As a high-volume supplier to Wal-Mart, the SaraMax Apparel Group has been able to meet the retailer's pallet-level requirements for use of radio frequency identification (RFID) to five distribution centers (DCs) that will be expanded to 10 DCs in the coming year.
With offices in New York City, SaraMax has two distribution facilities in New Jersey and uses one public warehouse in Los Angeles. "We use the West Coast facility for time sensitive shipments," says Steve Lind, the company's director of distribution. "We can save a few days by bringing it into the West Coast. But 95% of everything comes through our two distribution centers in New Jersey."
SaraMax is one of the largest privately held branded and private label undergarment manufacturers in the United States. As with most of the apparel industry, SaraMax manufactures its products in plants overseas, sourcing material, having it cut, sewn and shipped to its DCs.
SaraMax uses its DC in Perth Amboy, N.J., to move fashion merchandise that essentially involves putting a label on the shipment and moving it out the door. It's Sayreville, N.J., facility services big-box customers that include Wal-Mart, Kmart and JC Penney.
Lind explains that SaraMax measures its velocity in terms of selections. "A selection can be as small as one piece in a polybag or in picking multiple units for one order," he notes. "To move 50,000 selections in a regular eight-hour day is not a big feat for us anymore. We have filled as many as 90,000 selections in a day. Part of the reason we are able to do that is because we are constantly monitoring our pick-to-light system and we are able to re-configure it relatively easily."
A major motivation for SaraMax to alter its systems by employing pick-to-light was the company's desire to be on Wal-Mart's direct store distribution center (DSDC) supplier list.
"Wal-Mart sends us orders four days a week, Tuesday through Friday. Some years ago we had some 56 SKUs for Wal-Mart. We were using a third party warehouse and approximately 54 people," recalls Lind. "Now we have several hundred SKUs for them. We looked for a cost effective solution that would get orders picked in a reasonable amount of time without a ridiculous amount of labor." SaraMax went with a pick-to-light solution from Rockaway, N.J.-based AL Systems (www.alsystemsinc.com). "We cut the number of people back to approximately 34 while greatly increasing our accuracy," says Lind.
"Some years ago we had some 56 SKUs for Wal-Mart . . . now we have several hundred.