ANN TAYLOR Doubles Volume at National Distribution Center

Oct. 1, 2003
Conveying and mezzanines increase volume in distribution center.

Thanks to a new, better-designed material handling system, Ann Taylor has greatly increased the product volume it moves through its national distribution center in Louisville, KY.

After operating the revamped distribution system for almost two years, Ann Taylor reports greater accuracy, improved efficiency and quicker delivery from this new system. The proof is in the numbers: the volume of product now handled peaked at more than 350,000 units per day — more than double the previous capability.

Part of the success in revamping its distribution facility is because of a 15,000-square-foot structural mezzanine (W.A. Schmidt). The 15-foot-high mezzanine allowed Ann Taylor to better operate the cubic design of the building while improving product flow and operations, including the shade determination process. It also provided the company with more usable floor space beneath the structure.

After it’s unloaded from the truck, all product runs through an initial shade (color) determination process based on information in its SKU. (In the apparel industry, the SKU often needs to be complemented with a product’s style, size and color.) After this initial step, some product is cross-docked directly to shipping.

Other material is placed on a conveyor and transported up to the mezzanine level for a second step of shade determination. It’s imperative that an Ann Taylor store doesn’t receive the same style and size of a shaded garment without accurate shade assignment. Each carton’s unique bar code contains specific history, including purchase order number, color, style, SKU and quantity.

A cross-belt sorter installed on the mezzanine reads a box’s barcode and then determines which of 40 chutes the box should travel. At the bottom of each chute, the product is then palletized manually for putaway and shipping, either by way of a unit sort process or full case. This new system means that product is touched as few times as necessary.

Ann Taylor had previously been using a rack support system in the space where the W.A. Schmidt mezzanine is now stationed. The new mezzanine can support much wider spans and allowed for the installation of a more efficient conveyor system to move product.

This revamped material handling process for the national distribution center was designed through the efforts of Ann Taylor, Kurt Salmon Associates, W.A. Schmidt, and Key Handling Systems. Key Handling implemented the solution and selected W.A. Schmidt based on a long-standing working relationship. Based on the success of this project, Key Handling has been awarded the next step in revamping the total capacity of this distribution center. This will entail updating the shipping systems, including greater on-the-fly print and apply capacity. The new system will be supported by two W.A. Schmidt structures and mezzanines.

System suppliers


Key Handling Systems design/integrator)

HK (conveyor hardware and slat sorter)

Pyramid (warehouse control system)

Axmann (a division of Interroll) (cross-belt sorter)

Caljan (powered and traversing extendibles) scales)