Fanatics: E-fulfillment by design

Fanatics distribution center was built to minimize storage and maximize picking across more than 500,000 SKUs.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
January 01, 2014 - MMH Editorial

Fanatics, Frazeysburg, Ohio
Size: 514,000 square feet
Products: Professional and college sports apparel and products
SKUs: 510,000  
Throughput: 500,000 units a day during peak
Employees: 250 during non-peak periods, up to 1,200 during peak
Shifts per day/Days per week: 3 shifts, 7 days per week

The key to Fanatics’ distribution center, which was designed from the ground up as a pure e-fulfillment center, is something Paul Chisholm, vice president of logistics, describes as a non-replenishment based model. That means there is no reserve pallet storage in the facility. Instead, items are prepared on the receiving dock for putaway into one of 1.1 million pick faces in a four-level mezzanine serviced by vertical reciprocal conveyors (VRCs).

Receiving: Merchandise is received (1) at the dock in truckload, less-than-truckload and parcel deliveries. After a carton count at the dock, pallets and cartons are sent to one of 85 receiving stations (2). The receiver opens the carton and scans merchandise to receive against the purchase order in the facility’s warehouse management system (WMS). If an item hasn’t been carried before, it is cubed and weighed to capture dimensional information that will be used for storage and shipping. The receiver also captures any important characteristics about the product, such as whether it is conveyable, fragile or nestable. Once received, the product is scanned into one of four different sized storage bins to maximize the storage cube in the mezzanine. The storage bin is then scanned onto one of four shelves on a putaway cart. When all the shelves are full, the cart is moved to a staging area, ready for putaway.

Storage: An associate initiates the storage process by scanning the license plate bar code label on a cart. The system directs the associate to one of six VRCs (3) that will take him to the right level on the four-level mezzanine (4) for that product. When the associate reaches the level, he scans the first tote on the cart and is directed to a storage location. The associate pulls out the empty bin and scans the new bin into the storage location. The inventory in the bin is now available for fulfillment.

Picking: Fanatics’ WMS creates picking waves based on 45 minutes worth of work.  Each wave consists of multiple pick lists that represent 45 minutes worth of picking activity for a picker in the four-level mezzanine (4). Whenever possible, the wave planner aggregates orders so they are picking like orders with like SKUs. Orders with multiple items are placed in one type of tote, while single line orders are placed in another.

Packing: Once the items have been picked to a tote, they will go to one of two packing areas on a 160,000-square-foot mezzanine level. Multi-line orders are conveyed (5) and sorted (6) to order assembly pods in a put-to-light area (7); single line orders are conveyed (8) and sorted (9) to a singles order processing area (10). Both areas have 60 processing stations.

Multi-line orders: Totes for multi-line orders are conveyed to the put-to-light area featuring a put wall (7)—a cubby area that can be accessed by associates working on both sides of the wall. On one side of the wall, an associate takes a tote off a divert line, scans the license plate bar code label, and places the tote on a wire stand in front of the put wall. The associate then removes and scans each item in the tote. Lights on the cubbies indicate where the item should be placed. Once the tote is empty, the associate grabs the next tote and starts the process all over again.

Lights on the other side of the put wall indicate when an all of the items for an order are ready to be packed. In addition to displaying the number of items for the order, the system also indicates what type of shipping container or bag the item should be packed in. Once packed, the order is placed on a takeaway conveyor (11) and sorted to a value-added services area (12) based on additional required services. For example, fragile items are bubble wrapped and placed back on the conveyor. All cartons ultimately are routed through a high-speed routing sorter (13) to the final station for packing slip, dunnage (14) and the print-and-apply area (15) for address label application.  This area consists of eight dunnage lines where void fill and the packing slip are added to the box. Once the box is folded and taped, it travels downstream where it is scanned one last time to initiate the print-and-apply process for shipping labels. Finally, it is conveyed to the high-speed carton shipping sorter (16)where it is weighed on an inline scale and sorted to an outbound carrier in the shipping area (17).

Single-line orders: Single-line orders are diverted to one of three packing lanes in the singles order processing area (10). Each lane has 20 stations for a total of 60 packing stations. An associate scans the tote and then removes and scans the item. Once the system generates a packing slip, the item is placed in a box and conveyed downstairs to one of two shipping sorters—either the carton shipping system (16) or a poly bag sortation system (18). From there, the orders are sorted into an outbound carrier (17).

System suppliers
System integration: World Source Integration
Conveyor, shoe and bi-directional belt sortation: Automotion
Poly-bag sortation system: Intralox
Sliding shoe shipping sorter: Dematic
Vertical reciprocating conveyors: Pflow Industries
Warehouse management system: Fanatics
Wave Management, Warehouse control & light-directed picking systems: Pyramid Controls
Cubing and weighing: Cubiscan
Mobile computing: Datalogic
Lift trucks: Raymond
Rack storage systems: Elite Storage Solutions
Mezzanine platform: Wynright
Network analysis: Fortna
Network design: The Austin Company
Lighting and fire safety systems: Hy-Tek Material Handling



About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


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