VAR Keeps Dist. Center Running During Hurricane
As part of its continuing goal to provide next day delivery on large home and garden items, Sears opened its Jacksonville, Fla., direct distribution center in May 2008. With seven-day shipping, consistent, reliable communications was critical in order to coordinate the large volume of products that went through receiving and shipping on a daily basis.
MOTOTRBO digital radios are used to enable the entire warehouse to talk radio to radio without a repeater; the crisp audio enables conversation even in the noisy environment; and the long lasting batteries last through multiple shifts for increased productivity.
In May 2008, Sears Holding Corp. opened its newest direct distribution center (DDC) in Jacksonville, Fla. The new 812,000-square-foot warehouse is the distribution point for home appliances, tractors, televisions and other large items to local warehouses for more than 112 Sears and Kmart stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
"This facility will allow Sears to expand our appliance distribution capabilities and moves us closer to our goal of becoming more effective and efficient," said Jim Mixon, senior vice president of supply chain and operations for Sears Holdings, in an interview with the Jacksonville Business Journal.
The new facility, located on 130 acres in the NorthPoint Industrial Park, consolidated two smaller warehouses that Sears Holdings operated in Jacksonville. With a new facility and a larger, busier warehouse to manage, Sears DDC Facilities Manager, Mike Harbert, began looking for a communications system that would be better suited to the environment.
Harbert found that the company's existing radios did not provide the audio quality required in the noisy warehouse environment, or the battery life needed to last through an entire shift.
"The problem with the batteries was that we ran three shifts and we shared the radios from shift to shift," Harbert says. "The guys knew that when they came in, the battery would be dead in a couple of hours, so they switched out the battery at the beginning of their shift even though it had another couple of hours on it."
Because the batteries were not completely discharged before recharging, memory effect shortened the life of the batteries even further, and eventually even the fresh batteries wouldn't last an entire shift. While the existing communications the Sears DDC staff had been using were sufficient in the older smaller warehouses, they were limited. Once the operations moved to the much larger warehouse, they quickly realized better communications, clearer audio, and longer lasting batteries would be required.
Harbert worked with Hasty's Communications, a Motorola authorized dealer, to recommend a solution. Mathews recommended MOTOTRBO radios based on Sears DDC's existing environment and loaned Harbert some radios to try them out for himself. The digital radios' enhanced audio, featuring background noise suppression, was especially was especially attractive to Harbert to deliver clear audio, even when standing next to the noise generated by the large diesel trucks.
"The radios worked well and the audio was so crystal clear that even though the background was noisy, it was like the person you were talking to was standing right next to you," Harbert says.
Harbert also liked the fact that, in spite of the warehouse's large size and structure, he would not need to purchase repeaters. "We talk radio to radio and I haven't found a place in the warehouse or throughout the 45 to 50 acre area where we can't talk to each other," he says. "I've actually been down the street about a half mile or so and was able to call back to the building with no problem."
As Hurricane Fay slowly made its way through Florida toward Jacksonville in mid August, Harbert and his team began preparing the facility and grounds for a direct hit. Once again, the MOTOTRBO radios provided clear communications and, equally important, long-lasting batteries that kept communications available.
"We lost power early on and switched to our large UPS systems in the data room to keep our crucial data equipment running," recalls Harbert. "The nice thing about the radios was that after our cell phone batteries began dying, we were still able to keep communicating with the MOTOTRBOs due to their long-lasting batteries."
Between the rapid IMPRES battery charger and the control process Harbert instituted that maintains both battery inventory and user accountability, the batteries have lasted even longer than expected.
According to Harbert, he can now easily keep the radios operating through long shifts with half the spare inventory required by the old radios.
With longer talk time, clearer audio delivery, and the ruggedness that meets military standards for durability and reliability, MOTOTRBO radios offer a private, cost-effective solution that can be tailored to meet unique coverage and feature needs.