Glazier consolidates warehouse operations

Feb. 1, 2005
Outgrowing one warehouse seems common enough; distribution companies do that all the time. Outgrowing four warehouse buildings, all in use at the same

Outgrowing one warehouse seems common enough; distribution companies do that all the time. Outgrowing four warehouse buildings, all in use at the same time, takes a little more effort and requires more effort to remedy. Just ask the folks at Glazier Foods in Houston, Texas.

Until February 7, 2005, Glazier Foods operated in a complex of four buildings spread across two city blocks in central Houston. The newest of the warehouses was an 88,000-sq-ft dry grocery facility built in 1996. Moving to a new facility was required, because the physical plant was operating at 100% of capacity, says John Miller, Glazier's vice-president of finance. “The site simply had no opportunity available for expansion,” he says.

Warehouse operations had 210,000 sq ft of storage space, but it was difficult to use because buildings had differing ceiling heights, requiring a wide variety of materials handling equipment. Receiving was difficult as well, because all the buildings were racked for small pallets. Every single carton Glazier received had to be removed from the standard 40" by 48" pallet used for shipping and restacked on the company's small pallets. Running four buildings also required redundant staffing. To make matters more difficult, an active railroad track ran between some of the warehouses, often delaying truck loadings as vehicles were moved from the frozen and refrigerated dock to the grocery dock.

“That railroad track was hard on employees as well,” Miller says. “If a driver parked his personal car on the other side of the track, it sometimes could take up to 45 minutes to leave the property after finishing work.”

The new distribution center is the culmination of a four-year discussion, Miller says. “Roughly three years ago, we made the decision that Glazier had to move into new quarters or change its mission,” he says. “The choice seemed to be move and be able to increase sales volume or stay put and limit what the company could do.”

More volume, wider area

Moving and continuing to grow was the most desirable option, Miller says. In recent years, Glazier added both volume and geographical coverage. Most business growth outside the Houston-Galveston metropolitan area is the result of expanding contract accounts with chain restaurants. However, the small family-owned restaurants in rural Texas can still count on a delivery from Glazier Foods at least twice a week. Just like the population, growth shows most in the cities and their suburbs. However, Glazier has always been strong in small communities and remains loyal to that customer base, Miller says

The trade area that was once just the local area plus Central Texas now takes in all of Texas and Louisiana as well as all of Oklahoma east of Lawton and most of Arkansas. Some of the routes pile on the miles with one truck making a weekly 1,500-mile round trip to El Paso. Another long route runs through Fort Worth to Wichita Falls, just south of the Oklahoma border, before turning west for deliveries in Lubbock and Amarillo.

To serve such a widespread area, Glazier operates 40 straight trucks, 30 single axle tractors with short distribution trailers, and 24 tandem drive tractors with longer trailers. The tandem fleet consists of 18 tractors with sleepers for the long routes and six day cabs for large local deliveries.

Lengthy planning process

Once the company decided to move, managers took on a lengthy planning task. Producing a plan for the new building was a nine-month process, says Bob Sarvis, vice-president of planning and organization. With a plan in mind, it took 15 months to find a suitable site and three months to select a contractor. Site selection and finding a contractor took place at the same time.

“One we knew what the building was supposed to look like, we had to find a site that could hold it,” Sarvis says. “In addition to requirements such as decent purchase price and good highway access, an absolute necessity was that the site offer enough space for the warehouse to be expanded by a minimum of 100%.”

The new distribution center sits on 33 acres on the north edge of the city, not too far from George H W Bush Intercontinental Airport. Twenty acres of the site are developed and in use. All warehousing resides in one building, while the only other structure houses the transportation department and its five-bay shop, two-lane fuel island, and automated truck wash.

High efficiency warehouse

The distribution department fills an L-shaped warehouse with 105,000 sq ft of dry grocery storage in one leg and cooler and frozen storage in the other. Refrigerated space divides into three pieces with 35,000 sq ft of cooler in two temperature zones at 28°F and 35°F along with 50,000 sq ft of frozen storage at 0°F. Ceiling height throughout the building ranges from 30 ft to 34 ft. The high-cube building allows Glazier to rack the entire warehouse for standard-sized pallets instead of the small ones used in the old warehouses. Aisles are brightly lit with high-efficiency, motion sensitive lamps. When an aisle is not occupied, illumination drops to 50% of its brightest intensity. A single dock with 17 doors serves the refrigerated warehouse. The dry warehouse has a separate dock with 15 doors.

Separate docks require that Glazier load frozen and perishables first and then move trucks to the dry dock. Including parking loaded trucks, vehicles are moved three times during the loading process. “That's a lot better than our previous procedure,” Miller says. “Some trucks were moved six times in the loading and staging process.”

Although the weekend of February 5 is considered the official move-in date, actual occupation of the new warehouse began three weeks earlier. “At three weeks prior to opening, we began calculating inventory needs,” Sarvis says. “Any inventory beyond a three-week supply was moved to the new site. We did the same thing at the two-week mark, and did one week of receiving in the new building before the move on the final weekend.”

Hard work weekend

The move began at 5 am on Friday February 4 with the entire Glazier staff and fleet involved plus 17 contract drivers and 30 rented trailers. Moving was the sole focus of that weekend; the company shipped nothing on that Friday and Saturday and did no receiving on Friday. Company trucks returning to Houston overnight on Thursday skipped their normal backhauls.

All departments in the warehouse moved at the same time. Pallets were pulled from racks, loaded on trucks, and sent on the 17-mile trip to the new warehouse. Nothing was counted during the move. Between 5 am Friday and midnight Saturday, Glazier moved approximately 340,000 cases of product in 289 truckloads. Company trucks and drivers moved the frozen and perishable products.

“During the move, damage was unbelievably low,” Sarvis says. “We might be able to fill three pallets with the damaged product.”

Moving the inventory was just part of the battle. Once the 36-hour move was complete, warehouse workers had only 12 hours to get the building and its inventory in shape for the night crew to begin selecting orders on Sunday night so that all regular routes could run on Monday. With the building stocked, Glazier will spend the next several weeks making sure it is organized properly before redesigning the work standards for warehouse operation.

Transportation affected least

The transportation department is less affected by the move to new quarters than any other part of the company, Miller says. That is because nearly all of a driver's work is done off site interacting with customers. “Drivers do benefit, however,” he says. “With all the loaded trucks parked in a single area, drivers can get to their vehicles quicker and easier — without waiting for the train before crossing the street. Returns are easier — all at one dock — and the check-in process is quicker after dropping trucks at the fuel island.”

“Outside the warehouse, the guys who work the fuel island probably got the best deal of anyone with this new facility,” says Mart Maxwell, facilities/fleet manager. “At the old place, all their work was outdoors. Here they work under a canopy. Previously, they could only pump 10 gallons per minute; now they get 20 gallons per minute, and with two pumps per lane, they can fuel a tractor and trailer at the same time. The old place had only 8,000 gallons of fuel storage. We have two big tanks here — one with 12,000 gallons of taxed highway fuel and a separate 10,000-gallon tank with two compartments. One compartment holds 4,000 gallons of taxed fuel for trucks, and the other holds 6,000 gallons of untaxed diesel for refrigeration units and yard equipment.”

Fuel island workers also take care of washing trucks. At the old facility, truck washing was done by hand with a pressure washer. Now, workers drive vehicles through an automated wash bay. The Whiting System washer can clean an entire truck in two minutes. “We still use a pressure hose to flush the inside of trucks and trailers, so total wash time is about 10 minutes apiece,” Maxwell says.

Big new shop

The truck wash is part of the main shop building. It is mounted in a 100' by 22' bay on the end of the building. The washer was manufactured in Alexander, Arkansas, and installed by American Sales from San Angelo, Texas. The primary service facility has five bays, each 100 ft long and 16 ft wide. “That gives us the capacity to put 10 trucks in the shop at any given time,” Maxwell says. “In addition, we have a service pit for oil changes and preventive maintenance inspections. That's an amenity we never had before.”

The shop is open continuously from late Sunday afternoon when shipping begins until the following Friday evening when the last truck returns from its route. It is staffed by one technician and a helper at night and by two technicians plus Maxwell during the day.

To handle its recent growth, the Glazier fleet is newer than it has ever been. However, Glazier does not run a new fleet, and with its projected equipment life and replacement cycle, it never will. On the other hand, the fleet will never grow old all at once either. “Our projected service life is 10 years for refrigerated straight trucks and 12 years for tractors,” Maxwell says. “Trailers stay in the fleet 15 years. Not only do we want to keep equipment 10 to 12 years, we want it to run for that entire time without overhaul and to have decent residual value when we sell it.”

A number of factors make this possible. First the trucks, tractors, and trailers are over-specified for the job they do. This is particularly true for truck bodies and refrigeration units. Glazier Foods purchases 20-ft refrigerated van bodies from Kidron for straight trucks. Twenty-eight-ft trailers are from Great Dane. Most straight trucks use Carrier Transicold Supra 722 refrigeration units. Trailers are equipped with Carrier Transicold Ultra units. Carrier Transicold TM900s refrigerate Glazier's multi-temp trailers.

Glazier Foods purchases its refrigeration units and truck bodies from the W & B Service Company branch in Houston. W & B is a Carrier Transicold dealer headquartered in Dallas with 16 branches throughout the Southwest.

Peterbilt sets fleet standard

New straight trucks at Glazier are Peterbilt Model 330s — with two of the newer Model 335s almost ready for delivery. All but two of the 330s are powered by Caterpillar 3126 engines rated at 250 horsepower. The first two Petes the company bought have Cummins 8.3 engines. The new 335s run the new Cat C7. All have Eaton six-speed transmissions.

Single drive tractors are Peterbilt Model 385s with Cummins C10 — now the C11 after meeting the 2002 emission regulations. Single drive tractors use nine-speed transmissions with engines rated at 350 hp. Maxwell says that all the sleeper tandems were purchased used and have 3406E Cat engines.

The mixture of trucks and tractors requires a varied maintenance program. At one time, the entire fleet got oil changes at 12,000 miles. Now with the tandem tractors on such long routes, that interval has been extended to 15,000 miles. Single drive tractors remain at 12,000 miles, and the Cat-powered straight trucks have been cut to 8,000 miles. “We began having some injector trouble that we traced to the long oil change interval,” Maxwell says. “We cut back on the oil change interval, because oil is a lot less expensive than injectors.”

Refrigeration units are serviced prior to the factory recommended interval. For trailer units, this is 1,000 hours on systems that have a recommended interval of 1,500 hours.

Keeping trucks for 10 years and tractors for 12 years has caused Maxwell to rethink the inventory for the company shop. As trucks get older, some parts become rare. For that reason, a big segment of the parts inventory is held in slow-moving parts that are hard to find. “Dealers don't stock old parts,” he says. “They rely on their parts warehouses and even on vendors to stock the slow-moving items. We can't afford to wait several days while a part makes its way through the pipeline. Instead, we stock the slow-movers and rely on our dealers to keep a good supply of parts for new trucks that move through sales channels rapidly.”

For additional Refrigerated Transporter feature stories, visit refrigeratedtrans.com

About the Author

Gary Macklin

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