BSN Sports: In a distribution league of its own

Following a retrofit of its DC, BSN Sports has achieved new levels of productivity and space utilization.
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By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
March 01, 2012 - MMH Editorial

What do you do if you have run out of space in your existing distribution center, but can’t quite justify the cost of a new DC?

That question confronted BSN Sports in June 2010. A manufacturer and distributor of sporting goods apparel and equipment to schools and institutions, BSN had outgrown its facilities in the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch.

“Space was at a premium,” says Bobby Melton, BSN’s plant director. “We had brought in so many new products that we had 1,200 SKUs in makeshift pick faces in our reserve storage area.” What’s more, LTL orders waiting to be shipped often ended up in picking aisles.

Rather than build a new DC, BSN worked with a systems integrator (TranSystems, transystems.com) to retrofit an existing 187,000-square-foot distribution center—one of two DCs located across the street from one another. The other, a 95,600-square-foot facility, supports manufacturing and fulfillment operations for large and bulky products such as bleachers, weight benches and soccer goals. After the retrofit, the facility features:

  • 8,000 pick slots for some 8,000 SKUs;

  • very narrow aisle (VNA) storage with single-deep rack for 8,500 pallets;

  • a three-level pick module with 5,580 pick slots featuring shelving, carton and pallet flow rack;

  • a three-level carton flow rack pick module with 4,230 pick slots;

  • a five-level pallet flow rack with 142 pick slots; and

  • a non-conveyable pick line with 1,008 pick slots.

What the facility doesn’t include is a lot of automation. Instead, it is an example of what solid improvements can be gained by reconfiguring the layout of a conventional warehouse with limited automation.

BSN Sports does have a warehouse management system (WMS) to manage inventory and create pick tickets. A conveyor line routes totes through picking modules and the packing and shipping areas. However, orders are still picked from paper tickets. Gains of productivity and space came from adding levels to existing pick modules, expanding the existing conveyor line, relocating and reconfiguring pack stations, and reconfiguring the shipping area, including:

  • an increase in pick locations by 52%, with a 27% increase in one picking line and 110% in a second picking line, and

  • an increase in throughput of 30% in the packing area.

“We shipped 744,000 packages in 2010 before the retrofit,” says Melton. “In 2011, we shipped 855,000 packages. Our only increase in labor was related to some new products we added to the mix.”

As a bonus, Melton says he still has 1,200 to 1,800 pick faces available for future growth.

Dealing with constraints
While BSN Sports may not be a household name, it is the nation’s largest sporting goods distributor to schools and sports leagues. Founded in 1972 as the Sport Supply Group, the company distributes more than 50,000 products to 125,000 institutional and team-sports enthusiasts through multiple sales channels, including a direct sales force, catalogs and the Internet.

The company boasts more than $300 million in sales and 900 employees. BSN Sports manufactures its own line of bleachers, backstops and soccer goals; offers a suite of proprietary, factory-direct brands such as MacGregor, Voit, Alumagoal, Champion Barbell and PORTaPiT track and field; and distributes branded equipment and team apparel from Nike, Rawlings, Wilson and Under Armour. 

In the spring of 2010, order fulfillment processes were slowing as the company wrestled with growth. Not only were 1,200 SKUs being picked from a makeshift pick zone in the reserve storage area, those items weren’t being managed by the WMS. Instead, orders for those products were planned offline and picked manually. Since the orders weren’t being planned by the WMS, they didn’t go through the box-picking logic that packs the most number of items in the least number of shipping containers.

The result was orders were slow, cumbersome to pick, and expensive to ship. “Because it was taking too long to pick orders, we were delivering late to our customers,” says Melton.
Initially, BSN Sports investigated building a new DC in the Dallas area. However, that idea proved too expensive. “After talking to our consultant, we decided not to build a new facility and instead spend less money,” Melton says.

BSN Sports set out several goals for its new design:

  • It should integrate the 1,200 SKUs that were located in the makeshift area into the existing pick zones so those products and any new SKUs could be managed by the WMS.

  • It should increase pick, storage and throughput capacity to accommodate present needs and future growth plans.

  • It should use existing equipment to maximum potential.

  • The project should be completed under a tight schedule of less than six months from concept design to go-live.

  • Most importantly, it should be completed within a budget of $1 million to $1.5 million—far less than the cost of a new DC.


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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