eBay Enterprise Richwood Fulfillment Center: How the system works

Tilt tray sortation, RF picking and a light-directed put wall are the tools that speed orders out the door at eBay Enterprise’s Kentucky fulfillment centers.

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eBay Enterprise Richwood Fulfillment Center
Walton, Kentucky

Size: 1,175,000 square feet across two facilities
Products: High-volume apparel, pet products, general electronics and sporting goods ship alone such as kayaks, golf clubs, baseball bats and fishing poles
Throughput: 450,000 units per day at peak
SKUs: 180,000
Shifts per day/Days per week:  2 shifts per day; 5 days per week plus one 13-hour shift on Saturday, Sunday and Monday
Employees: Up to about 3,000 during peak

eBay Enterprise operates two distribution centers on the campus of its Richwood Fulfillment Center in Kentucky. One facility distributes high-volume apparel, including flat apparel that is processed through a tilt tray sortation system, while the other facility handles a wider variety of products—everything from pet products to electronics to sporting goods. Both buildings provide third-party order fulfillment services for retailers and e-tailers. Here’s how products move through the apparel handling facility. 

Receiving: Receiving is designed to handle a variety of deliveries, including small parcel, palletized LTL shipments and floor-loaded shipping containers from Asia. Once product is unloaded, it is received against an advanced ship notification (ASN) in the warehouse management system (WMS). New stock keeping units (SKUs) are weighed and cubed to determine the best size bin or container for storage and shipping. Product is then tagged with a bar code label and placed in a storage bin. Bins are placed on a trolley used for replenishment.

Storage: Since reserve storage is at a minimum, the vast majority of product is put away into a forward pick location. Once an associate scans a bar code label on the trolley, they are directed by the WMS to the right location in the pick mezzanine. Putaway is confirmed by scanning the tote and the label for the pick location. Associates access the different levels of the mezzanine with a vertical reciprocating conveyor, or lift.

Picking: eBay Enterprise uses a robust waving process to direct picking. The system can create waves based on a number of criteria, including by zones, clients and order type (hazardous materials, gift wrapping), and by single SKUs or multiple SKUs. It can also optimize picking based on inventory coming into the facility and on the best utilization of labor and equipment, including automated systems.

Single SKU waves: A wave created for picking a single SKU could be driven by a client running a promotion on a select group of products that results in several thousand orders of one SKU. Those orders are picked in mass in the four-level mezzanine. Once picked, the totes are delivered to the put wall area for processing and packing.
Multiple SKU waves: The average multiple SKU order consists of two to three lines per order. Associates are directed by RF in the four-level mezzanine to pick multiple orders to a tote. Once all of the items for a group of orders have been picked, the tote is placed on a takeaway conveyor. Totes with flat apparel are directed to the tilt tray sortation area. Larger or irregular items are conveyed to the put wall area.

Packing—Put wall: Associates scan items as they are removed from the tote. The put-to-light system directs them to the right cubby location for that item in the put wall. Once all of the items for an order are in a cubby, a light on the other side of the put wall turns green, alerting a packer that the order is complete. The packer places the item and any shipping materials in a shipping container.

Packing—Tilt tray sorter: In the induction area, items are removed from the tote, scanned and inducted onto the tilt tray. They drop into a chute for a packing station. There, items are placed in a shipping container. After dunnage and the packing slip are added, the container is automatically sealed, labeled and weighed to ensure that the right product is in the right box based on the information captured by the cubing and weighing system when it was received.

Shipping: Once orders have been packed, labeled and confirmed, they are sorted to the right area for shipping based on the shipping strategy for their zip code.

System suppliers
Tilt tray sortation: Intelligrated
Conveyor: TGW
Vertical reciprocating conveyor/lift: Wildeck
Mobile computing: Motorola Solutions
Put-to-light: Lightning Pick
Lift trucks: Crown Equipment
Pallet Racking and Pick Modules: Interlake
Mezzanines: Wildeck
WMS: JDA/RedPrairie and Manhattan Associates
Warehouse Control System: Pyramid
Transportation management system: Kewill
Cubing and weighing: Cubiscan
On-demand packaging: Packsize


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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