FULFILLMENT Brylane’s big operation

Brylane, the $1.3 billion catalog powerhouse, is not only a leader in specialty-size apparel, but it also claims to be a master in high-volume, low-cost fulfillment. (The New York-based cataloger mails specialty-size books Lane Bryant, Jessica London, and King-Size for Men, and regular-size apparel titles that include Chadwick’s, Lerner, and Bridgewater.)

During peak periods, Brylane’s two distribution locations, in Indianapolis and West Bridgewater, MA, can handle a total of up to 240,000 packages a day. “That’s a pretty good figure,” says fulfillment consultant Wayne Teres, who does work for the company. “There aren’t many catalogers that can handle that kind of volume.”

Brylane says it operates cost-effectively as well. “We have a proactive group in operations that developed our systems at a low cost,” says Brylane chairman/CEO Peter Canzone. “We have also invested a lot of money, including $9 million for a new sortation system in 1995, which enables items to move faster to shipping.”

For instance, with Brylane’s hanging garment sorters, pickers don’t have to walk the items to the packers, as an automatic transporter delivers each barcoded item. And in its West Bridgewater, facility, the company uses a hanging sorter system that enables hanging garments to be sorted along with flat-packed items for packing. Hanging goods are a notorious problem for apparel catalogs, says Haskell, NJ-based catalog fulfillment consultant Bill Kuipers. “Hanging garments require more space, more individual handling, and for packing purposes, matching hanging items with flat ones can cause problems,” he says. But Brylane’s hanging garment sorter system enables both flat and hanging items to be picked and packed together.

Sophisticated systems Brylane’s proprietary software also creates a one-pass picking system, Canzone says. At most catalogs, pickers pick goods during each schedule or order wave. At Brylane, however, all picking occurs on the third shift, a system that Canzone says is less labor-intensive. “The merchandise is then stored in a supersack; the next morning, the sacks are opened, sorted, and put into the sortation system and shipped,” Canzone says. “It saves us 20% on picking time and costs, as pickers only have to go through the warehouse once.”

Moreover, Brylane’s catalog management software allows for faster processing of resaleable returns, he says. Resaleable items go into forward shipping, bypassing the middle step of restocking and picking from inventory. And if the returned item is required to fill a live order or a backorder, it goes directly to shipping.

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