Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. That’s what Armand Page did when he decided to build a distribution center around an unusual method for picking slow moving items.
Page is the vice president of operations and IT for Jake’s Finer Foods, a full-line foodservice distributor serving independent restaurants, multi-unit restaurants and foodservice retail companies. During the past three years, under his guidance, the company designed and built a 180,000-square-foot distribution center and corporate headquarters in Houston.
The DC is Phase One of an eventual development of a 360,000-square-foot refrigerated facility. It uses technologies and material handling systems that will increase efficiency, reduce costs and significantly cut energy use and environmental waste—and help the company save $4.6 million dollars over the next five years.
For its environmental efforts as well as its commitment to passing long-term savings on to its customers, Jake’s Finer Foods has been named the winner of Food Logistics’ Golden Pallet Award in the large distribution center category.
The Golden Pallet Awards, sponsored by Food Logistics, are the first food industry awards to recognize excellence in warehousing. Two more Golden Pallet award winners will be profiled in upcoming issues of FL.
Jake’s, which posted $80 million in revenue last year, was founded in 1946. The family-run company has come a long way since Kervin E. Jacob (Jake) started the business delivering eggs door-to-door to household customers. Today it sells more than 1 million eggs a week and delivers 8,000 SKUs to 1,500 customers in Eastern Texas and Western Louisiana.
“We simply outgrew our facility. The old warehouse was just under 80,000 square feet across three separate buildings,” says Page. “We consolidated the buildings into one and more than doubled the square footage and tripled the cube in this new DC.”
The warehouse, which opened this past February, provides slots for over 20,000 items and more than 4.3 million feet of cubic storage, including seven temperature zones design to maintain ideal product storage conditions. The cornerstone of the facility, however, is a unique solution—Page designed the facility around a pick path and rack system for slow movers that uses pallet jacks with rising platforms, taking up significantly less space than the narrow aisle racking it used at the old warehouse.
Saving For The Future
At the old warehouse, Jake’s was utilizing between 90 percent to 95 of its storage slots. The company had a costly and inefficient floating planned item retrieval (PIR) system for slow movers that brought product to a central point where they would be collated into a customer’s order—thereby handling the product twice.
“The PIR five-aisle man up areas required us to pull the product and move it to a merge location and about a third of our errors were coming from that merge area,” says Page. “Product would get on the wrong pallet. In addition, the hard-to-reach pick slots in the narrow aisles increased order filling time and created safety issues.”
After visiting 16 distribution centers to get ideas on how to lay out the new facility, Jake’s decided to work with Atlet Inc., a lift truck manufacturer based in Anaheim, CA. Page says he saw Atlet’s Tempo pallet jacks in action at one facility that had designed the pick paths and racking around the Tempo, and was impressed.
“We realized that if we used the Tempo, we could get rid of the PIR and take all of the slow moving products and fit them into a six by nine foot area,” says Page. “The Tempo would give us the ability to pick at a higher slot—its platform raises us up and gets us to that level. And we could put more slots into the pick path.”