Optimizing the Consumer Direct Fulfillment Operation

April 1, 2008
This case history about Patagonia comes courtesy of Dematic. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.

This case history about Patagonia comes courtesy of Dematic. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.

Patagonia is one of the best known names in rugged clothing and accessories for mountain climbers, skiers, and other extreme sports lovers. Patagonia’s newly-expanded distribution center in Reno, Nevada, which has been certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, took an environmentally-green step forward by integrating Dematic’s new C-L 100 Series modular conveyors, increasing man-hour efficiency by 20 percent and reducing power consumption up to 30 percent over traditional roller conveyors.

The challenge
In recent years, Patagonia's catalog and web business has grown quite significantly. During peak season, several thousand orders a day move through this channel. The process for handling direct to consumer was manual and unwieldy, resulting in orders shipped to the wrong address, unmet delivery promises, and high returns costs.

The solution
The solution has both cartons and mail packages move on the same conveyor through the weigh station. A sorter then sorts the orders into different shipping containers, based on whether the goods are to ship parcel or LTL.

To convey the packages Patagonia chose the Dematic C-L100 conveyor. The C-L100 has some distinctive features. First of all it is a modular solution. The conveyor is implemented by snapping the pieces together like legos. Each conveyor section has its own control logic and internal wiring. This means the messy and time consuming electrical cabling labor associated with typical conveyor implementations goes away. Consequently, the conveyor was implemented in the five day period without any problems.

Secondly, the C-L100 not only handles goods of different sizes and weights, it has intelligent controls that gave individual sections the ability to speed up or slow down. This is important because the weighing station is the bottleneck for the downstream material handling process. The more uniformly items are spaced before entering the weigh station, the better the whole system works.

The results are in
Patagonia has been using the new conveyor, and a new sorter, for nine months and has had excellent results. They have gone from 3.5 FTEs to one half an FTE for this part of their process. Returns have disappeared. And they got an unexpected bonus - the system has the ability to turn itself off if not needed. This run-on-demand capability can reduce power consumption by as much as 30 percent over conventional roller conveyors. For Patagonia, this conveyor system fits right in to the distribution center’s ideal "green" operating environment.

"With the Dematic all-belt conveyor solution, we’ve virtually eliminated our ‘non-conveyables’. All of our products are now able to be handled by the Dematic conveyor. This has drastically reduced our manual labor requirements." – Dave Abeloe, Distribution Center Director

MHMonline.com welcomes relevant, exclusive case histories that explain in specific detail the business benefits that new software and material-handling equipment has provided to specific users. Send submissions to Clyde Witt([email protected]), MHM Editor-in-Cheif. All submissions will be edited for clarity, content and style.