Inside Logistics

Born to be wired

Teamwork and technology rev up Deeley Harley-Davidson’s DC

April 6, 2010
by Deborah Aarts

Left to right: Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada’s Christine Davey, Stacey Arthur and Jeff Draves
Photography by Roger Yip

What does it take to exceed the expectations of a demanding retail network? For this motorcycle parts and merchandise distributor, it’s taken sound strategy, good tools and a shift to a more collaborative operating structure. Deborah Aarts explains.

Harley-Davidson® aficionados are fiercely loyal, but in exchange for that loyalty they maintain high expectations of the brand. They want their motorcycles in tip-top shape at all times. They want the latest gear as soon as it’s available.

To satiate their needs, Canadian Harley-Davidson enthusiasts rely on a network of 77 authorized retail stores across the country. And those retailers in turn rely on Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada, the exclusive Canadian distributor for all things Harley-Davidson and Buell™, to keep them stocked with the latest gear.

The company manages the distribution of Genuine Motor Parts and Accessories and Motorclothes® apparel out of a 40,000sqf distribution centre in Concord, Ontario. (Motorcycles move through a separate supply chain, also

managed by Deeley.) Supplied by the Milwaukee, Wisconsin US headquarters of Harley-Davidson, it houses everything from motor oil to tires to leather jackets. “If you can put it on a motorcycle or its rider, we’ve got it,” explains Stacey Arthur, Deeley’s information technology director.

Some of the SKUs are always in stock; many others are seasonal items, released in batches several times a year. At any given time, the DC must have enough on hand to manage retailers’ standard stock orders, plus regular requests for rush deliveries and seasonal items.

Deeley has always been able to ship out enough to keep stores stocked—it just hasn’t always done it very efficiently. A visit to the facility a few years ago would reveal a building full of skids crowding the floor and inventory cramming the shelves.

That’s not the case today, thanks to a decision to rethink the way it managed its distribution processes.

Get your motor runnin’…
“It all started with the realization that we were running out of room,” Arthur says. “We knew we’d either have to move or change our processes.”

Since the DC is situated close to major highways and the homes of most of Deeley’s employees, the company was not keen on the idea of moving. That left one option: improving the inner workings of the operation. Product simply had to move through the DC more quickly and efficiently. “The idea was to maximize the building,” she adds.