The most economical approach to improving customer delivery satisfaction is to invest in quality at every step.
There isn’t a cookie cutter solution for facilities that support furniture retailers. There are always unique circumstances. Riley Griffiths proves that point in many ways. He positioned his company for 40% growth without investing in additional bricks and mortar. His method was to look at each critical sales and operations element. He then incorporated innovative systems and solutions used by other retailers and built an outstanding team with assistance from Shepherd Management Group. Ann Tillman is General Manager and Bob Harrison recently joined the company as Operations Manager.
Space doesn’t permit covering all the best practices observed at Riley’s Furniture so highlights must suffice.
Entrance of the main store is two stories and until its redesign, the second floor was the warehouse.
First some background information. In 1971, Riley quit his job as an engineer with General Electric and opened a furniture store with a partner. By 1974, he assumed full ownership and opened the Monroe, Ohio current location. It has convenient access to I-75, the major Interstate connecting Cincinnati and Dayton. At that time, Monroe was considered to be way out in the country. Today it is a thriving commercial center. If you visit Riley’s, you may consider having a meal, staying nearby at the historic Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon and visiting Waynesville for antique shops and crafts.
The site he chose in 1974 is interesting in that he was able to build a two story facility with showrooms on the first level and a warehouse on the second floor. The site is sloped, so that the warehouse has good access for incoming shipments and customer delivery. As the business grew he leased another building across the street for offices, showroom space and a clearance center.
Joining the Furniture First Buying Group was a key decision in 1995 because it provided cooperative buying strength and contact with similar non-competing retailers. Furniture First Buying Group holds meetings at members’ facilities and conducts a peer review of the entire operation. One of the suggestions made during a meeting at Riley’s Furniture was to consider exchanging the warehouse and clearance center spaces.
This change has resulted in a highly efficient warehouse operation with greater capacity, adequate staging space and better working conditions for employees. Storage in racks (accessed by furniture pickers) maximizes productivity and minimizes damage. A mix of tee-base cantilever furniture racks and conventional racks was designed specifically for Riley’s product selection. The additional storage capacity makes it possible to carry more fast moving sku’s for customers who want immediate gratification. This is an important factor in the Cincinnati-Dayton market.
Locating the clearance center on the second level of the main store increased sales, because customers can visit the clearance center without having to cross the street to another building. The second floor is still a work in progress for additional focus on home office, youth furniture and seasonal showings.
Recognizing that delivery presents an opportunity to reinforce customer satisfaction, there has been an ongoing effort to improve delivery operations. The emphasis is on getting it right the first time. All merchandise is prepped and deluxed before it leaves the warehouse. A new flow through shop with all the necessary tools and good lighting increases the efficiency and effectiveness of these operations. A flex work force is employed. Delivery teams may work in the warehouse and warehouse staff supplements delivery teams for increased volume days. Customer pickup is convenient and fast.
Riley’s has been using RouteView Technologies map based routing since last fall with excellent results.
•The task of delivery routing is simplified.
•More accurate delivery times can be given customers.
•Mileage and time savings are typically more than 10%.
•Schedules are met and drivers return at the expected time
•Tradeoffs of scheduling another truck versus overtime are easily evaluated.
•Drivers like having detailed maps of entire routes.
Many RouteView users have five to fifteen trucks and other users have larger thirty to sixty truck fleets. While Riley’s Furniture is smaller than the typical user with two straight trucks and a van, this technology has provided real benefits to their operation.
Riley’s is gradually moving from owning delivery trucks to full service leases. This provides economic and management benefits but it also assures truck replacement at consistent intervals. All vehicles, including the recently addition of a PT Cruiser for the designer staff to make home visits, carry the company logo.
The bottom line is that Riley’s Furniture is gaining profitability and competitive advantage by taking advantage of best practices in asset utilization, technology and developing a talented work force. All contribute to an enjoyable experience for customers. In good times this is nice, but it is crucial when economic conditions aren’t as robust.
Daniel Bolger of The Bolger Group helps companies achieve improved transportation, warehousing and logistics. Questions can be directed to Mr. Bolger care of FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.