compared to previous integrated solutions that we have used. The biggest advantages of the new system are its smooth communications with Dynamics GP, the automation of returns handling and the streamlining of the shipping process. We have taken a major step forward and positioned our fulfillment operations for further advances.”