Digitalized Warehouse Management System For A Smarter Cold Chain in the Philippines

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Royale Cold Storage (RCS), one of the biggest cold storage facilities in the Philippines, has been in the cold chain business since 2010 and is poised to continue boosting operations. Established to serve as a cold storage facility to accommodate excess fish catch of its parent company, RCS has grown to become one of the key players in the local cold storage market.

Backed with ISO 9001: 2015 certification and FSSC 22000 v5 certification, RCS ensures every product it handles — from meat, vegetables, eggs and marine products to pharmaceutical items — complies with local and international standards and is safe for consumers. The company is expanding its site network to further increase capacity and broaden its service menu as it supports the growth plans of its clients across the country. With 47,000 pallet positions — and growing — RCS hopes to double its capacity in the next two years.

With its customer base including major clients in quick-service restaurants, RCS CEO Ferdinand “Joey” Tongson stresses the importance of optimizing operations to improve customer experience and ensure operational excellence to all its partners and customers.  

“Operating in a paper-based system presents some difficulties, particularly in inventory management: Writing things down on paper and then transferring the data to our computer system causes delays, if not errors. In terms of stock location, we had to manually locate available slots, which is time-consuming and involves a lot of human intervention,” Tongson admitted.

Embarking on the journey to digitalize warehouse operations

RCS realized the need to digitalize operations. “The shift will enable us to do real-time stock updating and ensure faster transactions in, out and within the warehouse, boosting efficiency across all our processes,” shared Tongson.

In 2014, RCS looked for a viable partner in its digitalization journey, prioritizing one that not only meets its requirements but also understands every aspect of the company’s complex operations.

“We talked with a lot of local and international top-level warehouse management system providers, and AEB was recommended to us by Prime Sales Incorporated, one of our suppliers. After doing due diligence on their technical capability, a lot of meetings and exchange of ideas, we chose AEB because they were able to meet our requirements and provide the best value for money in terms of WMS implementation,” Tongson said.

The Cold Chain Warehouse Management System by AEB, a Germany-based cloud software specialist with 40 years of experience in global trade, logistics and IT, gives RCS visibility on shipment status, quality management, inventory, packing and dispatch of goods, making the Philippines’ leading cold chain logistics provider’s operations more seamless and less prone to errors. Designed to improve supply chain operations in cold storage, the Cold Chain WMS by AEB helps standardize operations and other cold chain processes such as blast freezer receiving, computer-assisted replenishment control and stock removal strategies.

Cold Chain WMS facilitates data collection for efficient putaway, picking and packing of goods inside RCS’ cold storage warehouse with the help of mobile computers by Honeywell that are specifically designed for cold environments. The system assigns a QR code for each item in the inventory with all the necessary information such as product, batch and serial number, and shelf life, all of which the Honeywell handheld scanners can read in one scan. This process empowers warehouse managers with a more reliable network of data while simplifying complex warehouse management processes in real-time and with fewer errors.

AEB understands that digitalizing warehouse operations goes beyond transitioning from a paper-based system to a paperless one: It also means elevating food safety and management, which RCS is internationally certified for. According to Tongson, AEB’s Cold Chain WMS helps the company manage items that are not compatible and consolidate compatible items, which is vital in allergen management.

“Through the AEB WMS, we can seamlessly customize the system to manage these different types of items and with fewer errors,” he added.

The Cold Chain WMS by AEB gives RCS real-time inventory updates and clear visibility and transparency on available stocks. The system’s automated slot allocation and improved storage space utilization help speed up all transactions with different clients. The customizable WMS also cuts down time of receiving and confirming deliveries to clients through AEB’s system-assisted route and mobile applications, which Tongson said “makes our customers delighted.”

Consistent guidance from system installation to implementation

The relationship between RCS and AEB is more than that of client and software vendor. It is also a partnership characterized by a consistent exchange of ideas, long discussions and meetings to improve and develop a WMS that is customized to the cold chain industry.

On top of providing RCS with a cutting-edge solution for its warehouse operations, AEB organized a series of trainings for all users before the system went live to make sure the improved processes are compatible with the WMS.

“It was a seamless transition for RCS because AEB guided us from the training, preparation of the master data, testing of the system to the final go live,” Tongson said.

AEB keeps in contact with RCS to address any existing and potential concerns and challenges that come with operating a complex cold chain. “AEB has a key coordinator constantly in touch with us whether there’s an issue or not, and they are very accessible 24/7,” he added.

The future of smarter cold chain in the Philippines

The local food industry continues to undergo changes, and the pandemic further heightened concerns about food safety and security. For RCS, the future of better food handling starts with a stronger integration of cold storage practices now. Changing consumer needs and market trends, including growing demand for food items with a longer shelf life for stocking up on, just-in-time food deliveries and easy-to-prepare or ready-to-eat food, means industry players must optimize operations and reinvent strategies to stay competitive. Automating warehouse management makes operations not only more resource-optimal but also cost-efficient and more capable of following safe distancing protocols.

“The one thing the pandemic has taught us is that regardless of the industry, office work can be done almost anywhere. As the Philippines positions itself as one of the top offshore service providers in Asia embracing a 24-hour economy, we see more restaurants in the future providing 24-hour services to customers who want quality food anytime of the day. Of course, the cold storage industry is one of those key elements that will enable the food industry to provide quality service,” shares Frans Kok, general manager of AEB Asia Pacific.

RCS believes that automating operations is the first step in becoming the biggest cold storage provider in the country, which it aims to achieve in the next two years. The local cold chain logistics provider has also been receiving a lot of local and international inquiries regarding COVID-19 vaccine storage.

“Our cold storage facility can handle different sets of temperature from +5°C to -20°C. We can handle any type of vaccine, which we expect to come in the next two to three months,” Tongson said.

As RCS expands its operations, it expects AEB, with its customizable and easy-to-integrate Warehouse Management System, to remain a reliable partner every step of the way.

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