This case history about Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. (Chesapeake, Va.), comes courtesy of Crown Equipment Corp. (New Bremen, Ohio). It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.
Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. (Chesapeake, Va.), the nation’s largest $1 discount variety chain, has a fast-paced nationwide operation that uses more than 255 Crown lift trucks. Its eight distribution facilities, six of them automated, process and deliver a range of general merchandise to more than 2,500 stores in 47 states. Sales for this rapidly growing company are projected at $2.8 billion and future plans include more distribution centers.
In the dollar business, explains Stephen W. White, chief logistics officer and senior v.p., Dollar Tree Stores are challenged daily “to take the cost out of doing business.” Company leadership views efficient distribution center planning and lowering the operational costs of their lift truck fleets as ways to make Dollar Tree Stores more profitable.
“We design our buildings for throughput and cost efficiency,” he says. “The more volume we put through our buildings, the more productive we get.”
Thinking to the Future
Dollar Tree had the future in mind when building its regional distribution center in Marietta, Okla. This center serves as a prime example of the Dollar Tree philosophy. This facility operates 27 Crown lift trucks, which move more than an estimated 13.2 million cartons annually. Materials are shipped to stores serving a seven state area.
“When we build a new facility our expectations are to have the highest level of performance possible of any distribution center operation,” White says, adding the company emphasizes performance, benchmarking and accountability.
Pallet movement within each distribution center is designed for maximum efficiency. During two shifts of operation this equates to more than 38,000 pallet movements throughout the network.
The Marietta facility puts the following Crown Equipment Corp. (New Bremen, Ohio) lift trucks to work:
- RC 3000 Series
- RC 3020-40-TT-190) counter- balanced stand-up riders;
- SP 3000 Series (SP 3020-312) stockpickers;
- FC 4000 Series counterbalanced sit-down riders;
- PTH 50 Series (PTH 27-48) hand pallet trucks;
- PE 3500 Series (PE 3540-60) end-control rider pallet trucks with double
- RR 5200S Series (RR 5265S-45) rider reach trucks.
Dollar Tree Stores understand the highest cost on a lift truck remains the operator. Operator comfort and productivity were also factors in the final selection “When you’re standing all day that puts a lot of fatigue on the driver. With the Crown ‘S’ class reach trucks, you have room and multiple locations to put your feet without impacting safety,” says Hugh Buford, general manager.
The reach truck’s multi-function control handle is another productivity enhancer. “Because of the control handle, operators can do a lot more,” Buford says.
At the Marietta operation, all of Dollar Tree Stores’ RR 5265S-45 reach trucks have AC traction control. The reach trucks remain in the aisles, shuttling short distances with lots of plugging. “We have optimum productivity with the RR 5265S Series because we can cover shorter distances quicker with greater acceleration. When long distances need to be covered, they offer the fastest travel speeds in the industry,” Buford explains.
The Marietta Operation
Almost 60% of the incoming cartons at the Marietta facility require palletization prior to check in and put away. The RC 3000 Series, equipped with pallet clamp attachments, unload the bulk product and position it on pallets for future transportation. The PE 3500 Series and the RC 3000 Series transport the pallets within the receiving dock for check in and slot assignments. Then PE 3500 Series rider pallet trucks move pallets to drop zones or pick locations.
The RR 5265S reach trucks are used to place pallets into one of five vertical reserve locations with a top beam level reaching 26 feet. The Crown reach trucks are also used to remove reserve pallets from the rack in 117-in. aisles and transport the pallets to a pick module, capable of holding pallets three deep on flow rack on four levels.
Associates check inventory accuracy by driving the SP 3000 Series Stockpickers to a randomly selected storage location. There they conduct a cycle count and enter the findings on an RF unit.
Order selecting occurs when an associate walks the pick module with bar coded labels, picks the product and places the label on the carton. The carton is placed on a conveyor for transporting to the central merge where lines from other pick locations are combined into a single line.
Cartons then pass under a bar code scanner that reads the label information; the system computer directs the carton to be sent down one of 30 shipping lines. Each line extends into an over-the-road trailer destined for a particular store. As the carton reaches the end of the conveyor, it is manually stacked in the trailer by an associate. When an order calls for a full pallet of a particular item, the pallet is loaded with either a PTH 50 hand pallet truck or a PE 3500 Series rider pallet truck.
Safety and Training Important Factors
Despite being a start-up operation, the Marietta facility has an excellent safety record and has experienced limited product damage. Although the facility began with a relatively inexperienced workforce, the learning curve was short. “The handling and performance of the lift trucks and the training programs from Crown have quite a bit to do with that,” Buford says.
Extensive training for operators and mechanics is important in ensuring the equipment performs as safely as expected. Operator driver training consists of the required classroom work with a heavy emphasis on operating the lift trucks in controlled practice situations.
Mitch Long, assistant general manager, takes pride in the Marietta operator-training program. He was part of the Dollar Tree Stores’ team, which was involved in the first
RR 5200 Series demonstration.
Long also points out the entry bar on the RR 5200S Series reach trucks is another safety feature. The entry bar, with sensors to automatically slow truck travel, encourages safe foot positioning within the truck.
“We put some of our operators on the equipment and I thought they would never get off the truck. They loved the RR 5265S Series,” says Long.
Maintenance, Battery Rooms Impressive
When the facility opened its doors in early 2003, Buford and his staff carefully scrutinized Crown and the competitors before choosing Crown. “We thoroughly examined maintenance and the up-front purchase costs as well as the performance of the lift trucks in our application,” he says.
As the fleet continues to grow, parts support and unit life expectancy will play an even larger role in the Dollar Tree Stores-Crown partnership, according to White. “We constantly monitor operating costs and downtime for each unit and it plays an important role in determining when replacement is justifiable,” he says.
Dollar Tree Stores have found that Crown lift trucks have a higher resale value. “It’s the common sense side of the business,” White says. “Let’s maintain what we have so it stays in service longer and when we go to sell there’s a higher residual value with it.”
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