Rocky Brands: Double the size, double the challenge

Rocky Brand’s distribution team faced a pretty daunting network design issue as well as a new customer service challenge

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Growing a company is one of the most exciting prospects for business owners and their management teams. With it comes the challenge of either expanding existing processes or folding an acquired one into your operations—or, as we see in this month’s System Report, do a little of both and re-engineer for a productivity revolution.

Back in 2005, Logan, Ohio-based footwear manufacturer Rocky Brands acquired EJ Footwear, a move that rolled a number of new brands into the company’s portfolio and more than doubled its size. With the acquisition came EJ’s main distribution facility located in eastern Pennsylvania as well as a 3PL relationship designed to pick up any distribution slack.

This presented Rocky’s distribution team with a pretty daunting network design issue as well as a new customer service challenge. As executive editor Bob Trebilcock explains: “Although the company now owned the brands made and distributed by EJ, a customer ordering from multiple brands was still receiving two shipments from one order, because different brands were supported by different facilities.”

After weighing the two locations, it was clear that Rocky’s central Ohio location was preferred for all distribution operations since the facility can service 50% of the U.S. within five days. But a full-out consolidation of the two facilities, and the elimination of the 3PL relationship, meant a redesign of the systems and processes as well as a complete makeover of Rocky’s 210,000-square-foot DC. “We simply weren’t designed to handle double our volume,” says Barbara Sherbourne, manager of the company’s direct operations.

Starting on page 18, Trebilcock takes us inside Rocky’s facility and shares how Sherbourne and the team met the challenge and redesigned their systems to improve throughput of their existing sortation system; increased storage capacity of their narrow aisle rack; reworked their picking strategies; and improved outbound shipping

But perhaps one of the most impressive improvements, and the key to making the new processes work, was the upgrade and integration of its warehouse management system (WMS) and warehouse control system (WCS). The integration afforded the team the visibility it lacked in the past, and allowed them to track orders and inventory through the DC as well as throughout the process, greatly improving inventory accuracy and order fill rates.

“While there were some improvements to the physical layout and materials handling equipment in the facility, the real gains were the result of upgrading its WMS and then integrating it with the WCS,” says Trebilcock. “They gained visibility and were able to get more out of their automated systems than in the past.”

And if you’re inspired by Rocky’s software-lead process revolution, I suggest you gain an even better understanding of how Modern readers are currently applying supply chain management (SCM) software by tuning into our 2011 Software Usage Survey Webcast.

Trebilcock and technology sage John Hill join me in an insightful discussion of the findings or our recent Software Users Survey in this online event. So, if you’re curious to see how your peers are applying SCM software inside their four walls and working to justify their investment, pour yourself a cup of coffee and go to mmh.com/2011softwareusage.


About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]

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