Case Study: Illuminations

Distribution center sortation conveyor

Higher Productivity with One Third the Staff

Illuminations was picking orders onto pallets one store at a time. Things have changed dramatically since then. The company is now processing more orders, more efficiently with only one third of the staff. The difference: a new distribution center with a streamlined and efficient conveyor system.

Illuminations is a success story of the new economy. The company is a producer and retailer of candles, glassware, and brass items. Based in Petaluma CA, Illuminations operates a network of company-owned retail stores across America. It also has a successful wholesale distribution and a catalog business.

Order processing at the old warehouse had been entirely manual -- an approach not particularly supportive of business growth. "When I started here over two years ago, we were picking orders onto pallets," recalls Walt Blum, the company's vice president of logistics. "We had no conveyor capabilities whatsoever. We were picking one store at a time, one SKU at a time."

The new installation has had an immediate and positive impact on the company's distribution operations. Whereas in the past, orders were picked one store at a time, Illuminations now can do a much more efficient bulk distribution pick. "We can pick orders in bulk for a dozen stores at a time," Blum explains, "and then sort to the appropriate stores. This is a direct result of the new conveyor system."

There were other benefits as well. "The system was implemented on time, on budget without one hitch," says the logistics V.P. "A lot of credit goes to John Fisher of FloStor who helped us design and implement the system."

While everything has worked out well to date, management at Petaluma is looking forward to the upcoming peak shipping months of November and December. "We expect fabulous results in the busy season," says Blum, noting that order volume can increase by a factor of four during this period. "We'll be able to get as much done in a 12-hour shift as what used to take us 36 to 48 hours."