The Leader of the Pack
To meet e-commerce demand for quick deliveries, accessories company Randa finds a solution that enables it to pick, pack, and ship orders in less than two hours.
More to the Story:
Randa Accessories, founded in 1910, is one of the world's largest accessories companies, spanning 11 countries with 50 brands.
Cybra Corp. specializes in RFID technology, real-time tracking systems, and barcode forms and labeling software solutions.
VSS Consulting, a business technology solutions and services provider, helps companies focus on strategic growth initiatives and reduce total cost of IT ownership.
Randa Accessories grew up in a wholesale world, where it typically took two or three days to do large pack-outs of orders for retail customers. E-commerce and its impact on the retail sector and end-customer expectations has turned that model around, and made the New York City-based company re-examine its fulfillment strategy.
Moving to an Autobag packaging system and leveraging the features of a barcode labeling software have helped the accessories company migrate some orders to same-day, small-parcel shipping and reduce significant amounts of packaging waste by using biodegradable bags.
The Bare Accessories
Randa is a global licensee, manufacturer, and distributor of belts, wallets, neckwear, luggage, casual bags, backpacks, jewelry, briefcases, slippers, hats, gloves, and other leather goods. Its customer portfolio includes more than 50 of the world's most recognizable brands, including Hanes, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi's, Guess, Dockers, Nine West, and Timberland.
Randa's manufacturing base stretches across China, Guatemala, India, Italy, Mexico, and South Africa, and its North American fulfillment activities run out of two distributions centers in Reno, Nevada, and near New Orleans. The company carries about 125,000 active SKUs; roughly 32,000 are for top-tier customers.
The majority of its orders—about 500,000 per year—are still wholesale. But e-commerce order fulfillment and small-parcel shipments are growing. E-commerce-related fulfillment accounted for about 20,000 orders during autumn 2018, when the company rolled out additional automation for its Autobag system and began using Cybra's labeling solution.
"We tend to be a just-in-time business," says Timothy D. Walter, Randa's senior vice president and chief information officer. "We don't want to keep too much inventory on the floor. We want to make sure our turns are quick, and that we meet customer requirements as fast as we can.
"For us, it's about going straight from picking to a quick pack out the door," he adds.
A Natural Progression
The move to smaller parcel, same-day shipments is a natural progression as both Randa and its customers look for greater flexibility, responsiveness, and supply chain velocity. "We see the change from orders that needed large pack-outs and could take two to three days to fulfill," Walter says. "Now, we are doing what every other company is doing: If an order comes in by 2 p.m., we ship the same day. We have gotten down to a few hours of pick, pack, and ship. But we also see that overnight delivery is growing, and many customers want their product the next day, so we have to be able to adapt to that as well."
Randa has an advantage when it comes to fulfilling orders quickly. Unlike its competitors who get an order and then rework generic products to meet customers' tagging and labeling requirements—steps that may delay shipment—Randa tags, trims, and adds the customer-specific characteristics before the product arrives at the warehouse. This value-added service takes time on the back end, but it ensures that Randa has enough customer-specific products on the shelf ready to go when an order comes in.
To improve cycle times, Randa built on one of its existing partnerships and invested in new technology to advance its fulfillment process.
"Cycle time is a critical element for Randa, but it couldn't move small-parcel, same-day shipments fast enough with the existing process and technology," says Bob Cerbara, vice president of business consulting services at VSS Consulting, a Freehold, New Jersey-based supply chain business and technology advisory and implementation services company. "Randa asked us to collaborate and contribute our experiences in improving the process."
VSS initially teamed up with Randa in 2014 and 2015 to bring together and rationalize two operations at the Reno facility. That partnership opened the door to other supply chain and IT projects. So, near the end of 2017, when Randa wanted to improve its direct-to-consumer and wholesale operations with a bigger focus on the pack-out function, the company again turned to VSS.
"VSS was already helping with some luggage order processing, and we saw that they were the best people to look at our pick, pack, and ship process," says Walter.
VSS set out to automate the manual parts of Randa's existing Autobag technology, integrate it with Randa's ERP from Apparel Business Systems, and set up a platform for future innovation. The trend away from large pack-outs to small parcels played a role in shaping the implementation.
"Randa is primarily a wholesaler, so large pack-outs were common," says Cerbara. "Retailers used to place large orders but are moving to placing smaller orders more frequently. Every company is looking to get products through the distribution cycle as fast as possible. Randa had to evolve to meet that change and to stay highly responsive to their customers' needs.
"We could have converted the old processes from the wholesale business for small-parcel shipping, but that would have been inefficient," he notes. "Instead we analyzed the whole process, envisioned what would be efficient, and found the technology to build the system."
One piece VSS tackled involved rewriting Randa's entire workstation operations and doing a time-in-motion study to calculate the pick, pack, and ship workflow. As VSS went through that process, it became evident that labeling, an important facet of Randa's business, had to be encapsulated within the project scope.
However, Randa's WMS lacked the flexibility to quickly edit and update customers' compliance labels. VSS sought out Yonkers, New York-based Cybra Corp. to fill in those capabilities.
Cybra's MarkMagic barcode labels, RFID tags, electronic forms, and report-writing software allow users to create and edit labels without writing code. But before Randa could tap into that level of functionality, the MarkMagic team had to convert Randa's more than 100 Zebra ZPL language labels into MarkMagic formats.
"Normally, a label conversion process of this magnitude would be a challenge," says Chuck Roskow, Cybra's vice president of operations. "But with the MarkMagic proprietary Print Stream Importer (PSI), the label conversion process was a breeze, taking less than 30 seconds per format."
It took about two months to complete the label format conversion and have retailers validate the labels.
Cybra's PSI also enabled the conversion of other pieces of difficult-to-maintain legacy Zebra code to the Datamax language the Autobagger requires. Cybra's solution also helped Randa change its labeling formats depending on the data in the print job, and do reverse printing without additional programming when shipping to certain customers—features that smoothed out Randa's overall pack-out process.
Bagging the Savings
In November 2018, with the Cybra solution in place, Randa began editing and printing shipping information directly on biodegradable plastic shipping bags using the Autobag baggers.
The company has already seen significant gains. One is a time-in-motion savings of 18 to 32 seconds per order—a 60- to 65-percent improvement in packing process speed—which translates to a financial savings for customers of roughly 28 cents per order. The company, which can now handle a greater number of same-day small-parcel shipments and will expand on this capability, also reduced paper and shipping material waste by replacing boxes with biodegradable bags.
Randa is considering tapping into Cybra's latest software features, such as MarkMagic's ability to generate information in a PDF format that can be printed at offshore facilities in Asia. The company may also benefit from the Internet of Things-based RFID tracking capabilities in Cybra's Edgefinity solution.
"We are adding new features all the time," says Roskow. "One feature that may help Randa is real-time RFID tracking with all the Internet of Things devices that are coming into the marketplace. We may soon see RFID encoding in labels, tags, and other assets in the warehouse."
Randa started using the solutions with its belt products then brought them to its wallet line. It's currently rolling out the technology to footwear/slippers products and plans to expand through other lines of business. The company's ERP provider, Apparel Business Systems, is also standardizing on the MarkMagic platform, which will drive greater efficiencies and automation across Randa's various systems.
Randa plans to update its WMS with Cybra's capabilities as well, a move that will create more consistent labeling, form-filling, invoicing, and documentation throughout its product lines and divisions.
"Our customers are moving quickly with new lines of business and new approaches so we have to be as nimble as possible," says Walter. "We want to be able to ship quickly, and that is why we are moving ahead with these solutions."