SCDigest Editorial Staff
The Whirlpool DCs are divided into four nearly identical quadrants, with SKUs putaway in a balanced way in all four quadrants. With shipping docks running the length of the building, it means order pickers can complete orders without leaving a quadrant.
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Clearly, Wall Street pays much more attention to supply chain issues than ever before, but usually the focus is on topics such as inventory reduction and broad changes in supply chain network strategies.
So, it was interesting to see a prominent feature story in the Wall Street Journal this week on a build-out of new distribution centers by home appliance giant Whirlpool.
In general, there is nothing especially noteworthy about the story, with one exception – Whirlpool has continued to invest in distribution assets and technology despite a 20% sales decline stemming from the recession.
Whirlpool, like many companies, recently discovered that it was operating an inefficient and high-cost logistics network, stemming in part from its 2006 acquisition of former competitor Maytag.
The logistics network redesign started the year before that, actually, soon after Brian Hancock took over as head of Whirlpool’s North American supply chain. That led to plans for a four-year, $600 million project to optimize the Whirlpool DC network. At that level of investment, Wall Street certainly takes notice.
Whirlpool’s logistics network has been transformed, moving from 41 outdated sites to 10 huge, regional distribution centers with upgraded warehouse management software (WMS) and materials handling equipment. Not long ago, Whirlpool order pickers drove back after each pick to a central station to receive their next assignment; now, of course, drivers receive instructions via RF terminals on their fork trucks.
Appliances such as washers and dryers are obviously a different type of product to manage in a DC, with a single unit taking up as much cube as a pallet load of cartonized product. The result of that, plus the network consolidation is a mega DC footprint, such as Whirlpool’s one-year-old facility near Columbus, OH, that clocks in at 1.56 million-square-feet with 172 trucking docks.
(Distribution Article - Continued Below)