No More Guesswork – SAP Business One and Softengine Team up to Deliver Real-time Inventory Solution for Goodwill Industries

Goodwill IndustriesEstablished in 1940, Goodwill Industries of San Joaquin Valley, Inc. (GISJV) is a not-for-profit agency that provides job services designed to help people with employment barriers to become self-sufficient. GISJV was incorporated in the state of California in 1940, just in time to assist with scrap salvaging efforts for World War II. Many of Goodwill’s early participants were veterans in need of job training and placement services. GISJV operates throughout the San Joaquin Valley, with 17 retail stores, two bulk-sale facilities and a separate not-for-profit dedicated to providing jobs for people with severe disabilities (Goodwill Service Connection).

The Challenge

It’s Difficult to Track What You Can’t See – Inventory Management Roulette

Goodwill Industries of San Joaquin Valley, Inc. (GISJV) was facing an enormous challenge – how to effectively manage inventory in 19 sales locations and two distribution centers, plus track 8,500 Tri-wall (Gaylords) donation containers located throughout the valley. For many years, GISJV had relied on a loose and mostly manual system of spreadsheets, white boards, an accounting program and a point of sale system. Since none of these components were integrated with each other, staff had to go to extraordinary lengths to produce and deliver daily and weekly sales and inventory reports. Tracking inventory at all the facilities was well beyond the capabilities of the agency’s manual procedures, so nobody really knew how much inventory was on-hand at any given time at the distribution centers and the stores. Without access to real-time data, staff often had to make educated guesses about inventory levels to determine what to stock. Thus, the best-selling items were often out of stock while poor-selling items were sitting on the shelves.

Purchase orders were created on paper and then hand-delivered up the ladder to two different directors before making their way to the president for written approval. Another example of the gulf between actually seeing the data vs. making “guestimates” was the agency’s inability to track Tri-wall boxes at Attended Donation Center trailers, which are strategically placed around the valley for donations.

The Solution

Search for Integrated Inventory, Financial and POS Solution Leads to SAP and Softengine

After GISJV concluded that the SAP Business One ERP solution would serve as a solid foundation for its core financial and reporting requirements, management contacted SAP to get a recommendation for a trusted Partner that could help them design and implement the system. SAP contacted Softengine,, one of SAP’s Gold Partners, with an outstanding reputation for SAP Business One implementations and for the development of add-on products or extensions that augment the core functionality of the SAP system.

GISJV management requested that the Softengine programming team complete a few modifications to SAP Business One to make it comply with the unique requirements of their nonprofit structure, and to Softengine’s WMSm (Warehouse Management System mobile), to deliver enhanced inventory management functionality. One key modification was designed to facilitate tracking of all the Tri-wall containers. While the Tri-walls all look the same, they are used to receive different types of donations, such as books, clothing, hard goods, electronics and other goods.

GISJV wanted to not only track all donations they received from Tri-walls, but also break them down further by Type. To fulfill this request, Softengine programmers customized SAP Business One and WMSm to first assign a unique ID number to the Tri-walls and then add the specific Type after the ID number. Thus, Tri-walls containing books could be tracked separately from Tri-walls with clothing.

The Results

Fully Integrated System

Softengine completed the implementation of the system at all twenty GISJV locations and management has been impressed with the results. Denise Ost, GISJV’s Chief Operating Officer, has been especially delighted with their newfound ability to use SAP Business One’s robust functionality to analyze data to help create and test-market different promotional campaigns and assess their effectiveness.

“In one trial, we tried out a discount coupon to attract more customers and generate more sales and though we succeeded on both fronts, we learned that the amount of the discount was too high and we actually lost money on that promotion,” said Ost. [quote]“The good news is that SAP Business One’s Sales Analysis capabilities enabled us to evaluate the results of that campaign and then make adjustments for future promotions. Specifically, we can check the number of transactions, discount levels and net gain or loss per promotion and per location. We have to be very careful with how we spend our precious marketing dollars and the new system gives us the tools to optimize our investment in that area.”[/quote]

Steve Celaya, Director of Corporate Security and Facilities, is likewise a big fan of the new system, especially its inventory tracking functionality. “Prior to SAP Business One, we had no visibility into our donated inventory levels, said Celaya. For example, we could only guess how many Tri-wall containers were in service at any given time and we had no way of making adjustments for donation levels during peak or low seasons. With our new system, we have visibility all the way down to a donated pair of socks. We can make informed decisions on how many Tri-wall containers to deploy for peak season, such as the end of the year, when people make end-of-year donations for tax purposes, and then reduce the number for the low season that follows. Now, we can pull all the data we need to allocate our containers for optimal results.”

Celaya continues on to praise the Softengine team and their commitment to the success of the implementation. [quote]“I spent a lot of time with the Softengine team during the entire process and they were consummate professionals every step of the way. To me, they are much more than a software consulting company that happened to install our system; I consider them as good friends. Whether they were on the job at one of our store locations or at our main office, they took the time to learn all of our unique business processes and patiently explain the most technical processes to us in a way that everyone could understand. They were so respectful and passionate about our business and mission and they have gone the extra mile to help us get the most out of the new system. Plus, they have become avid Goodwill customers!”[/quote]