Cutting It Close

The kiss of death for any do-it-yourself retailer’s reputation is not having the proper inventory on hand when performing a custom job. To ensure Closets and More stays on top of its game, the custom-closet installation retailer relies on a bar code scanner and dedicated inventory management software to guarantee all materials are available prior to starting any remodeling projects.

Based in Marietta, Ga., Closets and More assembles closets across the Atlanta market. When a customer contacts one of the company’s three showrooms for an estimate, a designer heads to their home, measures the space in need of renovation and hand-sketches a potential design.

Upon arriving back at the showroom, CAD software helps the designer create a computer-generated version of the sketch and scale of the project space, and then determines a price estimate.

Once the customer hires Closets and More for the project, the creative work begins. Computerized saws integrated with the CAD program ensure that parts are cut according to sketch specifications.

“Every part is a different size, colors are different, and there can even be multiple pieces for multiple projects in one home,” explained Alvin Thurman, IT manager, Closets and More.

Previously, the retailer manually counted parts and compared them with hard-copy cut lists.

“We produce approximately 1,500 parts a day, and the [counting] process could take up to an hour or more per job to complete,” Thurman reported. “It was a time-intensive and complicated process.”

The process proved even more challenging as the company grew in popularity. Closets and More’s gross sales jumped from $3 million in 2003, to approximately $9 million by 2007. Consumer interest was on the upswing, and the company, which relies heavily on recommendations, needed a way to speed up its inventory process, uphold accuracy and still control labor. The CountIt solution, from Plano, Texas-based Wasp Barcode Technologies, fit its criteria.

Closets and More began assigning a bar code to each part held in inventory. CountIt’s software, which includes a database, stores all information associated with these bar codes, such as part names, location, manufacturer and cost.

Now when an order is placed, employees pull parts from inventory and use a Wasp WDT2200 mobile device to scan each item’s bar code. The data is transferred back to a dedicated PC, and an exception report is created. If any items are missing, associates can make necessary corrections prior to leaving the showroom.

The technology has been critical to Closets and More for several years, and it continues to produce results. Besides slashing the company’s inventory management process from an hour to approximately four minutes, the software has also helped increase the retailer’s accuracy levels.

“We strive for at least 95% accuracy regarding parts needed to arrive at initial job visits—this includes having the proper pieces available, as well as the specific parts that fit the space,” Thurman said. “Prior to using the system, we would reach 80% to 85% accuracy. Within a year of installation, we hit a 95% accuracy level.”

The solution is also helping Closets and More keep a handle on labor costs. For example, if the retailer forgets to send a part to a job, associates must reload the part on another truck and send it out to the job site—a process that cost Closets and More an average of $150. By ensuring the right parts are initially loaded and sent to the job site, the retailer eliminates this wasted labor, saving the company time and money.

Closets and More is currently evaluating the value of using the solution at each parts machine. Six cutting stations produce parts for all jobs, and various pieces are created throughout the day. As parts are cut, associates can immediately affix their corresponding bar codes, then use the handheld device to scan bar code data into a pending job inventory database.

“We could potentially log