Major Department Store Speeds Up Cross-Docking With Automation

The largest privately held department store chain in the United States, once faced a logistical challenge – 97 merchandise receiving points and multiple manual handlings of merchandise were slowing down its supply chain.

A once lethargic, fragmented and costly logistics network that was very slow to get merchandise from the vendors to the store shelves – is now efficient and cost effective. reloaderscenter

They then realized the need for an automated cross docking warehouse because competitors were getting the same merchandise from the same vendors to their stores before they were. The customer sought out to speed up the logistics chain and drive their operations to a floor-ready environment.

After some research, a team of executives concluded that one highly automated, cross- docked distribution center, located in an area central to all 215 stores, would make the distribution process faster and more efficient.

Benefits: Saving on freight costs and minimizes merchandise handling.

Lowering Freight & Inventory Costs

In the pre-Blythewood environment, merchandise from around the world was shipped to the deconsolidation facility in Charlotte, N.C. Shipments were unloaded and reorganized into 215 store piles for store delivery, then reloaded on delivery trucks for shipment to the 97 receiving stations (91 stores received goods directly and six small DC handled the rest). Shipments were again loaded and manually processed when they arrived at stores, where they were received, checked, marked, and put on store fixtures. That would mean a carton could be handled as many as eight to 12 times before getting to the store floor. officialreloadersstore

This company implemented material handling systems to help overcome some of these challenges. This company has gone from minimal cross-docking to a totally new environment, where over 90% of their inbound goods are directly cross-docked, greatly increasing the service level to their stores. The installation features two sliding shoe sorters with 33 diverts, and almost 35,000 total feet in conveyor systems, including 26,000 feet of gravity roller conveyor and 3,500 feet zero pressure accumulator conveyor. littletalky

The team knew that consolidating his 97 receiving locations into one would not be an overnight job. They decided that flexibility was a key to the project’s success and wanted a flexible and adaptable material handling systems that could interface with their existing WMS and Legacy systems.

The flexible receiving dock is able to receive both conveyable and non-conveyable merchandise. On the conveyable side of the equation, the goal was to design an automated inbound sortation system process, directed by an advanced that would allow cartons to flow directly from the trailer to either processing or cross docking to shipping.

In the new automated environment, shipments are unloaded quickly – floor ready vendor shipments flow through the facility in seven minutes and are staged for the next store delivery. faganpainting.

In the previous environment, the time from the vendor to the fixture was approximately 18 to 19 days. In the new environment, it’s less than seven days. Cartons were opened at the store for inspection; merchandise was checked off a manifest list in the carton: hangers were either added or changed; and then the item probably had to be price marked. Each of those steps involved some manual handling of the merchandise that as since been eliminated. Each carton used to be touched 10 to 12 times before it hit the floor and now they have that down to four or five touches.


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