With 130 stores in 17 states, Half Price Books is the largest family-owned chain of bookstores in the United States. Poised to take advantage of opportunities, like online sales, Half Price Books understood there would be some growing pains. They needed to ensure they were meeting the fulfillment needs of their stores and fulfill e-commerce orders within the promised arrive by date.
Half Price Books began pushing the boundaries of its central distribution center. Since the bookseller owned its facility, they preferred to stay put and maximize their existing space, rather than move to a bigger distribution center. In its current location, the bookseller needed a better way to:
- Engineer efficient, ergonomic, and economical processes and layouts
- Store more product in its already-crowded central distribution center
- Create a more efficient process to distribute product to their stores
- Use their existing WMS to manage a reconfigured warehouse and process enhancements
Partnering with Blue Horseshoe
Half Price Books selected Blue Horseshoe to maximize their warehouse footprint and create a blueprint to map the new processes to their existing WMS. Starting with a feasibility study, Blue Horseshoe identified opportunities to improve throughput by introducing select technologies and equipment as well as creating improved capacity using various space-saving measures.
Blue Horseshoe created a detailed facility design for the Half Price Books distribution center and outlined cost for the recommended equipment. The budget contained a comprehensive financial analysis of improved processes, equipment, and facility design. All of these recommendations met Half Price Books ROI criteria.
"In the past month we have been able to get good data for user and shift production and have been able to put a finer point on those metrics. Before we really did not have a methodology to get there and relied on a high degree of interpretation as to what were objective and fair performances." – Eric James, Half Price Books’ Vice President of Supply Chain and Logistics
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 was 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 team also designed a forward pick area. This pick area allowed pack teams to utilize a more efficient carton flow rack and shelving, gravity and powered conveyor, and a pack and seal area instead of putting product into individual cartons or 4X4X4 gaylords.
"They did a great job with the project management, whether it was keeping people on task, pointing in the right direction, or redirecting in a collaborative matter. Blue Horseshoe was very willing to jump in and help manage the training process for the staff by creating training documentation and anything else that needed to be brought to bear." – Eric James, Half Price Books’ Vice President of Supply Chain and Logistics
Timing is Everything
Project timing was also a challenge. The project was a reconfiguration of an existing distribution center, and Half Price Books’ operations team still needed to do business as usual even though parts of the distribution center were closed off.
Holiday peak also posed challenges. The distribution center project began in late July, and the conversion was completed in late September. This left a tight window to train the Half Price Books staff on the new processes and make necessary revisions to the warehouse management software.
Before the distribution center reconfiguration, Half Price Books found it challenging to trust key performance metrics. Since they’ve changed the pick process it’s taken the vagueness out of the process and made evaluation more transparent. Before the reconfiguration, the KPIs on user performance were not very actionable or accurate.
Through their partnership with Blue Horseshoe, Half Price Books has an operating plan for the central distribution center to provide a roadmap for continued growth.
"They did a great job with the project management, whether it was keeping people on task, pointing in the right direction, or redirecting in a collaborative matter. Blue Horseshoe was very willing to jump in and help manage the training process for the staff by creating training documentation and anything else that needed to be brought to bear."