Backcountry.com began in 1996 with two guys, a stack of avalanche beacons, and a garage in Park City, Utah. Since then, they’ve grown into a major brand with 5 offices across the globe. Their Christiansburg, Virginia location is home to Backcountry’s second distribution center, which serves the Eastern United States. As a premiere online retailer of outdoor goods, Backcountry is focused on delivering an optimal experience for consumers through efficient order fulfillment and expedited delivery.
“We help people fulfill their passions,” said Jeff Carter, Senior Vice President of Global Fulfillment for Backcountry. “We are an outdoor gear retailer, and we sell high-end outdoor products for those people who are passionate about skiing, snowboarding, hiking, climbing, cycling, motorsports. We carry 300,000 SKUs. Opening Virginia has helped our customers get the product faster. The system within the building allows us to ship things quicker out the door. Virginia, for example, has a 7 p.m. cutoff, and since we promise our customers orders the same day, UPS picks up at 10:30, so those guys have a 3.5-hour window to get those customer orders out the door, and the system along with our WMS system, allows for that flexibility in meeting that goal.”
Hytrol and the integration partner worked with Backcountry to develop a unique solution capable of providing an increase in their logistic footprint and fulfillment space, while reducing processing costs and shipping expenses. The system is comprised of several customized applications, one of which provides a noteworthy approach to the traditional “pick and pass” order fulfillment process. This solution utilizes an overhead conveyor spine to vertically sort product to the three levels of the pick module. This allows the main conveyor line to transport customer-order totes only, while replenishment and empty totes are transported directly to their specified zone.
By approaching the sortation process from a three-dimensional perspective, the integration partner was able to develop a cost-effective and efficient system with optimal throughput. The layout of each pick module is also significantly reduced, allowing for a greater efficiency of labor and less movement for employees.
“We built a WMS in a flow management system that would work very well for online retailers and direct consumer shipping,” said Carter. “In our picking mezzanine, walk time is critical; reducing the amount of walk time employees have in the process throughout the day is key to driving down costs, so we built that into our distribution center. Our zones are 50 percent less than the size of the zones in Salt Lake, making it so the employees aren’t walking as much. “
“The E24™ technology was great; it allowed us to open this building quicker. The energy savings you gain from it is consistent with the culture of Backcountry. ” – Jeff Carter, SVP of Global Fulfillment
The system is designed to transport totes of outdoor goods from the pick-to-pick routing area to one of two packaging lines, each with 20 stations fed by an overhead accumulation conveyor, which minimizes the need to offload totes during peak picking periods.
“One aspect of the system that we were excited about was the pick-to-pick operation as opposed to the serpentine pick-and-pass that we have in Salt Lake City. Basically, the system has one main artery; that artery sorts out to the various zones and a tote, after an item is picked into that tote, will come out, hit the 3-2 switch, and be diverted back into the next zone, rather than having to bypass through every single zone. We can pick multiple-item orders to packing about 10 minutes quicker than we can in Salt Lake City because of the pick-to-pick technology and functionality that we have here in Virginia.”
By working with the integration partner, Backcountry was able to implement a material handling solution that offered faster delivery for their east coast customers and provided efficient and accurate order fulfillment. The uniquely-designed system allows Backcountry to reduce processing costs, shipping expenses, and their carbon footprint. In addition to handling the daily volume, the facility is able to accommodate expected changes in customer order profiles, as well as planned growth.
“We had high expectations coming into this building. We had used Hytrol in the past; we had used it in our Salt Lake City facility. It’s who this particular integration partner uses and recommends, so we were pretty comfortable going with Hytrol in this facility. We’ve been very happy with the performance of the system, and in fact today we were just walking through talking with the maintenance technician, and he was telling us about the classes Hytrol puts on and was very excited and happy to have participated in those classes.” – Jeff Carter, SVP of Global Fulfillment
With extensive knowledge and experience with value engineering and advanced material handling systems, Hytrol and the integration partner were able to provide the total solution for Backcountry.com, on-time and on-budget.