Andrus Logistics is a well-known and respected 3rd-party-logistics company located in the western US. DataArt was engaged by Andrus Logistics to develop its warehouse system. Later the project became a separate company called Merchmanager.
More information: http://www.merchmanager.net
Managing and automating warehouses can be a challenging task. Once inventory approaches millions of items, a number of questions are raised regarding process optimization, audit, labor costs, lost items, and unnecessary operating expenses. And these are only a few of the issues a typical warehouse faces.
All inventory tracking, forecasting and analysis should happen in real time, so data management becomes a challenge as well. Merchmanager’s proposed architecture needed to support real time analysis of inventory.
And obviously, the faster inventory is handled the more the company saves on operating expenses. The process should be automated, and the automation should be fast enough to handle millions of inventory items in a reasonable timeframe.
As the result, the business requirements of the project were divided into the following groups:
- Data management;
Meeting the Challenge
The solution was designed according to the modern lambda architecture framework, implementing both batch and streaming data processing simultaneously. It provides real time access and analysis for the inventory state, and also provides insights into inventory utilization based on custom inventory history reports. The solution enables scalability and fault-tolerant data processing by leveraging a cloud-enabled solution designed for high availability and disaster recovery.
Big Data technologies were introduced as a part of the lambda architecture (e.g. Cassandra, Apache Spark, Spark Streaming and Apache Kafka) to support real time inventory processing for huge warehouses operating with millions of inventory items.
The solution backend is cloud-based, which allows flexibility for the business. The solution makes it possible to respond to business demands by scaling up or down cloud capacity and introducing disaster recovery, making the business operational 24x7.
Merchmanager’s architecture makes it possible to manage and process data for million item inventories. The largest inventory handled was about 16 million products.
RFID technology is used as an automating tracking solution. This technology makes it possible to track items quickly. It was chosen for the following reasons:
- RFID tags don’t have to be visible to be scanned;
- Scanning distance is flexible;
- It can be used to locate items by regulating an antenna’s power.
A mobile device and a handheld RFID scanner communicate with each other using Bluetooth.
There are a number of RFID readers supported at the moment (e.g. TSL 1128, TSL 1166). The solution architecture makes it possible to add new types of supported devices to the system easily.
RFID hand readers are not powerful enough to scan a several million item inventory in reasonable time. Dock Door and Forklift Readers (SLS RFID Solutions http://www.slsrfid.com/) can be used to automate the warehouse.
Merchmanager uses the SLS Listening Service to work with the fixed RFID readers.
After items are scanned, all inventory data is ingested and processed by Merchmanager.
Automated Pick Lines
DataArt implemented a solution that makes it possible to verify orders with handheld RFID readers. The solution can be installed on the manual pick line terminals. Implementation of fully automated pick lines required DataArt to handle the following tasks:
- Providing Order Flow;
- Integration with Mozula to implement the packing service;
- Integration with UPS to provide small package shipping;
- Printing discrepancy reports for failed order boxes;
- Order verification by box to fix problems with failed orders (Our mobile app with Handheld RFID reader);
- Printing missing RFID tags.
DataArt implemented integration with Big Commerce and Quickbooks. This made it possible to use RFID Inventory Management with the platforms.
The architecture made it possible to extend support for other E-commerce platforms.
MerchManage plans integration with Retail Pro.
The solution allows automation, inventory tracking, data processing, and warehouse management. Users enjoy the following benefits:
- Decreased operating expenses for warehouses;
- Space efficiency;
- Real-time inventory tracking, analytics, and forecasting;
- Integration with 3rd-party e-commerce platforms;
- Support for RFID hardware.
Cassandra, Spark Streaming and Spark Batching, Scala, Kafka, MS.NET Framework 4.5, MS SQL Server 2012, Entity Framework 5, ASP.NET MVC 4, jQuery, jQueryUI, AJAX, ASP.NET MVC Web API, Android SDK, IPhone SDK.