Vera Bradley Bags a New Automated DC

Apr 01, 2009 9:30 PM  By

If you’ve ever outgrown your distribution center and technology, you know what Vera Bradley was going through a few years ago.

The company sells handbags, travel items, stationery and accessories via specialty gift shops and boutiques. It also has 24 of its own U.S. stores — 22 of which did not exist two years ago — and a Website. When it outgrew its DC, Vera Bradley needed a facility with multichannel capabilities.

The merchant started a project for a new, fully automated warehouse in 2005, says Larry Harness, Vera Bradley’s distribution manager. “We wanted the systems to be flexible enough to take on anything we wanted or needed them to,” he says.

Vera Bradley went live with a new 200,000-sq.-ft. DC in February 2007. What systems did the company go with? “We have SAP as our ERP system; Manhattan’s ILS .net as our WMS; Forte’s Automation Director as our WCS; and Lightning Pick’s pick-to-light system,” Harness says. The DC also has a conveyor system from Dematic.

What does all this stuff do? It enables Vera Bradley’s DC to handle to waving, manifesting, cartonization, batch picking, document printing and carton routing, among other tasks.

The DC’s capacity and capability have proved invaluable in handling the merchant’s changing fulfillment needs. “We only had retail when we went live, and we’ve opened 22 of our own stores since,” Harness says.

And Vera Bradley brought its online business in-house this past fall, having started it with a third-party provider: “We could not have brought the online business in without the implementation.”

The online channel has the most orders in a day, Harness notes, but retail has the most volume. “I think we’ve done a good job of adapting to the needs of each market channel.”

Harness, along with Michael Wohlwend of Manhattan Associates, on March 25 will present Vera Bradley as a case study in the NCOF session “One Inventory, Many Channels.”

How would Harness describe Vera Bradley’s results with the new DC? In a word, “fantastic,” he says. “We are able to pick, pack and ship everything from a one-piece online order to a several-thousand-piece retail order at the same time, using the same pick facing and audit area.”

What’s more, the entire project was completed in about a year, he boasts. “Not bad for a project of this size.”