Magazine Article | August 1, 2002

Conquer Warehouse Consolidation Issues

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

When totes acquired The Aris Isotoner Company, it realized the need for a consolidated, automated DC (distribution center). Now order accuracy and on-time delivery approach 100%.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August 2002

Though founded in 1923, it wasn't until the last quarter of the century that totes (Cincinnati) expanded its product offering with several new galosh designs and a line of rainwear. In 1997 totes purchased glove and slipper maker The Aris Isotoner Company. The new entity, totes ISOTONER Corporation, doubled the size of the totes operation and necessitated a sophisticated warehouse system to facilitate its growing SKU (stock keeping unit) base.

Increase Efficiency By Consolidating Warehouses
Before acquiring The Aris Isotoner Company, totes operated a single, paper-based warehouse, while Isotoner worked out of three separate warehouses. The new company combined the four warehouses into one to support the newly integrated business. Prior to consolidation, Isotoner was fulfilling customer orders manually without ADC (automatic data capture), resulting in order errors and delayed shipments. Collectively, the three DCs (distribution centers) handled more than 25,000 SKUs.

"Before consolidating the two operations, Isotoner had high handling costs and difficulty keeping up with shipments and customer demand," recalls Doug Baker, director of distribution for totes ISOTONER. "We decided to handle the combined SKUs of both totes and Isotoner out of a single 450,000-square-foot facility. We needed a warehouse management system (WMS) to help us achieve that goal."

Moving To Automation
totes ISOTONER selected Manhattan Associates' PkMS to serve as its WMS. Using ADC and RF (radio frequency) bar code technology for both inbound and outbound processes, PkMS provides the central control of all totes ISOTONER's warehouse functions from receipt to put-away, picking, packing, and shipping.

"The efficiency in picking and shipping allows us to meet the customer service and throughput requirements dictated by a seasonal business. With 70% of our combined volume taking place during a 15-week period, the scalability and visibility the system provides is crucial," says Matt Fette, manager of warehousing and distribution systems for totes ISOTONER.

After consolidating the DCs, totes ISOTONER had a short amount of time to get its system up and running for its peak sales season, which runs from August to November. Building the new DC, moving product into the facility and going online with PkMS was all completed in less than a year. Having successfully consolidated the paper-based totes and Isotoner warehouses into one automated DC, totes ISOTONER is now able to effectively handle all shipments to all locations in the United States from its new facility. PkMS allows customer orders to be changed up to the last minute, and the split-case picking operation permits customers to order just one unit or several cases of mixed products.

totes ISOTONER's 31-dock DC has 4,500 SKUs available for order fulfillment at any given time. During its peak season, totes ISOTONER maintains a daily pick rate of more than 200,000 units. "With 99.9% order and inventory accuracy and 99.9% on-time delivery, our customer service has skyrocketed. Also, with PkMS we have achieved at least a 67% reduction in the per-unit cost of handling returns and our turnaround time on returns processing has improved as well," explains Baker.