GE Appliances’ Georgia distribution center was designed to make real-time decisions about the disposition of inventory, with processes that enable fast and efficient movement. When required by the customer, the facility is capable of processing next-day delivery orders. While the facility does keep a reserve stock of some seasonal and frequently ordered products, most inventory will move from a trailer in the yard to an outbound trailer in 24 to 36 hours.
Receiving: The distribution process begins when a trailer or container of product is received into the facility’s yard management system, or YMS, and stored in the yard on both sides of the building (1). Using artificial intelligence, or AI, the system looks through the GE Appliances’ order book to ask the question: Who needs this appliance? The answer to that question will determine what happens next. Product that it is not needed right then will be staged in the yard. The YMS uses RFID to keep track of the locations of assets stored in the yard. Yard dogs are responsible for the flow of containers and trailers around the yard and to the dock.
Storage and order fulfillment: Once there is demand for a product, a trailer or container is moved to a dock (2). Receiving and shipping take place on both sides of the building. Given that the processes were designed to touch a product as few times as possible — and in some cases, an appliance is only touched once after a trailer is moved into a dock—storage and order fulfillment are essentially once process. When a lift truck operator unloads an appliance, one of three things can happen:
Items for which an order already exists are crossdocked across the facility to an outbound truck at one of the docks—touched just once. An order may be staged (3) until the truck is ready for loading. Orders with complex deliveries that might involve mixed loads, multiple stops and custom labeling are staged in the larger of the two storage areas (3a).
Items that are not needed now but may be needed within the next 24 to 36 hours are staged at shipping (3 and 3a) as part of a flow-through process. They’ll be loaded onto a truck in the near term.
Frequently ordered, seasonal or evergreen products are stacked on the floor, in some instances up to 30 feet high. Slower moving items are stored in the middle of the building—still accessible (4). Fast-moving items, or favorites, are stored near the shipping dock (5). The fastest-moving items are staged near the shipping doors (2).
Stay up-to-date with news and resources you need to do your job. Research industry trends, compare companies and get market intelligence every week with Supply Chain 24/7.
Subscribe to our email newsletter and we’ll keep you up-to-date.