The Blair WMS project

As vice president of fulfillment for Warren, PA-based Blair Corp., Randy Scalise is responsible for Blair’s men’s and women’s apparel catalogs, including its Irvine Park careerwear title, as well as its home decor offerings. Blair’s operations facilities take up more than 1.4 million sq. ft. and include its main headquarters, state-of-the-art fulfillment and merchandise return centers, contact centers, and retail outlets.

What’s new in your distribution center?

We are installing Manhattan & Associates’ PKMS, a warehouse management system [WMS]. When it’s completed, the WMS will give Blair much greater control over receiving, storage, picking, and cycling of inventory and will expedite our shipping processes. In the meantime, however, I find it extremely challenging dealing with all of the changes and the intense training involved while keeping our organizational focus on maintaining strong customer service.

Blair’s operation is unique in that it has two warehouses side by side with a conveyor belt connecting them. Does merchandise ever fall off the belt?

We have two reversible conveyors. Our inventory is received, quality-checked, stored, and displayed in our “south” building. Once it is picked for a specific customer order it is transported within a tote across the conveyor and entered into our new packing sorter in the “north” building. The conveyors are securely enclosed in an above-ground walkway so that our customers don’t have to worry about anything falling off or being affected by the weather.

If I weren’t in operations, I’d be:

The commissioner of Major League Baseball. [For the record, Scalise enjoyed a brief stay in the New York Yankees minor league system in 1973, catching for future big-league pitchers Ron Guidry and Tippy Martinez.]

Can you remember your “welcome to operations” moment?

On my first day I was leaning over a conveyor to view something close up, and an associate walking by reprimanded me for a safety violation. He then asked me who I was and what I did for Blair. I introduced myself, and we shook hands. Later I discovered he had given me someone else’s name when he found out who I was.

Today’s consumers are Web-savvy — even Blair’s older customers. Have their Internet expectations forced Blair to speed up delivery times?

We are constantly looking for ways to improve our total delivery time, and the Web has certainly made that all the more important. One of the benefits of the new warehouse management system is to reduce order delays.

If money were no object, what type of operational equipment would you purchase and place in the distribution center?

While we certainly are careful with our capital expenses, Blair has supported the distribution operation with wonderful enhancements in our material handling equipment, including a major commitment to the WMS. If we could make any change, I think all of us at Blair would like to have a real-time inventory system. It would be a huge benefit in terms of customer service.

What’s the most interesting or unique possession in your office?

Probably the 29-in. walleye I caught a few years ago. My wife wouldn’t let me hang it in the house.

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