TTI’s new distribution center in Fort Worth, Texas, positions the company well for future growth.
By Jim Harris
One of the world’s leading specialty electronic component distributors recently took a big step toward planning for future growth. TTI Inc. in early October began shipping products to its North American customers from its brand-new distribution center in Fort Worth, Texas.
“This is the single-largest capital investment we have made to date,” says Don Akery, president of the company’s operations in the Americas. “This sets us up well to service our customers.”
Located a mile-and-a-half away from TTI’s global headquarters in Fort Worth, the new distribution center will expand the company’s global warehouse space from 1.2 million square feet to more than 2 million square feet. The facility sits on a 600,000-square-foot footprint, but includes a total of 810,000 square feet of space because it contains several platforms and mezzanine levels. The facility is located next to vacant land owned by the company, giving it an additional 140,000 square feet it can use for future growth.
Groundbreaking on the new facility was in early 2016. The distribution center began handling products on a limited basis in June. Bob Moore Construction of Arlington, Texas, was the general contractor.
The project was completed on time despite challenges related to the weather. “We had more days where the contractor wasn’t able to do what was scheduled for that day because of the weather than we planned,” Akery says. “To stay on track, we got creative in the sequencing of the building by working closely with the general contractor and other contractors.”
A National Reach
The center consolidates operations from four facilities in Fort Worth into a single site. “We were growing faster than our space could handle, and were using overflow facilities,” Akery says. “[The new facility] allows us to continue in a growth mode, which includes adding staffing down the line.”
Consolidating operations allowed the company to modify its organizational structure to include one team focused on inbound goods and another team that focuses on outbound goods and works directly with customers, he adds.
The distribution center will support the company’s U.S. operations. TTI specializes in distributing passive components such as capacitors and resistors, as well as connectors and electromechanical components. The company has branch locations in more than 30 major North American cities and serves OEM customers in practically every sector, with a particular focus on the military, aerospace, and industrial markets.
In addition, the new facility will handle purchasing and stocking for seven TTI warehouses in Mexico. The warehouses handle local delivery and inventory management for TTI customers south of the border, Akery says.
Roughly 10 percent of the Fort Worth center’s business will support international business. TTI operates sales, warehouse and distribution center locations in several countries including Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The new distribution center will replenish specific product lines at these sites, he adds.
The Fort Worth distribution center includes several features that will allow TTI to reduce its cycle times without reducing value-added processes. The company ships items the same day orders are received.
“We’ve improved our inventory strategies in terms of where we stock SKUs, which has reduced our shipping times,” Vice President of Operations Hobey Strawn says. “We’ve also reduced the time between when an order is entered by our sales team to when that order goes on the truck.”
The new facility includes improved equipment and inventory management strategies. TTI’s warehouse management system has not changed. “The system our team members use to stock and ship orders is still intact,” he adds. “We’ve minimized the amount of major changes we made to protect our customers while making enhancements behind the scenes.”
The new warehouse includes added space for products. “We have an aggressive inventory strategy that requires more space, which we have added,” Strawn says. “This new space enables us to implement more aggressive inbound strategies that reduce the amount of time it takes us to receive products from manufacturers.”
Higher-demand products are placed in slots where they are more accessible for pulling. Popular products are stocked in a three-level carousel that delivers products onto conveyors for fast processing. “The way we’ve constructed and designed our storage media allows us to be more strategic in where we can place our highest moving SKUs,” he adds. “The products customers need the most are in a place where we can fulfill orders for them faster.”
Other enhancements to TTI’s warehouse and order fulfillment operations include new forklifts capable of reaching higher racks more efficiently, as well a mile-and-a-half of new conveyor lines. “Our conveyor network has been significantly enhanced and includes the best conveyor equipment out there today, and we have installed upgraded material handling equipment that allows us to act quickly,” Strawn says.
In addition to its new operational capabilities, TTI’s new distribution center also offers a number of amenities to employees including an outdoor patio and fitness center. “When we were in the process of building this facility, we visited more distribution centers around the country than I could count,” Strawn says. “In addition to benchmarking and establishing best practices from a fulfillment standpoint, we wanted to learn about things that we could incorporate into the design to make it a great place to work for our team.
“We want to make sure this is not only the best building for serving our customers, but also a great place to work,” he adds.
TTI will use many of the features in the new Fort Worth distribution center in a new distribution center in Munich, Germany, now under construction.
The company’s global footprint is one of the most significant ways it has grown since Paul Andrews founded it in 1971. Andrews, who initially sold parts out of his kitchen, sold the company to Berkshire Hathaway in 2006 but remains involved with the company on a daily basis as its CEO.
Since 2006, TTI has owned Mouser Electronics, a distributor of semiconductors and electronic components for more than 600 leading manufacturers. The company handles low-volume orders for the business-to-business as well as the business-to-consumer markets.
TTI in 2012 purchased Sager Electronics, which distributes interconnect, power and electromechanical products. In early 2017, TTI added specialty semiconductor distributor Symmetry Electronics to its holdings.
The operations of all three of those companies were enhanced following TTI’s acquisition of additional firms to support their operations. Aside from Mouser, Sager and Symmetry, the majority of TTI’s acquisitions are fully integrated into the company.
“We typically buy companies not for our top line, but for strategic reasons including strengthening ourselves within a particular geography or increasing the value proposition of what we can do,” Akery says.
TTI and its subsidiary companies have the ability to provide products to customers throughout the world effectively. “Globalization, for us, has meant that we have to support customers on a global basis,” Akery says. “Our customers are looking for consistency and availability of our products throughout the globe. From a logistics standpoint, the ability to move products efficiently around the world is the price of entry for what we do.”