Transforming into a true omni-channel retailer

American Eagle’s new DC is built around an inbound conveyor and sortation system, six multi-level pick modules and a warehouse execution system.

American Eagle Outfitters’ 1.6-million-square-foot, omni-channel distribution center is light on conventional equipment, with very little racking and only three lift trucks. The facility is built around an inbound conveyor and sortation system, six multi-level pick modules and a warehouse execution system that optimizes the workload. Orders are filled for two retail brands: American Eagle and Aerie.


Receiving takes place at six docks (1), where cartons are unloaded onto flexible cantilevered booms that reach into the trailers. From there, six lines merge into two and finally into one 850 foot long inbound conveyor and sortation system (2). Cartons are then automatically scanned, by which the warehouse execution system (WES) makes a decision about where the case is needed next. Following the scan, a sliding shoe sorter diverts the carton to the storage area (3).
Replenishment: Cases are conveyed on motor-driven roller conveyor (MDR) to the fourth level of one of six pick modules in the storage area (3). There, they are scanned again and the WES determines on which level it will be putaway into a pick location. Once it reaches the right level, the putaway team scans the carton into a location. Each location holds one carton and all locations are pickable. There’s no division between products, retail brands or sales channels. Inventory for American Eagle is stored next to inventory for Aerie; inventory is available for both direct-to-consumer (DTC) and retail, or store, replenishment.

Retail Fulfillment:

Cartons destined for retail stores are conveyed from the pick modules (3) to the packing sorter (4). There, a second sliding shoe sorter diverts the carton to the retail packing area (6). Each packing station features a put-to-light area that serves a set of retail stores. The carton is scanned again and the put-to-light system tells the associate how many of an item goes into a container for a store. If a carton isn’t depleted, it remains in the retail area until it is needed for other stores. From there, the carton is conveyed to the retail shipping system (7) and sorted to the right lane in the shipping area for delivery.

E-commerce fulfillment:

Once orders are received in an order management system, a distributed order management system makes a decision about where in American Eagle’s network it will be filled. Orders for Pennsylvania drop into the facility’s warehouse management system (WMS), which hands off a wave of orders to the WES every eight to 10 minutes. There, the order is on deck in a pending pool of orders, based on characteristics, such as the priority of the shipping method or how long the order has been waiting to be filled.

When associates are ready for work, they scan an empty tote with a ring scanner; the WES then directs associates to specific picking locations in the pick modules (3). Once all of the items for that tote have been picked, it is put on a conveyor and transported to the packing sorter (4) for a pre-sort. The system determines whether the carton will go to a direct-to-consumer area for single line orders on the floor level of the storage area (3) or to a unit sorter that manages multi-line orders.

Multi-line orders:

Multi-line orders are diverted by a pop-up sorter to one of five different induction stations in the packing sorter (4). At a station, a tote tipper empties the tote so that an associate can load it onto the unit sorter. The item is scanned and the system sorts it to a packing station on the floor level (3). There, items are scanned again and put into a location in a putwall. When an order is complete, a packer scans and packs the items and places the order onto a direct-to-consumer shipping conveyor (5), which sends it to DTC shipping.

Single-line orders:

Single-line orders are conveyed to a packing station on the first level of the storage area (3), where an associate scans and packs them for shipping. They are then placed on the direct-to-consumer shipping conveyor (5) and sent to DTC shipping.

Anticipating growth, American Eagle Outfitters’ design included an area for future storage (A) and a future packing sorter (B).

Systems Suppliers:

Article Topics

Equipment Report
Magazine Archive
Conveyors & Sortation
Manhattan Associates
Warehouse Management Systems
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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock's avatar
Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock is the editorial director for Modern Materials Handling and an editorial advisor to Supply Chain Management Review. He has covered materials handling, technology, logistics, and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at 603-357-0484.
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