36 DC VELOCITY JUNE 2015 www.dcvelocity.com
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goals, they wanted a process that would
improve overall service while reducing
operating costs by at least 25 percent. And
in the best baseball tradition, New Era also
threw Fortna a curve—installation of the
new systems would have to be completed
in a three-month period while fulfillment
operations continued as usual.
“Installing and upgrading this facility
during operations was definitely a challenge,” recalls Holker. “The key to that was
really extensive planning and coordination
with the customer, with Fortna, and with
Menlo. Project management was critical.
Reviews were about every other day in terms
of making sure that everyone was aligned.”
The solution that Fortna came up with
called for the installation of the company’s
own warehouse control system, new pick
modules, RF (radio-frequency) picking,
efficient pack stations, a shipping sorter,
a “dynamic pick” area for expedited order
processing, and new value-added service
areas. The project was carried out in phases,
so that one section of the building was
renovated while work in another section
continued under the manual processes.
The entire implementation was completed
within the three-month timeframe.
“Five years ago, this was a 100-percent
manual distribution center; now it’s highly
automated and sophisticated—run by software and hardware. It has totally changed
how New Era does business,” notes Joe
Stein, director for logistics and distribution
for North America at New Era.
SEASONS OF CHANGE
Operationally, there was a silver lining to
landing the NFL contract, as it helped to
balance out what had been a fairly seasonal
business for New Era. Previously, most
products were shipped in the spring and
summer to coincide with baseball season.
Now, the three-shift facility handles more
predictable volumes year round.
The hats themselves are manufactured
both overseas and domestically. Among
the factories is a facility New Era operates
in the hat capital of Derby, N.Y., which
is famous for having introduced the der-by-style hat to the world.
The hats arrive in Harrisburg in con-
tainers and trucks. After they pass through
receiving, they head to reserve storage in
of their many merchandising chan-
nels. Picking up the NFL agreement
would nearly double the volume that
Harrisburg would have to handle.
That meant New Era would need
to find a way to double its through-
put capacity without increasing the
footprint of the building.
And that wasn’t the only challenge the headwear supplier faced.
Around the same time, New Era
was seeing a major shift in customer ordering patterns. Rather than
ordering in bulk and maintaining
extensive inventories, customers
were trimming their stocks to just
what was required to meet their
immediate needs and relying on
suppliers to ship replenishments
on a more frequent basis. As the
trend took hold, New Era’s customers shifted from ordering items in
pallet- and case-load quantities to
cartons containing multiple SKUs
that have to be picked individually.
Trouble was, the Harrisburg DC was
not built with piece picking in mind.
Filling the additional orders under
the old methods would require a big
increase in labor and a lot of added
expense. New Era realized that it
needed to change its order fulfillment process if it wanted to remain
efficient and competitive.
TACKLING THE OPPORTUNITY
With the start of the football contract looming, New Era began
drafting a new game plan for the
Harrisburg facility. But it only had
about six months to do it. You
could say that the clock was already
in the fourth quarter.
New Era and Menlo approached
Fortna, a warehouse design and
engineering firm, to evaluate the
existing distribution process and
then devise a comprehensive plan
for renovating the DC and installing
automated systems. Among other