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High-density storage solution helps online retailer sustain rapid growth

Eighty-year-old fashion company grows e-commerce business three years ahead of initial forecast. By Josh Bond

Founded in 1935 and headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y., Rainbow is a fast fashion retailer offering a selection of women’s, plus size, children’s clothing, shoes and accessories. Since 1985, the company has operated a single distribution center to serve more than 1,100 locations in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It automated warehouse operations in 2007, launched an e-commerce Website in 2012, and brought fulfillment in-house in 2013. To further improve space utilization, the company designed a second DC around a high-capacity, high-density storage solution for slow- to medium-velocity products ideal for e-commerce inventory.

The fast fashion concept demands that most products flow through the DC with minimal reserve inventory storage. The company considered traditional shelving and bins to store more active product in a reduced footprint, but instead selected a higher-density solution (DMW&H). In 2014, the turnkey project went live and now stores as many SKU locations in 65 feet as are normally housed in a 200-foot-long aisle.

Each bay consists of rectangular fabric columns (SpeedCell) suspended from pallet rack beams on a sliding track. Each column contains a set of stacked storage cells that can each be identified through a bar code as single SKU locations. The columns are arranged in rows across the width and depth of a bay. The front row of columns is accessed like typical shelving, but the rear rows (two-, three- or four-deep) are also accessible by sliding the front columns right or left.

The unique design allows the full depth of each storage bay to be used for individual SKU locations. By picking from more slots in the same space, workers can maximize their efficiency. Orders are completed faster, and the shortened pick path to access all SKU locations increased operator productivity.

“The system is a great way to save space, optimize picks and increase productivity in small-footprint facilities,” says Bill Munizza, director of e-commerce fulfillment. “It helps maximize product storage and the picking area all in one.”

The operation was so successful that it grew Rainbow’s e-commerce business three years ahead of original forecasts. As a result, a mezzanine with a second level of the fabric cell storage was added the following year, allowing the company to expand product offerings online.

“It was a phenomenal installation job on our new mezzanine level,” Munizza adds. “They worked in a very restricted area while our business was fully operational, and we never had any issues with installation work obstructing our production.”

About the author
Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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