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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.

VIEW THE SLIDE SHOW and see how the combination of cross-docking and flow-through distribution fuels growth at the Ohio-based fashion retailer Dots

By Maida Napolitano, Contributing Editor
February 24, 2011

There’s no wasting time at Dots. This Ohio-based fashion retailer uses a unique sourcing model to quickly interpret the latest fashion trends into everyday-wear apparel for women. And because what’s hot today may not be hot tomorrow, the retailer’s distribution team needs to immediately dispatch these latest looks from its suppliers to more than 400 stores within a 26-state radius—and do it in a flash.

How do they make this happen? Lisa Akey, Dots’ divisional vice president of distribution and lead project manager of the company’s new, state-of-the-art, 193,000 square-foot facility in Glenwillow, Ohio, shares her secret:

“At the end of the day, we have almost nothing that stays in the building. And the rest doesn’t stay long.”

Once received, 20 percent of Dots’ volume is automatically cross-docked to shipping—sometimes in as little as six minutes—via a network of conveyors and conveyor sortation systems. Within 24 hours, the other 70 percent has been diverted to two high-speed unit sorters that flow-through bulk merchandise to individual stores, while the remaining 10 percent of mostly basic, non-seasonal items, goes into storage for future replenishment.

By banking on a combination of cross-docking and flow-through distribution to rapidly provide its customers with the latest fashions at affordable prices, Dots has emerged as a solid force in a highly competitive retail landscape. Over the next few pages, we’ll learn how Akey and the Dots logistics team have put this time-tested distribution method to work to keep the retailer one step ahead in a challenging and fickle market.

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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