SERIES: SOLUTION MAKERS
Published August 30, 2021
All for the Weekend Warriors and Pros
WPSS + partners bring Shimano American Corporation to the next level
Contributed by: Western Pacific Storage Solutions
Six years after expanding their east coast operations, Shimano American Corporation, a highly-respected manufacturer and distributor of quality bicycle components and multiple brands of fishing tackle, seemed adequately positioned for future growth in their Irvine, Calif., and Ladson, S.C. distribution centers. However, given a transformational business climate, new materials handling technologies, demographic changes, and continued expansion of product lines, the company needed to increase square footage and maximize workflow.
It's more than just wheels and reels at Shimano. The U.S. subsidiary of Osaka, Japan-based Shimano, Inc., maintains a product range broad enough to accommodate both weekend warriors, and professional anglers and athletes. Shimano American also make high-end G.Loomis fishing rods at its facility in Woodland, Wash., PowerPro braided fishing line in Grand Junction, Colo., and distributes its Pearl Izumi technical athletic clothing line — offices based in Louisville, Colo. — to devotees across the United States and Canada.
"We needed to improve our operational capabilities through facility expansion and process efficiencies,” says Allen Johnston, Senior Manager of Operations at Shimano American who retired in August, 2020. “Our customers expect same day shipments with improved transit times. Our products are so diverse, consisting of both hard and soft goods, and components of varying size – we needed to improve our process efficiencies and storage capabilities, so we looked to Fortna, and Western Pacific to help us achieve our objectives."
The supply chain and materials handling experts from Fortna, along with engineering and fabricating specialists from Western Pacific Storage Solutions, a manufacturer of industrial shelving and work platforms, partnered to move Shimano's distribution centers to the next level.
Western Pacific's deluxe shelving system was selected for the projects as it provides a flexible mix of storage options for heavy-duty, multi-level applications.
Since the Irvine and Ladson projects were unfolding simultaneously, the Fortna-Western Pacific team had to carefully orchestrate the operations of all players, and find creative, on-site ways to solve any engineering challenges that might emerge. During the Irvine project, it was discovered that there was no optimal way to remove cartons and trash from the second and third floors of the pick module. Western Pacific's Engineering team was quick to respond, and they came up with a solution – an innovative trash shoot spacious enough to accommodate the volumes of trash that workflow on the upper platforms would generate.
"In terms of advice to someone else going into a project like this one, I would say, start with world class partners like Fortna and WPSS who will understand your business requirements (not just data on a spreadsheet) and work as a partner to develop your operational needs,” says Johnston. “Make sure you take the time to plan for all of the little things you don’t think about — like the position of HVAC systems, fire sprinkler systems or in this case, trash disposal.”
WPSS President Tom Rogers emphasized how important it is for partners and fabricators to speak the same language.
"Great partners and fabricators figure out the worst case scenarios ahead of time together, and plan accordingly,” he says. “That's why experience counts. We understand the hidden costs of lost time. Advance planning and agility are key."
Luke Wood, Fortna Project Manager, echoed Rogers’ sentiments.
"Our model at Fortna is to save our clients time and money — we always put our clients first. In some states, like California, building codes and permitting requirements are more complicated, and you need to build in time for that. Western Pacific was great to work with. Their field support, design change flexibility, and consistently-open lines of communication contributed greatly to the success of both projects."
"Our model at Fortna is to save our clients time and money — we always put our clients first. In some states, like California, building codes and permitting requirements are more complicated, and you need to build in time for that. Western Pacific was great to work with."
"Fortna's decision to integrate existing Steel King pallet racking with Western Pacific's Deluxe multi-level shelving at our Irvine location was masterful – this combination forms the major infrastructure of the new three-level pick module,” says Johnston. “Now, items with faster turnover are moving out of our flow rack in order to have replenishment based on demand. We try to minimize the number of replenishments in a given week. We utilize flow rack for higher volume pick SKUs and because we are able to marry three levels of flow racking to three levels of pick module. It has helped us consolidate picking and increase speed."
The California expansion project took a year to complete – from conception to full implementation. The South Carolina expansion was completed ahead of schedule. Both locations have increased throughput, and built-in capacity allows for future growth across all product lines.
The successful Shimano expansion projects are proof that it pays to utilize seasoned partners and qualified, well-established fabricators who know the integrator's universe, and understand the desires of the end user.
"In speaking to counterparts at other companies like Shimano, my advice would be to invest time in the relationships you forge with your partners — if you don’t have a clear relationship, things can be brushed under the covers very quickly,” says Johnston. “Make sure that you take the time to help your partners understand your business and your products – anyone can do analysis, but does the solution truly apply to your unique business?”