VELOCITY VIDEO CASE HISTORY
The great indoors
IT’S RARE FOR A COMPANY THAT IS KNOWN FOR
Such is the case with Fortna’s work with its client L.L.Bean.
The Freeport, Maine-based outdoor products retailer was reach-
ing the limits of its distribution capabilities a few years back. The
company was operating two facilities at the time, both located in
Freeport. One handled retail distribution, and
the other filled e-commerce orders.
Being located in Maine means most products have to travel farther to reach customers
nationwide. That requires efficient processes
for picking and packing orders to make up for
the additional transportation, time and cost.
Concurrently, L.L.Bean was experiencing growth
in both its e-commerce and store sales.
L.L.Bean felt the obvious solution would be to
build an additional automated facility, possibly
located somewhere other than Maine, to reach customers quickly and
remain competitive in the online world. They asked Fortna to perform
an assessment of their supply chain. The results were a bit shocking.
“Fortna proved to us that we had a lot more space and a lot more
opportunity right here in our current building, without making a large
investment in another facility,” says Jack Samson, vice president of fulfillment, manufacturing, and logistics at L.L.Bean.
L.L.Bean simply needed to make some changes in systems and processes to fully utilize their internal capabilities. Transition planning began
in 2016, and the project was completed in phases over the course of the
next two and a half years, mostly during non-peak months.
Even so, good project management was essential, as fulfillment had
to continue throughout the transition. “It was like running a marathon
and having a heart transplant at the same time,” quips Samson.
The key part of the transition was consolidating the retail fulfillment into
the 1. 2 million-square-foot e-commerce facility and then changing about
90 percent of the building’s processes with new or revised software and
automation to support both channels.
Fortna partnered with a number of leading solution providers on the
project. Manhattan Associates upgraded the warehouse management
system. The facility had a large tilt-tray sorter with 389 trays. However,
the sorter only diverted to one side. Retooling the system allowed trays
to tilt to both sides, doubling capacity.
Fortna helped L.L.Bean integrate the various systems, including con-
veyors, merges, and diverters. New pack stations
were also added with put-walls to accumulate
orders and allow for more efficient batch pick-
ing. And a three-story pick module, originally
built in 2014, was further utilized to replace
manual order selection from high-bay racking.
By consolidating operations into a single facil-
ity, the total inventory was reduced and more
easily managed. “It impacted our minimums as
well as our safety stocks,” notes Michelle Stash,
director of engineering, PMO, quality, inventory
control, and safety.
Batch-picking orders and efficiently packing them also reduced the
reliance on temporary seasonal labor, which continues to be very difficult to find in an area with low unemployment. In most cases, orders
can be out the door the same day, which helps L.L.Bean meet customer
commitments and delivery expectations.
A GOOD FIT
Originally, L.L.Bean had projected that the transformation would allow
the company to remain in the facility for five years. However, the process
changes have been so effective that the building should support distribution for at least 10 years.
“I think one of the things that I liked most about working with Fortna
was the ease of it. Culturally, they were a good fit for L.L.Bean,” says
Stash. “The results have been amazing. And we have lots of opportu-
nity from here to continue to look at our systems, our equipment, and
our processes to be even more productive and efficient to reduce our
To see a video of the process transformation that has taken place at L.L.Bean, go to dcvtv.com and
click on the Velocity Video on Channel 2. For information on Fortna, please visit www.fortna.com.
A DC VELOCITY SPEED CHALLENGE
Outdoor products retailer L.L.Bean underwent major process changes to its
distribution environs with amazing results.