From its well-known line of hair dryers and curling irons to its highend kitchen appliances, Conair has built a small empire selling tools designed to simplify consumers' daily grooming routines and household chores. Yet when it came to giving its own employees the tools they needed to do their jobs, Conair just recently emerged from the Dark Ages. Just 24 months ago, Conair's two DCs were a study in chaos, their aisles clogged with products that had been staged there as a last resort. What had triggered the crisis was a dramatic change in its clients' ordering patterns. Customers like Wal-Mart, Target, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond, which had once been satisfied to receive pallet-loads of merchandise, had begun asking for smaller, more frequent shipments. As a result, Conair found itself shipping more and more cases of products each month. Problem was, Conair's DCs weren't set up for high-volume case picking and shipping. In fact, they still relied on manual procedures whenever case-level picking and labeling were called for. Order selectors on forklift trucks would head out to pick merchandise from 55,000 pallet positions located throughout the facility. When they arrived back at the dock, the workers were handed stacks of labels. They then set to work manually separating pallets on the floor and applying the labels. Before long, it became clear that manual procedures weren't going to cut it. "We have many, many customers and many ways we need to pick orders for them, and we recognized that our team of picking and shipping people couldn't do it in an orderly fashion any more," says John Mayorek, a senior vice president at Conair who's based at the company's 650,000-square-foot DC in East Windsor, N.J. "Our DC became cluttered, and our picking techniques fell behind some of the expectations we had for daily output." To read the entire article in the December 2007 issue of DC Velocity click here.
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