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Becton Dickinson and Company goes big on green

The medical technology giant’s new 720,000-square-foot hyper-sustainable DC has ushered in a 9 percent improvement in two-day service times along with subsequent reductions in transportation and facility costs.
By Maida Napolitano, Contributing Editor
January 01, 2012

Location, location, location
In July 2008, the team began exploring multiple network scenarios. Over nine months, the network model was run with different candidate sites ranging from New Jersey to North Carolina. In the end, the study reinforced the three-DC network solution with a recommendation to close the Swedesboro facility and open a new East Coast DC in either North Carolina or Virginia.

A total of eight sites in the North Carolina and Virginia areas were investigated. “Because of considerable exports to Europe, we needed to have the DC close to a major port,” says Parolari. Quick accessibility to a major thoroughfare was also a critical requirement, along with reasonable real estate costs, as the new DC would need a substantial tract of land to allow for future expansion. 

In early 2010, the team decided to build a new facility in a new industrial park in Four Oaks, N.C. Why a new DC in a new industrial park? “We had very specific requirements with regards to the size of the DC—ceiling heights, column spacing and building layout—along with specific temperature control requirements. In the areas where we concentrated our search, there was no available existing real estate or spec buildings that would have addressed all of these requirements,” responds Parolari.

Just to be sure that Four Oaks would be the current and the best solution, the team re-examined the network study in March 2010 using the latest sales and cost information. The second study simply re-affirmed its plan and BD broke ground in October 2010. 


According to Gonzalez, installation of the new facility went flawlessly—by keeping a close eye on a 1,500-line project plan and by nipping issues in the bud before they escalated. “The pallet racks had the longest lead time,” says Gonzalez. “You’re looking at 90,000 pallets worth of racking—that’s 10 million pounds of steel. We spent a lot of time upfront coordinating with the vendor to map out their timeline.” By November 2011, BD began shipping product from the Four Oaks DC.

How it works
Operations within the DC are fairly conventional and are run by BD’s third party logistics partner Genco ATC. Most of the product is lot controlled with both FEFO (first-expiry, first-out) and FIFO (first-in, first-out) requirements. At receiving, inbound items are checked for accuracy and damage before being put away into racks that are six levels—or more—high within a 38-foot clear building.

“We use the latest reach trucks from Crown equipped with regenerative masts. As you’re bringing down a pallet from the rack, it’s reenergizing the lift truck’s battery,” explains Kevin Booth, BD’s director of distribution and North America transportation operations. According to Crown, this feature supports fewer battery changes, more productivity, and 12 percent more run-time for improved energy utilization. With a swipe of an operator’s key card, driver-specific requirements can also be programmed to the truck. For quicker putaways and retrievals, drivers select specific rack height options that automatically position the forks to the correct height. 

Full cases are picked and put onto single and double pallet jacks using voice technology by Vocollect.

Completed orders are then transported to two state-of-the-art hooded Beumer wrappers. “This automatic wrapper uses a plastic film that encloses the entire pallet, so it’s very secure. In fact, we’ve seen a decrease in damages, shortages, and missing product,” says Booth.     

Pushing green
Not only is the Four Oaks DC operationally high-tech, but it’s also designed to reduce its environmental footprint. “The challenge was funding these design elements while still maintaining our budget and timeline,” says Gonzalez. “We involved our financial team early in the design process and worked closely with them to define and then obtain the appropriate level of funding for the project.”

“The cost to go green was about 8 percent of the total capital invested,” adds Gonzalez. 

One of the most notable sustainability initiatives is the installation of four acres of solar panels on a roof that spans 15 football fields—that’s right, 15. An online dashboard can monitor the electricity generated along with onsite weather conditions. This roof-mounted photovoltaic system reduces the site’s energy consumption by an estimated 20 percent.

In the main office area, the use of skylights with GPS technology and mirrors that track the sun bring high levels of natural light. Most times, the main office area operates without the need for conventional lights. 

In the warehouse, all interior lights, except on the dock and main equipment aisle, are on motion sensors to reduce energy use. Exterior lights in the parking and trailer lots are also on photo sensors, reducing light pollution.

Employees with fuel-efficient vehicles are rewarded with the closest parking spots at the front of the main entrance. The facility also encourages alternate transportation, such as bicycling, by offering a bicycle storage rack next to the employee entrance, as well as changing/shower rooms.

It’s paying off
BD’s newer, greener, more efficient network is expected to reap many benefits. There’s already an estimated 9 percent improvement in two-day service times to customers and subsequent reductions in transportation and facility costs.

“By moving the East Coast DC a little further south, we’re also able to move some states currently serviced by our Plainfield DC to the Four Oaks DC, increasing Plainfield’s capacity,” adds Booth.

So what’s BD’s secret to success? “Keep executive leadership updated so that there are no surprises,” advises Parolari. “We got quick approval for the capital from our leadership because we kept them in the loop the entire time.”

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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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