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DSW: Optimized replenishment

High-speed, cross-belt sortation enables better customer selection and service at DSW’s retail stores.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
March 01, 2014

DSW Inc.
Columbus, Ohio
Size: 700,000 square feet
Products: Footwear and accessories
Employees: 220 expanding to 350 during peak seasons
Shifts per day/days per week: 3 shifts per day, 5 days per week

At DSW’s 700,000-square-foot distribution center in Columbus,  Ohio, a cross-belt sortation system delivers increased capacity and productivity improvements in a compact footprint. The result is a better selection of shoe styles and sizes in its retail stores.

Receiving: Inbound merchandise arrives at the receiving dock floor loaded in trailers or containers. The facility manages several receiving processes: A fluid unload process receives (1) cartons that will be cross-docked through the facility and a manual unload process (2) receives cartons that will be used for unit replenishment or replenishment at the size level.

Fluid unload receiving/cross-docking: During this process, the first case of a SKU is scanned by a receiver. If the item isn’t already in the system, the receiver opens the case, inspects the merchandise and enters it into warehouse management system (WMS). Once received, merchandise already allocated to the stores is inducted into the cross-docking system (3). Following an overhead scan, a case is diverted to the cross-dock conveyor line (4). Once a shipping label is automatically generated at the print-and-apply station (5), the case is diverted by the sliding shoe shipping sorter (6) to a shipping lane (7) and placed onto an outbound truck at the shipping dock (8). 

Full case pallet storage: Cases that will replenish stores at full case quantities are inducted on the conveyor system (3), scanned and diverted to a separate conveyor line, where an 11-digit bar code label is applied. After traveling around a conveyor loop, a second label with a large, easily read two-digit code is applied to the case. Associates sort cases with the same two-digit code to a pallet. Once a pallet is full (16 cases to a pallet), it is delivered to a staging area for the pallet-level storage area (9). There, it is picked up by a wire-guided turret truck working in a very narrow aisle pallet-level storage area. The WMS suggests a storage location. The operator confirms the putaway by scanning a location label.

Manual unload receiving/unit level replenishment: Cases that will replenish stores at the unit level are processed in the manual unload receiving area (2). These cases are stored in a carton-level storage area (10). A second carton-level storage area (11) adjacent to this area is designated for full cases of one size that are sent to the stores. Cases are manually scanned to a pallet as they are unloaded. In this instance, a pallet may have multiple SKUs. Once a pallet is full, it is picked up by an orderpicker and delivered to the carton-level storage area (10, 11). There, the cases are scanned into a putaway location. Associates can scan more than one SKU into a putaway location.

Value-added processing: Some newly received inventory may require value-added services, such as pricing, before it is sent to the store. Those services are managed in a value-added processing area (12) next to the manual unload receiving area (2). Once the services are complete, the inventory is palletized and sent to one of the two carton-level storage areas (10, 11).

Full case picking: To replenish stores at the full case level, the WMS creates an order wave. Pallets with 16 cases to a pallet are pulled from the pallet-level storage area (9) by a turret truck and dropped off at an induction station for the conveyor system (13). Associates load the cases onto the conveyor, which are then scanned by an overhead scanner. After a label is printed and applied (5), the cases are sorted by the shipping sorter (6) to a shipping lane (7) where they are floor loaded onto an outbound trailer (8).

Unit level picking: To replenish at the unit level, the WMS creates an order wave by category. An associate is directed by the WMS to pick cases to a pallet from the unit replenishment area in the carton-level storage area (10). Once the pallet is complete, it is delivered to a four-level wave staging area (14) until it’s time to run the cartons through the cross-belt sorter (15) located on the mezzanine level (16). At the appropriate time, a light system in the wave staging area (14) indicates where the required cases have been staged. An associate goes to the lighted areas and places the cases on a conveyor that feeds the routing sorter (17). The sorter diverts the cartons to the mezzanine (16). Cases go first to one of four workstations (18), with two associates per workstation. Associates open the cases, remove the required number of shoes from the case and induct (19) them onto the cross-belt sorter (15). The system sorts the shoes to the appropriate store chutes associated with the sorter. In all, there are 500 chutes, stacked two chutes to a slot. Any remaining shoes not required at that time are sent to a residual area next to the sorter (20).

Packing: When the sortation process begins, the cross-belt sorter control system dynamically assigns chutes to stores. Each packer is assigned to multiple chutes. To initiate packing, a packer removes a corrugated carton from an overhead monorail. The packer scans the bar code label on the carton ,which associates that carton with the product in a chute. The packer then scans the bar code label on each item before placing it in the container.

Shipping: When a carton is full, a packer tapes it shut and pushes it onto a takeaway conveyor (21). It is then automatically labeled in the print-and-apply area (5) and then sorted (6) to a shipping lane (7). At shipping (8), it is loaded onto an outbound trailer.

System suppliers
Cross-belt sortation: Beumer Corp.
Project management: Sedlak Management Consultants
Conveyor: Intelligrated
Shipping sorter and conveyor: Dematic
Warehouse management system: Manhattan Associates
Warehouse control system and print and apply: Pyramid Controls
Lift trucks: Crown
Pallet racking: Speedrack Midwest

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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