NATIONAL MAILING SERVICES COUNTS ON ACCURATE INVENTORYTo stay in the top tier of the competitive literature and support documentation distribution industry, it's crucial to keep costs down and productivity high. San Jose-based National Mailing Services, Inc. can service their customers efficiently and accurately through quick turnaround. In order to achieve this, inventory must be accurate at all times. National Mailing ensures this accuracy through the use of high precision counting scales from Setra Systems, Inc.
When a leading computer retailer needs product documentation shipped directly to a large prospective client or to a retail store, National Mailing takes pride in their ability to fill orders accurately and quickly. Computer retailers know that customers need extensive product information to make an informed buying decision. If the retailer cannot provide the proper support documentation for a particular system, chances are the customer won't buy it. That is why the literature and documentation that support a piece of equipment are just as important as the equipment itself. Therefore, National Mailing has developed a system within their distribution center to guarantee fast, precise service.
Each of their customer sites are equipped with an on-line system that connects to National Mailing's main warehouse. This way, orders can be automatically placed and filled in 24 hours. Conversely, National Mailing's competitors may take 2-3 days to fill the same size order. Once an order is placed, National Mailing begins the process that keeps them at the top.
Taking Care of Business
To efficiently receive, process, and ship thousands of documents a day, National Mailing has developed a system that keeps them ahead of the competition and, most importantly, keeps their customers satisfied. To ensure that their inventory is accurate and their response time quick, National Mailing uses Setra Systems, Inc. CP Series of high accuracy industrial counting scales in its 100,000 sq. ft. distribution center.
National Mailing, who purchased their CP's from Jenssen Scales, San Jose, CA, chose Setra's scales because of their high accuracy, reliability, and bar code system compatibility. The CP series interfaces with Setra's Auto Count for bar code scanning and label printing. By utilizing Setra's patented variable capacitance technology, the CP series offers counting resolution as fine as one part in 750,000.
After National Mailing receives a shipment of their customer's material (i.e., brochures, letterhead, data sheets, etc.), it all must be accurately counted before it is placed into inventory. "If our customer pays for 1,000 data sheets, they depend on us to ensure they get what they paid for", say Bob Bourland, National Mailing Service's Literature Distribution Manager. A member of National Mailing's highly trained team places an empty box on a platform resting on a Setra CP Series counting scale. With the push of a button the tare weight (i.e., the weight of the empty box) is entered and stored, and the literature counting begins.
When using an electronic counting scale, the average piece weight (APW) of the literature to be counted must first be determined. If known, the APW may be keyed in; if not, it can be calculated by the scale through a sampling process. Due to the many different types of literature and the natural varying weights of paper, National Mailing uses the sampling process. The system prompts the operator to count 50 pieces onto the scale pan and, by pressing a key, the scale determines how much one piece weighs, based on the weight of the entire sample. Each type of literature is sample counted in receiving, and the total number of each is accurately tallied. "Setra's counting scales give us the most accurate counts of any type of scale we've seen," says Bourland.
Through this process, National Mailing knows exactly how much inventory is in stock. After each box is counted, a bar code label containing the APW and tare weight is printed through the Auto Count interface via the RS-232 communication port of the scale. Bar codes play an important role in filling an order by increasing counting accuracy through minimizing the chance of sampling error.
After a purchase order is received, a cart containing a Setra CP Series scale equipped with an Auto Count is brought directly into the racks. The user scans the bar code on the box and the APW is automatically entered into the scale. The scale is then ready to accurately count the number of documents needed. "We are able to improve the speed of pulling material with the use of the bar code. The chance of a sampling error and counting inaccuracy is dramatically diminished," says Bourland.
Counting On It
Due to the high accuracy and reliable performance of the Setra CP Series of scales, National Mailing has increased their productivity by 25% and maintains a 97% accuracy rate. Before Setra, National Mailing had been using different counting scales that simply were not getting the job done. According to Bourland, "The bottom line is that Setra's scales are the most accurate and reliable around. With other scales we've used, we've had to replace them due to part failures. We've never had a problem with a Setra scale. And most importantly, we are getting the most accurate counts."
The Setra scales are also improving employee productivity. The documentation distribution industry is highly labor intensive. Through the use of bar codes, employees are able to work faster and more efficiently. Additionally, National Mailing's customers are noticing the benefits of the scales. First, they see that their shipments are going out on time. Also, because National Mailing takes the time to count and itemize the inventory, customers can rely on National Mailing to do the job right.
By integrating Setra's CP Series Scales with Auto Count into their distribution system, National Mailing has been able to rise to the top of their field. "Documentation distribution is a very competitive industry. We need to offer our customers quick, accurate turnaround to stay on top. Setra allows us to do that," concludes Bourland.
An edited version of this was seen in APICS, May 1996.
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