Photo: Dr. Laetitia Dablanc, 2014, USC/Metrofreight visit to Skechers DC, July 2014.
Skechers is an American shoe designer and distributor headquartered in California. In 2012, it opened a new distribution center in Moreno Valley, about 100 km from Los Angeles and close to interstate I-215, which connects to I-15, the major West Coast North/South highway. The 1.8 million square foot facility employs 700 people and was built and operated by Highland Fairview, a commercial real estate investment company specializing in the development of distribution centers. The distribution center covers American and European markets by fulfilling orders for most of Skechers’ 500 retail stores as well as online orders.
The majority of the products, mostly shoes, are delivered to the distribution center by maritime containers from the port of Los Angeles or Long Beach. Since most of the shoes are made in Asia (particularly China) Southern California is a highly suitable location to service the North American market in retail goods. About 40 containers per day are delivered to the facility and 60 trucks are exiting with deliveries to regional distribution centers or to intermodal rail terminals for long-distance distribution to the Midwest or the East Coast. Considering the nature of the shoe retailing market, the throughput handled by the distribution center is relatively stable with peaks corresponding to the standard retail cycles.
The distribution center acts as an automated cross-docking facility. On one side maritime containers are brought and unstuffed of boxes usually containing 12 to 24 pairs of shoes. These boxes are then brought by conveyor belts to automated high storage racks (see above photo) that are designed to increase the speed of each storage and pickup movement. This requirement has incited the construction of a facility that is the equivalent of a five-floor building. Therefore, densification is the outcome of automation. For outbound logistics, specific store orders are assembled automatically as individual boxes are picked from the high storage racks, conveyed, and then floor loaded in trucks. Floor loading is the preferred method because boxes filled with shoes do not weigh much and take a fair amount of volume; more cargo can thus be carried in such a way, compensating for the additional labor costs.