Last Thursday our professor David Widdifield led us to a distribution center of 31 Gifts, a handbag and accessories manufacturer in Columbus.
Before that, we first had a guest speaker from KMH Systems, who presented to us about what they provided for their clients on solving supply chain problems. He gave us an idea about how to implement automation in supply chain and how to design a warehouse. 5 factors were brought out, which are space, layout, equipment, information systems, and management. Actually there are still a lot to learn. After that, we went to the distribution center near Easton, where it is more convenient to provide goods with flexibility and high-velocity.
When we arrived there, the chief operation manager welcomed us and gave us a brief introduction about their company. Ten years ago, 31 was formed with a goal of helping women by giving them an opportunity to own their own business. Around the corner of the meeting room, we could see a huge pink heart shape poster. The manager said they actually import materials from China originally, and customize those semi-products into what the consumers want, to meet their own need. Also, they reduce the return percentage through quality control and good service. Then, he showed us the warehouse. Some pictures of the distribution center are shown below.
The most amazing part is that they don’t have a lot of workers, instead they purchased automotive machine sewing and stitching machines. All they need to do is create designs according to the customers’ requirement. They had a bunch of templates in their database, so that they could choose what they need easily. Then the machine could operate itself. As you can see below, usually, it takes 3 minutes to complete a whole design.
By applying automation, they could be able to reduce the cost and increase the profit, while improving the productivity. At the same time, they could take the advantage of economy of scale. After they complete the manufacturing process, they continue the quality control process and handling them into different category according to different customers manually. As we could see in the picture, they record the whole process on the board in order to observe and improve the process.
After all these, they could sort them into several packages and ship them to different destination. We observed the whole process and have a general idea about how they operate. I still feel there is a lot to learn but I was able to gain more experience in the field.