Facing a growing business but also growing logistical challenges as it balanced receiving special orders and stocking commodity merchandise at three filled-to-capacity yards, Whitinsville, Mass.–based Koopman Lumber invested $1.8 million in 2003 in a centrally located distribution center (DC), a decision that has quickly paid off.

Located in Uxbridge, Mass., the 8-acre DC includes 3 acres of paved space and a 50,000-square-foot warehouse for undercover storage of lumber, building materials, and other commodity items. Essential to the facility is a separate staging area where orders are assembled and organized before being loaded onto trucks. Stackable racking helps prevent damage while sorting and positioning orders according to delivery cycle. Two shifts of pullers ensure that all orders can be accommodated—orders entered by 9 a.m. are out by 3 p.m. and orders by 3 p.m. go out by 9 a.m. the next day. The company has a 72-hour turnaround time on return pickups.

To help maintain control of orders, Koopman utilizes tracking software from DQ Technologies. A bar code is assigned to each order, and orders are color coded in the system based on stage; at any time, employees can pull up an order and determine where it is in the delivery cycle.

More than a year since its completion, Koopman's new DC is seeing big payoffs in efficiency, speed, and accuracy, so much so that the company managed a volume increase of 45 percent in 2004, without requiring additional staff. “We had our resources so divided that we were fighting ourselves,” says COO Tony Brookhouse. “… Now we have it all centrally located so we're more efficient. Our efficiency has gone sky high.”

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