In a global manufacturing environment, finding ways to store, then reliably and rapidly move freight faster is a challenge being met in part by the warehousing industry. One provider seeking to serve such increased customer requirements is North Bergen, N.J.-based National Retail Systems Inc. (NRS, www.nrsonline.com).
The NRS corporate umbrella includes Keystone Freight Corp., National Retail Transportation, National Retail Consolidators, World Logistics, Inc., several distribution centers (DCs) and 20 terminals throughout the country. "We are unusual in that we are an asset based 3PL," explains Larry Ravinett, the company's senior v.p., logistics and supply chain solutions. "We build DCs for our clients, run dedicated fleets, trucks, LTL and are the largest consolidator in the Northeast."
NRS specializes in serving retailers. Many in its vertical market segment are using out-dated technology. In fact, as Ravinett claims, many department stores are still operating on payable and receivables systems that are 25 or 30 years old.
"Instead of re-writing and starting over," says Ravinett, "they have done a lot of patchwork so they depend more and more on their vendors and 3PLs."
With so much product being sourced offshore and speed to shelves so critical, companies like NRS have incorporated sophisticated technology into its operations to offer DC bypass options as well as transloading.
"We are a transloader for receiving imports," explains Ravinett. "We will either transload freight onto a 53 foot trailer—three 40 foot containers cube out two 53 foot trailers—or we can divide the shipment on smaller trucks and do a DC bypass where we go directly to stores."
To expedite product movement NRS has implemented a camera system within its scanning tunnels that can read markings on any carton. In the past it was necessary to read a 20-digit code in order to map a carton.
"With the new camera systems, we are able to capture the information and download it to our client and follow directions without having EDI (electronic data inter-change)," claims Ravinett. "That capability expedites freight even further because data from domestic or international third party vendors can be downloaded to a file sent to the customer as if the merchandise had been received in the retailer's own DC."
NRS intermingles domestic and import shipments, which also accelerates freight movement. It can pick up LTL or truckload, commingle that with fast moving import freight and get it directly to stores or pre-label it so the DC handles it as a cross-dock.
Visibility is of great importance to all involved along the supply chain. From the moment NRS receives data, a container or a delivery order from a broker, the information is posted on an Internet site.
"On-time delivery is now an expectation not a demand," says Ravinett. "It's not only speed to shelf. We're dealing with recognition that logistics saves money and earns money. The difference today is that people look at additional margins by using logistics efficiently and effectively."
Managing freight into and out of warehouses can be a challenge. In California, for example, where NRS has five facilities, there is insufficient space for parking since the DCs are built for maximum
land utilization. They were not designed to handle the current volume of import containers. As a result, sophisticated yard management systems have had to be developed. Freight and equipment are monitored as they arrive. Pictures are taken of all sides of a trailer or container as it enters the yard to document any damage.
NRS installed an automated Dematic system (Dematic, Grand Rapids, www.dematic.us) to enhance cross-dock capabilities and speed product movement. It is also working on implementing RFID technology into its operations. All of its buildings are capable of handling RFID, and it's working with its big box retailers on implementation.
"There will come a time," says Ravinett, "that as cartons enter our building, because of our camera system and scan tunnels, we will be able to get right down to the department number and number of pieces within the carton. We'll know color and size runs so that replenishment is speeded up. The whole thing is to take out as many steps as possible in the supply chain."
Competing on Parts Availability
A German lift truck manufacturer is using its warehousing operations to gain traction in the U.S. market. Jungheinrich Lift Truck Corp. (www.jungheinrich-us.com) has moved its spare parts distribution functions to a brand new 17,000-sq.-ft. warehouse near its U.S. headquarters in Richmond, Va.
“We’re already the technological leader in Europe,” claims Michael Hendriksz, the company’s director of after-sales. “To get a foothold in the U.S. market we need to be better than the competition. By establishing a highly efficient ‘over-capacity’ warehouse we can ensure that we stock 95% of all parts that go into the trucks we sell here. This move will put to rest any concerns potential customers might have about parts scarcity from a Europe-based company."
For relatively small quantities of parts sent from Europe, Jungheinrich does a DC bypass to meet its guarantee of delivery to anywhere in the United States within 48 hours. It does so through an arrangement with FedEx that allows shipped items to be pre-cleared through Customs as they leave Frankfurt's airport. Upon arrival in Memphis or Newark FedEx moves shipments directly to deal-ers or final customers.
With speed to the consumer paramount, "We designed the warehouse for maximum efficiency," explains Phil Keay, the manufacturer's manager of parts and service support. "For example, all high-usage parts are located within 30 feet of the packing stations, with packing machinery ergonomically located above the packing tables. Parts are swiftly picked, boxed up and moved along to the freight terminals. The whole process takes less than 20 minutes from order placement to initiation of the delivery."
Cross docking at a National Retail Systems distribution center.
Larry Ravinett, senior v.p., logistics and supply chain solutions National Retail Systems Inc.