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From jelly jars to vacuum cleaners to elliptical trainers at Canada’s largest DC

Retailers tend to gravitate toward automated material handling solutions due to similar business drivers – increasing volume demands, order accuracy concerns, facility consolidations, high labor costs, and many other common threads that drive distribution center design requirements.

However, each material handling system design has to address challenges that are unique to that operation. There is no “one-size-fits-all approach” when designing a system; although two operations may have the exact same reasons for automation, there are always considerations or details that can make or break the success of a given system.

Like other retailers, Canadian Tire, Canada’s most-shopped general merchandise retailer, set off to build a new distribution center to meet increasing volume demands. But, Canadian Tire faced a few unique challenges when designing what would become Canada’s largest DC to date, at 1.5 million square feet.

No general item profiles: Products range from a small six pack of jelly jars to vacuum cleaners to elliptical trainers.

Franchise model: Unlike its competitors, Canadian Tire operates on a franchise model – selecting and storing merchandise for its franchisee dealers, then delivering the ordered goods.

As a result, Canadian Tire needed a DC that could handle piece picking, bulk handling and bulk storage, as well as meet specific goals for:

  1. Reduced footprints and fingerprints: Minimize the number of times a product is handled and the amount of manual movement required.
  2. Handling flexibility: The facility needed to handle both conveyables as well as bulk products by lift truck, with products arriving to shipping doors at roughly the same time for consolidation.
  3. Energy and wear efficiency: The facility needed to be able to ramp up and down when needed for seasonal peaks, while maintaining energy efficiency and minimizing equipment wear.

To learn more about how Canadian Tire solved these challenges, take a look inside the company’s Montreal, QC DC in the following video case study.