March 26, 2003, 12:00 AM

How Urban Outfitters is streamlining shipments to stores

By adding web-based supply chain visibility to its inventory management and pack-and-ship systems, Urban Outfitters expects to cut by 10% the number of inbound cartons its warehouse processes.

By adding new web-based supply chain visibility to its mixture of inventory management and pack-and-ship systems, Urban Outfitters Inc. expects to cut by 10% the number of inbound cartons processed in its warehouse, Ken McKinney, director of distribution, tells "That will be a significant savings of cost and time and it will buy us extra space in our warehouse," he says.

The multi-channel retailer’s distribution center uses a pack-and-ship system from AL Systems Inc. and software from Island Pacific that provides information on inventory levels, store sell-throughs and store product allocations. The overall system organizes how shipments get forwarded to stores, but a lack of real-time visibility into suppliers` advance ship notices limits the degree to which Urban Outfitters can consolidate shipments to stores, McKinney says. Without knowing in advance which products will arrive at the distribution center and when, the company must process each inbound carton in its warehouse for re-shipment to individual stores.

That`s why McKinney says he`s investigating the implementation of a web-based system that would enable Urban Outfitters to receive real-time electronic updates of advance ship notices, providing its distribution center with the ability to better consolidate inbound shipments into store deliveries. The data from web-based ASNs would be added to the Island Pacific inventory management and store allocation applications. McKinney says this will enable the distribution center to cross-dock or forward about 10% of inbound cartons directly to stores without having to break them down for re-shipment based on the different demands of individual stores.

"We want to be able to just slap a label on a carton as it arrives at the DC and send it to a store," he says. "That will save us labor and warehouse space."

He adds that Urban Outfitters could arrange to have suppliers attach specific store shipment labels on some cartons before they arrive at the distribution center, but that the retailer prefers to attach store shipment labels after checking updated sell-through data from each store. "We want to utilize the latest sell-though information, so we can forward cartons to the stores that need them," he says.

Urban Outfitters, which expects $500 million in sales this year, operates more than 90 retail stores and separate catalogs and web sites for its Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie brands of apparel and housewares.


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