Sovena USA, a Rome, N.Y., bottler and distributor of imported olive oils, recently discovered its growth was exceeding the space available in its 185,000-square-foot facility. Unable to stage orders and forced to bulk store product, Sovena faced a decision to either expand the company’s current space or use the existing warehouse more efficiently. By deploying new very narrow aisle (VNA) racking (Frazier Industrial, frazier.com) and a fleet of VNA lift trucks (The Raymond Corp., raymondcorp.com) the company was able to double storage locations in the same footprint.
In 2008, Sovena had a record year, outselling the forecast by 20%, and 2009 was following the same pattern. As a result of this growth, operators were forced to bulk store product and double stack skids, which led to product damage.
It was important for the company to come up with a solution that would provide relief from the existing space issues while accommodating a growth rate of 10% to 15% over the next three to five years. Sovena realized it had all of its fast-moving lift trucks on the far right side of the warehouse so the traffic was inefficiently going from the docks to the right and from production to the left. Additionally, it had many aisles filled with product for staging, and it was simply running out of room.
The company’s lift truck supplier suggested a fleet of VNA swing-reach trucks with a pallet flow solution that would service about 15,000 pallet positions. All existing rack was removed and replaced with push-back racks.
By doubling the number of storage locations in the same footprint, the plan saved Sovena nearly $5 million in construction costs, and the 13-week installation schedule allowed operations to continue during the transition.
“What the reclassification of the warehouse did was help us to put like products together and eliminate space constraints, which we were never able to do before,” says Jeff Leclau, warehouse manager at Sovena. “These changes have increased our efficiency tremendously.”
Today, operators pick orders 24 hours in advance and stage them before they are audited and loaded for distribution—a simple convenience they were never able to do prior to the remodel. The company also was able to project a return on its initial investment within 3.75 years.