FORTE Designs New Operations Center for Vera Bradley

Handbag designer's operations center and campus to not only make for a more functional supply chain, but also set to be a tourist attraction

Fort Wayne, IN and Mason, OH — November 16, 2005 — Vera Bradley, a popular handbag designer and manufacturer, recently selected FORTE to plan and design its new operations center Fort Wayne, Ind. FORTE has designed a new 190,000 sq. ft. operations center for Vera Bradley to achieve efficiencies in throughput and economies of scale.

The 70-acre site will include the new operations center, which will house distribution and value-added manufacturing operations. The campus will also be landscaped with two ponds, employee and guest walkways, and a garden.

Over the past five years, Vera Bradley has experienced 20 to 30 percent year-on-year growth. Currently, Vera Bradley operates from facilities on two separate sites, which total about one-third the proposed campus' size.

When we realized we had out-grown our current buildings, bringing our facilities together was of the utmost importance, said Vera Bradley Chief Operating Officer, Jill Nichols. We at Vera Bradley are excited about the new opportunities this facility will bring.

FORTE is responsible for the internal design of the operations center infrastructure to support distribution operations, information systems and material handling equipment. Vera Bradley expects to begin distribution through the new facility in November 2006.

To support Vera Bradley's growth until the new distribution facility is complete, the FORTE and Vera Bradley project team designed and implemented improvements to the manufacturer's existing 35,000 sq. ft. distribution center. Vera Bradley said it is already seeing the benefits from the rearrangements and technology improvements. Picking is being managed by a new pick-to-light system, which is delivering 99.7 percent accuracy. These systems and additional improvements, including a warehouse management system and an enterprise resource planning system, will be implemented in the new facility.

"We have collaborated with FORTE on initial phases of this new operations center project and trust their experience with growing companies, said Matt Wojewuczki, vice president of operations. As a company gets bigger, it is inevitably exposing itself to greater risk. To mitigate that risk, we are utilizing lean principles and six sigma within manufacturing. We are looking to FORTE to assist in ensuring success within distribution.

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