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Vendor Of Choice

2000 Award For Innovation Recipient Mount Vernon

Kara Patterson, Managing Editor

Each year, Mount Vernons Consumer Products Division consisting of the Johnston, McCormick and Arkwright plants ships 10 million packages of infant bedding products throughout America. Crib blankets, sheets, bumpers, comforters, ruffles, towels and receiving blankets are sold under the most popular names in the business Carter, Babycare, Martha Stewart, Riegel, Honors and Sesame Street.Our customers place special priority in at least four areas safety, design, delivery and partnerships, said John Graham, vice president, marketing, Consumer Products Division. To be the vendor of choice, we must know our customer, their particular profile and what they are saying, in order to earn and keep their business. We do this through continual customer-driven ideas and needs.As a vertical producer, Mount Vernon controls all aspects of fabric manufacturing, from the original bale of cotton or synthetic fiber through the finished, packaged product. Knowing the exact end use of each baby product is a big advantage as far as engineering the fabric to fit the products end application, said Graham.Controlling the recipe by testing and knowing fiber length, strength, color and uniformity results in the ultimate comfort, appearance and long life, according to the company. In Mount Vernons fabrication facilities, 650 associates employ the latest technology to cut, sew, finish and package superior quality products for the babys bedroom. Meeting safety demands is a priority for Mount Vernon. The companys staff of designers creates customized designs, utilizing a variety of in-house CAD capabilities. Moving fast in design often gives our customers the competitive edge, continued Graham. Our aim is to make the product better, not cheaper.Innovation At Johnston In 1991, K-Mart came to Mount Vernon requesting individual store order fulfillment. This meant handling orders by store, by product and by replenishment. After extensive investigation, Mount Vernon partnered with Pinnacle Automation and developed, designed, manufactured and installed its Direct Store Replenishing System (DSRS).The DSRS consists of three zones that cover an area of 90,000 square feet. The first zone, Rear Storage, is the area designed to maintain the inventory of Mount Vernon products that move out of the manufacturing (fabrication-cutting, sewing, finishing) area onto racks. The next area, the Forward Pick zone, is where the individual store order is made up. A system of lights directs one operator to select every item in the order by correct quantity, color and size. At this stage, the system also has the ability to automatically replenish the product inventory before it ever runs out of stock. The operator places the ordered items in bar-coded totes on an automated conveyor where they move onto the Customization and Packing zone. Here, packing and assembly of the total order is completed and the cases are routed to the appropriate shipping doors or temporary storage. Depending on customers requirements, orders are shipped within 48 to 72 hours from receipt of order.In addition to the obvious savings in handling and distribution costs, the DSRS allows stores to order smaller quantities than standard case packs. The system also handles pre-pricing and calculates order size into cubic feet and weight, which reduces customers shipping costs and corrugated disposal responsibilities.Jim Spinner, president of this growing division, sums up whats behind this success: Its partnering, partnering. More and more we are working from the consumer back, not from technology forward. Thats what motivates us.The Investment Continues In 1999, the Arkwright plant was brought into the Consumer Products Division, which enhanced the consistency of fabric quality for Johnstons basic raw material. Being able to monitor and control every phase, from bale opening through the finished, packaged product, gives our baby products, napery products and institutional products customers a major advantage, said Spinner. Deficiencies and inconsistencies in quality of service can occur anywhere in the long road from cotton bale to delivery in the store. With our vertical capabilities, we eliminate or greatly reduce the risk of not maintaining purity in our quality.Arkwright introduces a whole new set of customer benefits. The plant is a single floor, flow-through, total system environment bale opening through rotor spinning, warping, slashing, weaving, napping and pad dyeing. Technical and key staff have operated the facilities for many years, and they know the business from start to finish. And now with Mount Vernons company commitment to continuous capital improvement, they have the best of everything to produce the best product ever, continued Spinner.A modernization and improvement program was put into place immediately after the facility was acquired. Today, a total of 140 Picanol rapiers and Sulzer projectiles turn out 100-percent cotton and 100-percent acrylic fabrics in widths ranging from 153 inches on projectiles and 190, 220 and 240 inches on rapiers. According to Spinner, automated sizing capabilities are currently being added to further control warp preparation quality. May 2000



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