The Knowlton Development Corp., better known as KDC, recently added a new finished-goods warehouse to its production plant in New Albany, Ohio. Business was booming for the company, which manufactures health and beauty products for Bath & Body Works and Victoria's Secret Stores, and the order fulfillment end of the operation was feeling the strain. It was clear the company needed additional capacity to ease the pressure as well as accommodate further growth.
Prior to that, the company had operated out of a 90,000-square-foot facility that housed both finished goods and components for manufacturing. But over time, it became apparent that the facility was not up to the demands of a fast-flow operation, where finished goods are held onsite just three to five days before being shipped out (and hence, must be easy to store and retrieve).
"The configuration of the racking was very random," recalls Todd Lowe, KDC's senior director of operations. "Part of the warehouse was outfitted with drive-in racks for bottles. Another area had racks where one level was double deep, and others had pushback racking." The operation, which required the use of high-reach trucks for putaway and picking, was also inefficient, he adds. The double-deep racks meant multiple touches were sometimes required to locate the correct pallet for shipping. On top of that, highly skilled lift truck operators were needed to make it work. "We were dealing with racks that were 26 feet in height and required a lot of skill to safely pick and put away pallets in a timely fashion," Lowe says.
There were other drawbacks as well. For instance, a lot of labor was required. It often took three shifts and weekend work to keep up with demand. Plus, repair costs on the overused equipment were running high.
So when KDC went to build a 60,000-square-foot addition (of which 30,000 square feet would be dedicated to a new warehouse), it took great pains to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. "Understanding our struggles with shipping and receiving in the old warehouse, we knew we had to make changes going forward," Lowe says.
KDC contacted Raymond Storage Concepts, a material handling solutions integrator and dealer of Raymond lift trucks in the Midwest, for help. The company, which is a long-time user of Raymond equipment, felt there was a better solution for the new warehouse space—and there was.
For starters, the new section contains narrow-aisle racking—with six-foot widths instead of the nine-foot widths found in the old warehouse. The racks are SK2000 single-deep selective pallet racks from Steel King, which offer 3,500 product storage locations.
KDC also bought four Raymond swing reach trucks to perform putaway and picking tasks. Wires embedded in the floor guide the trucks as they move through the narrow aisles. The swing reach trucks can quickly access positions on both sides of the aisle and are equipped with scanners for inventory reconciliation, mounted laptops, and radio communication devices.
"The net result was way better than we had even hoped," says Lowe. For instance, associates can now pick finished-goods pallets and load them on a truck in a fraction of the time it once took, he says. "What used to take 90 minutes now only takes 30 minutes," Lowe reports. "This is a 60 minute savings."
The tripling of the warehouse's operational efficiency has saved labor, requiring shipping on just two shifts now instead of three. And the benefits don't stop there. "Repairs on the lift trucks have dropped to almost nothing," Lowe says. "Plus morale is up, and we had a very successful peak season with minimal overtime."
A version of this article appears in our August 2016 print edition under the title: "Beautiful results."