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Lift Trucks: Container Store gets organized, improves productivity

A close attention to layout, design and equipment selection makes the most of conventional materials handling processes in The Container Store’s DC.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
August 01, 2011

The Container Store, Coppell, Texas
Size: 1.1 million square feet available/810,000 square feet in use
Products: storage and organization products
SKUs: 10,000
Throughput: 75 truckloads per week average/120 truckloads per week during peak
Shifts: 7 days/2 shifts
Employees: 240 to 300, depending on seasonal fluctuations

The Container Store’s Coppell, Texas, facility was designed to manage store replenishment and direct-to-consumer order fulfillment. 

Receiving: Inbound shipments are delivered on Monday through Friday. The facility receives (1) between 25 to 30 loads per day and 75% of shipments are floor-loaded containers or trailers. Once the inbound receivers identify the vendor and verify the receipt against a purchase order, the merchandise is either palletized at the dock (2) or conveyed to a palletizing station at the dock. Product is scanned to a pallet that is tracked in the warehouse management system (WMS) by a license plate bar code. The Container Store uses yellow license plate bar codes so that it is easier for associates to identify which pallets are ready for storage.

Putaway: Storage is directed by the WMS. Once a lift truck driver scans a license plate bar code, the WMS chooses a putaway location in the reserve storage areas located throughout the facility (3). Putaway is done with reach trucks.

Picking: A system planner will analyze the direct-to-consumer and replenishment orders available for fulfillment and will determine what work will be “launched,” or initiated, each morning. That, in turn, sends a signal to the shipping department to plan the transportation that will be required to ship orders. Finally, orders are also sent to the labor management system, which determines how many hours will be required to fill the orders. The work is also distributed across the 18 different picking zones (4) where product is stored. Product is slotted in picking zone based on a variety of criteria, including the velocity of movement, the type of product and full case and split-case picks.

Store replenishment: Based on the orders and time required to fill them, shift supervisors assign associates to the pick zones (4). They receive work assignments on an RF scanning device and pick to a pallet. In addition to telling an associate what to pick, the system also tells them how long each assignment should take based on the engineered labor standards in the labor management system. The system will tell the associate where to start picking, when the order is complete, direct them to the staging location (5) on a dock for full truckload shipments (6) and finally, direct them to their next assignment.

Direct-to-consumer:
The process for direct-to-consumer orders is similar to store replenishment, except that orders are picked to a cart. Each cart can accommodate 9 to 12 orders at a time, which are picked in batches. Once a batch has been picked, the associate delivers the cart to a packing station (7), where the orders are packed for shipment. The associate is then assigned to another cart.

Shipping: Pallets for store replenishment are staged at the dock door (5) assigned to that order. The majority of the trailers (6) are floor loaded. Depending on the product, trailers are maximized by cube or weight. To initiate the process, the loader scans the license plate bar code of the pallet he is working on, and continues loading until the trailer is complete.
Since stores have minimal stock rooms, most deliveries are made at 5 a.m. so that store associates have time to unload trucks and move product directly to the floor. For that reason, trailers are loaded by 3 p.m. each day.

For direct-to-consumer orders, once a packager finishes an order, the cases are placed on a conveyor (8) and delivered to a manifest point (9). Shipping labels are applied and the cases are loaded directly into the parcel shipper’s trailers (10).

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System Suppliers
System design and integration: Malin Integrated Handling Solutions, malinusa.com
Lift trucks: Raymond, http://www.raymondcorp.com
Battery system: Carney Battery Handling, http://www.carneybatteryhandling.com
Consulting group: St. Onge, http://www.stonge.com
Conveyor: Hytrol, http://www.hytrol.com
Pallet rack: Frazier Industrial Rack, http://www.frazier.com
WMS: Catalyst (CDC Corp), http://www.cdccorporation.net/en/Catalyst.aspx 
Labor management: RedPrairie, http://www.redprairie.com
Slotting, yard and dock management software: The Container Store
Bar code scanning: Motorola Solutions, http://www.motorolasolutions.com
Voice recognition: Lucas Systems, http://www.lucasware.com
High-velocity fans: MacroAir Technologies, http://www.macro-air.com

 

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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