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Jack Wolfskin Boosts Its Logistics with TGW Solution


As outdoor specialist Jack Wolfskin has been constantly growing by more than 20% every year, the company’s warehousing and logistics systems were bursting at the seams. For this reason, the company turned to TGW to outfit a new distribution centre featuring TGW’s innovative storage and order picking systems. This new Jack Wolfskin distribution center involved a conversion of the entire logistics organisation, and now supplies all of Europe.

Leading technologies and decades of application experience are in every JACK WOLFSKIN product, turning "At Home Outdoors" into a reality for the end consumer. It only makes sense that the market leader for outdoor equipment in Europe also relies on a partner that can prove its technical lead and corresponding implementation know-how in this area for the design and realisation of its new distribution centre. "TGW was able to demonstrate the necessary reputation, experience, and competence so that we were able to feel secure in our choice," Christian Brandt says, who is also responsible for the area of logistics as the CFO of Jack Wolfskin.


The new logistics centre, located  in Neu Wulmstorf, Germany (near Hamburg) completely relies on direct carton handling – pallets, trays, or other additional load carriers are not needed. Jack Wolfskin’s Logistics Manager Uta Mohr explains: "Very early in the planning process, it became clear to us that we wanted to work without trays or additional load carriers since that would not be a solution for us, but rather merely an aid for the AS/RS technology. We also looked at other solutions, but only TGW had the courage to say from the beginning, 'This is what we want do with your cartons.' TGW also provided us with a competitive offer for an efficient solution that adds up not just on paper."

The decision to invest in a completely new distribution centre did not come easy to Jack Wolfskin. After all, it was the largest individual investment in plants and equipment in the almost 30-year history of the company, as CFO Brandt explains. "Until now, we have always moved every 5 - 10 years. From a certain operations size, however, moving is no longer feasible. We needed more capacity and consistency on a permanent basis and thus a more scalable solution." For this reason, the new logistics centre’s 30,000 m² footprint can be expanded by an additional 20,000 m² and is designed to allow the company to grow at this site for more than 10 years so that all of Europe can continue to be supplied from this point. In the process, it does not play a role in the case of the implemented concept whether the business "grows in the depth and width of the product range, in the number of points of sale, or in the requirements of our customers: we can either add storage capacity or expand and scale up our order picking and service areas," Brandt says.


The new logistics centre brought Jack Wolfksin not only the use of new material handling automation technology, but also led to extensive changes in the organisation and to a complete replacement in the old IT system. For so many changes, it was absolutely necessary that the entire project should lie in the hands of a general contractor. "We do not want to be at the interface otherwise we would always be in the situation that every subsupplier makes excuses to the others," Uta Mohr says. "The integration of technology and IT is also the decisive point that makes such projects a success or failure." TGW was able to clearly fulfil these requirements and complete the project together with Jack Wolfskin without a single day's interruption of operations. "We exchanged the IT systems and technology and radically changed the organisation and process, all while moving to a new distribution center. None of our customers noticed. To be honest, I wasn't really expecting that," Brandt says enthusiastically.

The main warehouse of Jack Wolfskin now serves about 3,000 points of sale in all of Europe. These include both traditional outdoor merchants, like specialised athletic shops and clothing shops that can guarantee a high-quality presentation of the products and corresponding consulting and service. The company is now particularly proud of its franchises, numbering about 270 at the moment – a concept that no other company in the athletic goods market has been able to implement not nearly as successfully until now – as well as the presentation of its products and corporate philosophy in its own catalogue, which is distributed in shops or sent out by post in a print run of more than 1.7 million copies at the respective start of the season.


The start of the season is the greatest challenge for logistics because all points of sale want to be provided with the basics of the new product range in the shops at this time. Mohr says, "For this reason, we deliver the new goods to the shops first and then send out the catalogue." Each season, about 8,000 different articles are available, including all sizes and color variants. With an overlapping of both seasons, about 16,000 SKUs are permanently available in the main warehouse. "The business at the beginning of the season gives us plannability to the extent that we can add this volume to the plan up to four weeks in advance," Christian Brandt says. The greater challenge, however, is delivery from stock, which makes up about 70% of all sales orders. "In this case, the shop spontaneously orders what it needs and we deliver these articles up to 30% on the same day and the rest usually on the next day. Only a few companies can do the same." The bandwidth of order sizes varies according and ranges from one-piece orders up to the initial stocking of a shop with more than 3,000 different articles or the order of more than 1,000 pieces of a jacket by a large customer.

All of these requirements could no longer effectively be met in the old, purely manual logistics solution with sequential two-stage order picking. Brandt says, "We performed a lot of calculations, made plans, and discovered that this concept is simply no longer scalable. It was clear to us that we had to find a radically different solution."


The only site that came into question for the new logistics centre of Jack Wolfskin was the harbour of Hamburg since a majority of the goods come from the Far East. In addition, this site also offers an ideal base for the distribution of the goods since it lies relatively centralised within the distribution area. Any move away from the Hamburg region would have also meant that the company would have lost almost its entire workforce, which would not have been a plannable option. Instead, all employees were able to switch to the new site thanks to a newly setup connection to the public transit system.

Jack Wolfskin does not have its own production facilities, but rather has its products produced by about 50 longstanding partners mainly in the Far East. The goods are transported in containers by ship to the logistics centre in Neu Wulmstorf. There, the cartons are transferred directly from the container to the automatic conveyor system, automatically identified, measured, weighed, provided with an internal label, and then transported to the carton warehouse. It was thus necessary to shift the labelling of the cartons to the suppliers within the process chain. Mohr says, "We already started early with this process, about 2½ years ago, when we were not even able to evaluate the labels. But we knew that we would need this lead time to train our suppliers."


This training has paid off: in the old system, up to a day was needed to unload a container, including the manual inspection, sorting, and item-based palletisation of the cartons, labelling, and provision and storage of the pallets. Now this same process takes only 45 minutes. "Our unloading logistics are completely lean now. We are also able to process the planned peak of 30 containers a day," Uta Mohr says.

The core of the new logistics centre is TGW’s automatic carton warehouse. The automatic carton warehouse stores the delivered cartons directly and without additional load carriers in the triple-depth storage structure using Twister technology. "For us, it was decisive that, using a triple-deep solution, TGW managed to create an optimum ratio between storage capacity and storage density with sufficient dynamics at an acceptable relation to the investment volume. No other company offered such a solution," Brandt says. In the first step, a 12-aisle warehouse with 210,000 storage locations for cartons was realized. In two additional steps, whereby the first can already be realized now, the warehouse can be expanded to a total of 19 aisles and almost 310,000 storage locations.


The entire order picking process is supplied with goods from the carton warehouse. The goods are conveyed to the order picking zones defined by the system and provided in shelving racks. Order picking itself remains manual, but the entire process is controlled by the new system. "We have made quantum leaps in development," Logistics Manager Uta Mohr says. "We used to use sheets of paper on which I checked off the goods with a ball point pen. Now, everything is under control via RF data transmission." With automation, another positive benefit is that articles do not have to stay in a fixed place in the order picking warehouse. The TGW system-controlled system allows for items to be moved and stored in multiple locations to speed up order fulfilment. The distances have become considerably short and we can settle an unbelievable number of sales orders at the same time through the pick stations," Brandt says. Without the traditional A-B-C distribution, the order picking warehouse can cover the daily dynamics perfectly both in depth and width.


The area of value-added services is a very important function for the business of Jack Wolfskin and its trading partners. Here, the articles are labelled, repacked, specially documented, and possibly ironed or otherwise prepared according to customer requirements. Coming directly from the order picking process, the system routes items requiring  such post-processing to 16 ergonomically designed workstations in the value-added services area. The employees at these workstations scan the incoming cartons, and work instructions for that order immediately display. Finished cartons are confirmed in the system and transferred back onto the conveyor. Value-added services is a very extensive area, as CFO Brandt confirms. For this reason, a support of the process by the new logistics system was urgently necessary in order to be able to master the increasing volume in the required quality and time.

Finally, all cartons reach the goods-out area, where they are covered with a lid, strapped, and labelled for shipping. While the labelling and strapping takes place fully automatically, the lids are placed manually. In other areas, as well, such as the carton setup department or order picking warehouse, the company continues to rely on its human workers. "We have not switched to full automation, but we have consciously decided on this solution," Christian Brandt says. "We did not want to solve everything at once and overtax ourselves. Our goal was to implement and concentrate on the important things. We still have manual areas and can control the use of employees and various strategies ourselves in a very flexible manner."


"TGW managed to guide us out of the Stone Age into the modern era of logistics," Christian Brandt says in conclusion. "It not only managed to implement a solution, but it included our entire company and organisation. We had no know-how or experience, no figures, and no history in automation technology. A company needs a lot of experience, expertise, and sense of responsibility in order to complete such a project successfully in its entirety."

Jack Wolfskin is thus obviously proud of its new distribution centre in Neu Wulmstorf, not least because it was completed and fully operational just in time for the start of the Autumn/Winter season 2010. "We have 150 permanent employees here and, now, at the start of the season, about 150 temporary employees with whom we can cover the demand in two-shift operation for the very first time," Uta Mohr says.


Description Size Format
Jack Wolfskin Boosts Its Logistics with TGW Solution 132 KB DOC
Goods Receiving: The automated conveyor is extended into the supplier container to take over the single cartons which are then weighed, identified, labeled and registered in the WMS. 217 KB JPG
Automated Carton Warehouse: The combination of high storage density and throughput brought Jack Wolfskin to the decision to invest in an automated carton storage and retrieval system from TGW. 317 KB JPG
Picking Stations: The conveyor system replenishes the manual picking zones with goods from the warehouse and routes the customer order cartons to the needed picking locations. 256 KB JPG
Picking Operation: Every picking information is provided to the personnel and controlled via mobile devices. 108 KB JPG
Value Added Services: Jack Wolfskin fulfills individual customer requirements such as labeling and packaging at these highly ergonomic workstations. 295 KB JPG
As head of corporate logistics Uta Mohr is the responsible manager for Jack Wolfskins new distribution center near Hamburg (Germany). 141 KB JPG