Because Wawa’s stores are not franchises, the company has control over the types and amount of items that need to be warehoused. This enabled McLane to design the DC—as well as its systems and automation—to specifically meet Wawa’s product mix.
“When you have multiple customers going through a DC, you can wind up with as many as 13,000 SKUs in a typical warehouse,” says Tidmore. “With one customer, we’re only carrying the product that Wawa wants—we have less than 2,000 items in this distribution center. And Wawa is very efficient at turning product quickly.”
Instead of the typical retailer and wholesaler roles, Wawa and McLane entered into more of a third party type of relationship, with McLane running the facility on behalf of Wawa. “Wawa owns the inventory and pays all the bills,” says Tidmore, “At this distribution center, we have a huge stake in this relationship because they are our only customer.”
A FACILITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS
The state-of-the-art 220,000-square-foot facility opened in 2004. Located in Carneys Point at the southern end of New Jersey, it’s just a stone’s throw away from Delaware and Pennsylvania and is strategically located within easy reach of the majority of Wawa’s stores and suppliers. Wawa has 580 stores throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.
The DC handles a broad line of products for Wawa that range from motor oil and health and beauty aids to fresh fruit cups, produce, luncheon meats and a host of frozen products. More than 60 percent of the facility is 34 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, including the 50 docks doors. The DC is divided into five temperature zones, from ambient-temperature areas for paper and dry goods to freezer zones kept at minus 10 degrees.
With 400 team mates, this is the only McLane division that operates seven days a week, 365 days a year. “Everybody does a rotating schedule here, from the drivers to the selectors to management,” says Tidmore.
Each day, the DC receives tens of thousands of perishable and grocery items, many with an extremely short shelf life—sometimes literally hours, says Tidmore. So its’s essential that the product move quickly and efficiently throughout the facility, and be kept at the proper temperature at all times.
At the heart of the DC is a sortation system from Mason, OH-based Intelligrated Inc., which helps McLane ship some 80,000 cartons per day—with an order accuracy rate of 99.8 percent.
“This is the first full-line sortation division that McLane built and it’s the only one in a cold environment,” says Tidmore. “We had some smaller sortation systems in other divisions, but this is the most complicated system. We actually have two sorters—a north and a south sorter—that operate independently of each other.”
The DC is running on a warehouse management system from RedPairie Corp., Milwaukee and is using a pick-to-light system from FKI Logistex for break pack items (FKI was recently acquired by Intelligrated).
On average, the DC fills about 285 orders a day. Store orders come in by 6 p.m. each night and product is selected in a wave sequence. Labels are printed and distributed by wave into each area that is being selected—ambient, freezer, cooler, etc. The product is then moved to the sortation system, where it’s sorted via barcodes into individual shipping lanes and loaded onto the trucks in reverse order.
McLane’s fleet consists of 70 42-foot multi-temp trailers. Product has to be loaded properly into the trailers because most make multiple stops and precise temperature and handling requirements need to be met.
“There is a lot of complexity in this distribution center that we don’t have at other McLane divisions,” says Tidmore. “We actually sort the truck twice. Frozen product goes in first, by hand. We put a bulkhead in. Then the ambient goes in and we put another bulkhead in for the perishable products in the rear of the truck.”
McLane’s delivery process is as well orchestrated as its warehouse operations, with a better than 98 percent on-time delivery rate. The Wawa stores receive an advanced ship notice from McLane, so they know what products are being delivered. Before the truck arrives, store associates often cone off a parking space so the driver can readily unload the truck. The drivers scan the cases as they come off the truck.