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Autostore robot at PUMA's Indiana facility

PUMA’s DC Automation Thrives Amid Pandemic Retail Peak Season Shifts

Patrick Miner & Bailey Ludlam | 10 November 2021

Designed for agility and growth, PUMA’s new Indianapolis distribution center was immediately put to the test facing unprecedented ecommerce demand in addition to new, unexpected safety measures.

Opened in June 2020, the facility became “a beacon of hope” for PUMA’s North America ecommerce retail distribution. Bastian Solutions worked closely with PUMA, AutoStore and NFI/Cal Cartage to design, integrate and install an on-time, on-budget automation system that not only helped PUMA meet the accelerated demand but will also provide them room, as planned, to continue to grow their business.  

“I think more than just the tangible product, of it being on time and on budget what it really gave the company, in terms of this aspirational push forward of the future, it really was like a beacon of hope in a lot of ways,” said Bob Philion, President of  PUMA North America.

Peak Season isn’t Just Black Friday

By June 2020 when the warehouse went live, the COVID-19 pandemic was well underway and online ordering quickly became the new go-to platform for retail purchases.

“When we thought volume was going to go down, it actually increased so we needed a facility to be able to support the business that it was going to have to ship. So, it was very critical that we did go live during the pandemic period,” said John Amato, Senior Vice President at NFI/Cal Cartage, the Indianapolis facility’s 3PL.

Peak season was no longer just the holiday, Black Friday, period. It had broadened and PUMA aimed to keep up.

Looking back, according to Digital Commerce 360 reports, consumers spent 32.4% more with retailers than the prior year for a total of $791.70 billion. And, online spending represented 19.6% of total 2020 retail sales, compared to 15.8% in 2019.

Sudden increased direct to consumer shipping of ecommerce orders, coupled with shifts in health safety policies meant the Indianapolis facility needed to go live on time, safely.

Warehouse Safety Amid COVID-19

With safety first in mind, during installation and integration, the necessary safety precautions were taken to help mitigate any shutdowns. The facility opened without delay and the advanced automation plans meant NFI/Cal Cartage, PUMA’s facility 3PL (third-party logistics) provider, could easily keep operations running while protecting its workforce.

Goods to person solutions, like AutoStore, are designed with individual workstations that naturally create a socially distant environment. This not only offered several efficiencies in reduced travel and improved picking, but simplified contact tracing.

Warehouse Automation that Meets Needs Today and Tomorrow

Featuring the AutoStore Black Line goods to person system, new ergonomic operator relay ports, automated packaging technologies and a robust warehouse execution system, PUMA and NFI/Cal Cartage, the facility’s 3PL, were able to comfortably meet peak season demands with plenty of room for growth.

The system and facility space were designed to account for growth for the next five years, plus some. The AutoStore was laid out to easily add more bots, offer more storage and relay ports for increased fulfillment needs. Currently using 670,000 square feet, it was designed to add on an additional 400,000 square feet. “It’s really about servicing our customers. It’s about servicing our customers and being able to service that accelerated business that we are seeing coming out of the pandemic. We’ve seen a tremendous surge in the industry and certainly at PUMA. And so, Indy goes to a long way to being able to realize those plans,” said Philion.

Read more about the automation technologies: PUMA’s Automation Evolution: Retail eFulfillment with Advanced Warehouse Systems

A Testament to Teamwork

Thorough planning and creative solutions are at the core of any Bastian Solutions automation project. From system design to integration and support after launch, Bastian Solutions experts lead projects from start to finish, adjusting as needed to new challenges.

“This DC opened in June 2020. So, it was right in the middle of the pandemic. And, it did open on time which is a testament to the teamwork between Bastian, Cal Cartage, PUMA and AutoStore to deal with all the additional challenges related to the pandemic in the last few months to make this place open on time and on budget,” said Melissa Curry, Regional Vice President of Operations, NFI/Cal Cartage.

Facing new, unexpected challenges, Bastian Solutions, PUMA, AutoStore and NFI/Cal Cartage pulled together to launch a new distribution center with the latest automation technologies resulting in 10 times more capacity, 20 percent faster speed and the ability to run operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Author: Bailey Ludlam, Patrick Miner

Bailey is the Brand Marketing Manager at Bastian Solutions, based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. She has a bachelor’s degree from Washington College and 10 years experience working in marketing and journalism. Outside of work, Bailey enjoys spending time with her husband and two children and can usually be found hiking, running or creating with LEGO bricks. 

Patrick Miner is a Bastian Solutions project engineering team lead. He has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University. He has aided the design, quote and implementation of the Puma Indianapolis facility, as well as provided project support to the original Torrance facility. 


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