Cross dock fuels growth at Dots
VIEW THE SLIDE SHOW and see how the combination of cross-docking and flow-through distribution fuels growth at the Ohio-based fashion retailer Dots
February 24, 2011 - LM Editorial
Since the late 1980s, Dots has been distributing merchandise to its stores from a manual, more conventional facility, three miles from its current location.
Although this older facility afforded the retailer many functional years, by 2005, much of the equipment was nearing the end of its life, putting limitations on operational growth and efficiency. In fact, it took this previous DC three to four days to get a store order out the door.
Vendors communicated via faxes and e-mails, and there was no receiving sorter. All carton-labeling from receiving to shipping was manually applied.
When you boil it down, the company actually had been manually cross docking for years—just nowhere near as fast and as efficient as they’re doing it now in the new DC. “Our previous system had no EDI and limited, outdated automation that restricted our throughput speed and capacity,” recalls Akey. “There was a lot of double and triple handling just to get orders out the door.”
With only one cross dock-capable door, many cross-dock orders would be unloaded, then staged, then put in a queue before actually getting processed—a clear departure from cross docking’s “expedite immediately” philosophy.
To distribute bulk apparel to the individual stores, Dots was using a 10-year-old put-to-light system that they had simply outgrown. “To support the volume demand, we had to go to extended shifts and work a lot of overtime,” notes Akey.
The clock was also ticking because the put-to-light system’s capacity was limited to 500 stores. In 2005, they were already sitting at 350 stores and growing at a rate of 40 new stores per year. “These outdated systems and their inability to support future store growth is what ultimately pushed us to move forward with the process of designing a new distribution system,” says Akey.