Resilience and innovation at Gap Inc.

MODERN MATERIALS HANDLING - NOV 2018

It’s November, which means the holiday season is right around the corner. For most retailers, gearing up for peak is a matter of getting the right inventory in the right locations and hiring enough people to get the projected orders out the door.

Those tasks are daunting enough. But, how do you recover when a facility you were counting on for the upcoming season catches fire roughly nine weeks before the first of November?

That’s a question Kevin Kuntz, senior vice president of global logistics fulfillment for Gap Inc., and his team confronted on the morning of Aug. 30, 2016. The night before, a fire tore through a 1-million-plus-square-foot distribution center in Fishkill, N.Y. The fire destroyed about $100 million worth of equipment and inventory, and while all employees continued to be paid, hundreds were impacted. What’s more, it took an important order fulfillment asset offline right before peak—a little like losing the starting quarterback on the eve of the Super Bowl. Punting isn’t an option.

“At Fishkill, we were already on our cross-channel logistics journey of building out the shift from retail replenishment to online fulfillment when that fire happened,” says Kuntz. “During the 2015 holiday season, we had done a pop-up location on our Gallatin, Tenn., campus that operated for about 6 to 8 weeks, so we had to move quickly to get that manual pop-up facility back up for the 2016 season and plan for a larger facility for 2017.”

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