Rotary Corp. reconfigures its central distribution center

By transforming fulfillment operations, the supplier improved its order accuracy.

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Rotary Corp. reconfigures its central distribution center
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As the world’s largest supplier of outdoor power equipment parts, tools and accessories, Rotary Corp., based in Glennville, Ga., serves mass merchants, OEMs, repair shops and distributors. In the face of rising demand and shipping volumes, Rotary’s management team recognized their current fulfillment systems and processes couldn’t scale to meet their customers’ next-day delivery demands.

The company embarked on a seven-month project to reconfigure its 250,000-square-foot central DC and re-engineer its fulfillment processes. As part of their solution, Rotary implemented a software system that offers optimized voice-directed picking and replenishment alongside their legacy warehouse management system (WMS).

“We began the journey with a detailed assessment and financial analysis of multiple alternatives,” says Ed Nelson, president and CEO of Rotary. “This ultimately resulted in a new and enhanced process flow for our shipping operations, including a warehouse inventory management, an automated voice selection, advanced handling equipment and a redesigned conveyor system.”

The reconfigured DC includes a new two-level split case picking module, reconfigured full and split case picking areas and conveyors to quality control, and packing on a mezzanine. An outbound sortation system completed the infrastructure retrofit.

Prior to the redesign, orders had to be segregated and picked by transport type (small parcel, LTL, etc.) using an RF process directed by the WMS. The new software provides dashboards that give managers and supervisors real-time visibility into work in process, as well as associate productivity and exceptions, helping them efficiently allocate staff and manage work.

In the new system, workers use mobile applications using voice for picking and replenishment. The application provides a hands- and eyes-free process, while also enabling the creation of new workflows like bucket brigade and pick-to-tote styles for fast-moving, piece-pick items.

The reconfigured DC met all of the company’s goals. Rotary has set new daily and monthly shipping records and improved order accuracy while achieving 99.9% same-day shipping rates on all orders received by 4 p.m.

Prior to the new solution, it would take up to 12 hours to complete picking all orders. Today, the same staff is able to pick a higher number of orders in 9 hours or less—a reduction of about 25% in picking hours. Replenishment productivity has risen by at least 10%, and stock-outs (in forward pick locations) have significantly declined.

Rotary no longer needs temporary workers for its busy summer season. In addition, it hasn’t added any new workers, despite increased throughput. Rotary has steadily increased its hourly wages, while its DC’s annual hourly payroll costs have decreased—primarily due to improvements in efficiency and worker productivity.

Lucas Systems
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