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Cross dock fuels growth at Dots

By banking on a combination of cross-docking and flow-through distribution to rapidly provide its customers with the latest fashions at affordable prices, the retailer has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in a highly competitive retail landscape.
By Maida Napolitano, Contributing Editor
February 24, 2011

This shift to automation has predictably increased Dots’ capacity by leaps and bounds, allowing the retailer to now easily support up to 700 stores within their current footprint. Volume throughput from the two unit sorters almost triples that of the previous put-to-light system (5,500 vs. 1,900 units/hour). The new shipping sorter now processes up to 80 cartons per minute (cpm), more than three times the old sorter that operated at 25 cpm.

Productivity increased 20 percent versus 2008 statistics with a 30 percent increase planned for 2011. The company also achieved a 20 percent reduction in labor costs. “For the past few years, suppliers have been forced to pick-pack for retailers at supposedly no cost,” notes Haskell. “Dots now has the flexibility to call on vendors that can’t or won’t do it, while keeping control on distribution costs and quality.”

With minimal storage requirements and only 70,000 of the 145,000 square feet of DC space in active use, there’s substantial room for expansion or special projects. “At some point, the ultimate plan is to position ourselves to go to e-commerce,” says Akey. For now the retailer continues to work on supply chain efficiencies to maximize their system.

What’s been critical to this project’s success? “Choosing the right integrator,” adds Akey. “One who is committed to you and who will provide you with great ideas and solutions.” Second, she says, is “planning and more planning; training and more training.”

Haskell agrees. “When you go automated and you tie the front door to the back door in six minutes, you better know how to run it.”

Cross docking in the year 2011

 Steve Haskell, VP,
SDI Industries, Inc.

Q: What technological developments have enabled the adoption of cross docking today?
A: “The mechanics for automated cross docking have always been there. It’s just become faster and cheaper. The technological development is more on the IT side than on the mechanical side.  Information capabilities are so amazing now that you can communicate with suppliers easily, quickly, and commonly and that allows you to be able to tell them exactly what you want and when you want it.”

Q: What is the key to successful cross docking?
A: “You have to have good relationships with your trading partners. First, you have to be able to tell them how to pack what you want. Second, the partner has to be able to document what they’ve done and get it to you, so that when you see the product at the door you know what to do with it.”

About the Author

Maida Napolitano
Contributing Editor

Maida Napolitano has worked as a Senior Engineer for various consulting companies specializing in supply chain, logistics, and physical distribution since 1990. She’s is the principal author for the following publications: Using Modeling to Solve Warehousing Problems (WERC); Making the Move to Cross Docking (WERC); The Time, Space & Cost Guide to Better Warehouse Design (Distribution Group); and Pick This! A Compendium of Piece-Pick Process Alternatives (WERC). She has worked for clients in the food, health care, retail, chemical, manufacturing and cosmetics industries, primarily in the field of facility layout and planning, simulation, ergonomics, and statistic analysis. She holds BS and MS degrees in Industrial Engineering from the University of the Philippines and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, respectively. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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