Market Success Spells DC Disaster

Boar's Head Provisions' Holland, MI distribution center (DC) was trying to cope with a one-year growth rate that was quickly passing the five-year plan for the facility. The 50,000-square-foot DC handles 186 different stock keeping units (SKUs) and serves 250 New York distributors and 120 out-of-town distributors.

"We grew faster than the warehouse could," said Dan Crook, DC manager. "We experienced what we had predicted was five years of growth in a little over a year."

Adding to the operations problems of managing the rapid rise in throughput, the pallet rack system was overwhelmed and started to fail. "We lost a lot of work hours because our rotation was just terrible," Crook explains. "We didn't have enough space to rotate properly, so we were looking for product continuously."

Besides being inefficient, the chaos was frustrating for DC workers. As Crook describes the situation, "The people on the floor were constantly frustrated, having to work around doublestacked and triple-stacked pallets. It was a lot of wasted money and time and lot of pain and agony." He estimates the company was spending over $2,000 per week in overtime just for workers to search for product.

Adding to the problem, the pallet rack system started to fail. A pick module installed just before the DC opened was breaking down. Pallets were sticking and weren't flowing. "Wheels were falling off [the pallet rack system] in droves," recalls Crook. "I was returning damaged wheels constantly," he continues. "They numbered in the thousands."

Crook turned to a local dealer, Bob Luban, of Progressive Handling Systems. After inspecting the facility, Luban recommended a Steel King Industries rack system. The racks were designed to resist the abuse of the high-volume use the DC demanded. All of the vertical elements were constructed of double-column structural steel channels. This construction creates a hollow tube-like effect on the ends of the columns. To prevent a build up of dirt and debris inside, each tube was sealed off with quarter-inch steel plate. All of the components of the pallet rack are galvanized to provide corrosion resistance to meet sanitary requirements.

The new system is made up of a 17-bay pick module and flow storage system. On the floor level, through the center of the system, is a "tunnel" that is lit so order pickers can work to pick orders from either side. Overhead is the flow storage, which is two levels high and five pallets deep.

As product is picked on the floor level, lift trucks replenish the pick locations from the upper levels. The system operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Before the installation, Crook was running out of pick locations. The new system provided 260 additional pallet positions and, in continuous operation, it has the DC back in the good graces of customers and DC workers alike.

From an impediment to efficient flow, the DC has turned around and is now the model for expansions in New York and Virginia plants.

Due to high volume of activity, the racks must have abuse resistance built into them—all of the verticals are double column structural steel channels.

All components were galvanized to create a sanitary, rust resistance surface

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