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Technology Helps DC Deal with Slow-Moving Items

With 6,000 products accounting for only 20 percent of moves, this distributor had to make a change.

(Boonton, NJ, November 30, 2012) — Slow movers are the bane of any DC's existence, and food distributor Ben E. Keith has its share of infrequently ordered products.

The company's dry product includes some 10,000 SKUs, and they follow the 80-20 rule. There are 4,000 fast-moving products that account for 80 percent of all activity. And the remaining 6,000 products account for only 20 percent of moves.

To deal with these slow movers, Ben E. Keith made a major investment in material handling technology at its new DC in Houston. The food distributor spent about $2 million on a miniload system that enhances picking efficiency by storing unneeded items high above the floor and dropping to ground level those items that need to be picked.

The miniload system, which is 35 feet tall, enhances space use by storing unneeded items vertically. That reduces travel time, Kohl says, because a picker must travel past only 1,300 items during a shift instead of 6,000.

To justify the investment, Ben E. Keith had to focus on issues such as customer service and competitive advantage.

Details on Ben E. Keith's transition to miniload appear in the November issue of Distribution Center Management newsletter.


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