Warehouse Reconfiguration Boosts Efficiency [Case Study]


Family-owned bookstore chain, Half Price Books hit a growth spurt that sent them looking for a way to innovate their stores and wholesale subsidiary, Texas Bookman. They implemented Manhattan Scale to manage their warehousing needs but still needed a better way to store more product in their already-crowded central distribution center, as well as a more-efficient and ergonomically-correct way to distribute product to their stores.

Designed For Efficiency

On the back end, Half Price Books still wanted to use its existing warehouse management system (WMS), even if the system needed customization to work with the more efficient processes and a reconfigured warehouse.

After a thorough RFP process, Half Price Books selected Blue Horseshoe to take on the supply chain enhancement project.

“There were a few differentiators that set Blue Horseshoe apart from the pack” Eric James, Half Price Book's VP of Supply Chain and Logistics, says. “The first was Blue Horseshoe’s relationship and knowledge-base as a Manhattan SCALE partner. The second is that the Blue Horseshoe team had previous experience heading up similar projects with other book distributors.”

Blue Horseshoe created a feasibility study for Half Price Books to determine areas of improvement with a goal of improving the design and operations of their central distribution center.

The objectives of the project were for Blue Horseshoe to increase Half Price Books’ throughput in several ways. This included introducing select technologies and equipment, and creating improved capacity using various space-saving measures. Blue Horseshoe also developed an operating plan for the central distribution center that would provide a plan for Half Price Books to continue its growth while maintaining the current company culture.

Blue Horseshoe created a detailed facility design for the Half Price Books’ distribution center. The team created an inclusive budget for all equipment required to support the facility. This included a comprehensive financial analysis of improved process, equipment, and facility design supporting Half Price Books’ ROI criteria. Key to the project was engineering efficient, ergonomic, and economical processes and layouts.

Change for the Better

Blue Horseshoe recommended a change in the way Half Price Books distributed merchandise to its stores and vendors. In the past, the bookseller’s inventory had been siloed into three buckets: one for its store business, one for its wholesale business, and one for intracompany supply item fulfillment. There were separate teams for each business.

Blue Horseshoe recommended Half Price Books implement a pick-to-carton solution. This allowed the bookseller to ship daily instead of weekly. The results? Reduced foot traffic in the central distribution center, and increased pick and storage density.

The biggest enhancement implemented by Blue Horseshoe was in the design of the forward pick area. Pack teams were putting products into individual cartons or 4X4X4 gaylords, depending on the destination. The warehouse design now utilizes more efficient carton flow rack and shelving, gravity and powered conveyor, as well as a pack and seal area.

“The new forward pick area is the biggest evolutionary change in the building,” James said. “A majority of our work-time was spent walking and consolidating into a much denser pick area, meaning now we needed less labor in the pick process. We were able to reallocate workers into replenishment and receiving, which created a more flexible staff that was less dependent on the tribal knowledge of the processes particular to the different fulfillment functions.”

There was a second reason Blue Horseshoe suggested the pick-to-carton strategy. The Blue Horseshoe team went to a few Half Price Books locations and discovered some inefficiencies in the receiving process that may have been created by the shipping process.

Shifting to pick-to-carton did have its pros and cons. For example, it meant packing with void fill and dunnage that had never been previously done by Half Price Books. On the other hand, the pick-to-carton process created efficiencies in the central distribution center and at the store locations, as receiving and stocking takes less time and allows employees more time on the sales floor.

Download the case study to learn how Half Price Books accomplished their mission.

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