The Challenge

Prior to partnering with the Cirrus Tech, ULTA was picking products manually with printed pick lists.  While they did have a WMS that handled the higher-level functions, the manual processes proved to cause a substantial loss of productivity, so much so that they were verging on slowing the growth of the company. In the ultra-competitive cosmetic and personal care market, ULTA was compelled to optimize their distribution process to offer optimal order quantities while providing a high service level and shorter delivery times.

ULTA’s challenges included:

  • A substantial inventory of products
  • Enormous variety of SKU’s to manage
  • A rapidly growing number of retail stores
  • Time-consuming manual processes
  • Substantial number of orders per month

The Approach

The collaboration with Cirrus Tech goes back to their first distribution center in Phoenix, AZ, when we provided processes, testing environments and training to transition day-to-day Warehouse IT operations to their internal IT department.

The success of this project resulted in a flawless and seamless transition and convinced ULTA to choose Cirrus Tech as a long-term partner to help the company increase the efficiency and the capacity of its warehouse step by step.

Picking Operations

We started with a pick to light cart in order to maximize productivity and throughput. The second system was a “Cart” controlled process and a “Vertical Carousel” controlled process. The picking process starts with file downloads from the host SAP system. These are referred to as IDOCs or file interfaces. There are 3 types of IDOCs/interfaces: the Material master interface, the Delivery interface and the STOCK TOs (or Replenishment interface). We implemented a system that had to be optimized for the daily execution of orders from 30-40 stores and anywhere between 500 to 3000+ SKUs and several quantities for each one.

Batch Management

In order to organize the picking activities in the warehouse, the Cirrus WCS provides users with an interactive screen. Through this screen, users can set a batch state to “authorize”, “unauthorized” or “close”. After a batch is created, picking can be executed only after a batch is authorized. During this process the received deliveries are copied into a “Workqueue” table and are made available for picking. When users unauthorized or close a batch, the same items are deleted from the workqueue.

Picking through the vertical carousel channel is executed in a different area of the warehouse. All the information related to the vertical carousels is stored in a separated database on the server. Separate screens are also provided for this functionality. The main difference between the main flow and the carousel picking is that through vertical carousels, users can pick items for all the stores in the batch simultaneously.


The shipping sorters used at the two operating DCs feature a shoe-sorter in Phoenix and in Romeoville a belt sorter with pop-up wheels was implemented. Our Cirrus WCS assigns and directs sorter and collection instructions. ULTA uses “profile” based diverting, which means that, through the Cirrus WCS, they can define different store-to-lane assignments for different days of the week and store this information in the database.
Convincing Results

Cirrus Tech designed the automated warehouse in several phases hand in hand with ULTA, in order to enhance the company’s potential, one advancement at a time.

By partnering with Cirrus, ULTA now has a comprehensive Warehouse Control System in place that they are able to manage internally and has shown real operational benefits by reducing cost, improving productivity and increasing shipping accuracy.

What was once a bogged down process of picking a single store at a time has improved with the addition of 6 Order Carts. Rather than picking the orders for one store, an operator can now pick for 6 stores at once with a cart that is designed to handle the load. And rather than a printed sheet of paper, the operators now use handheld scanners to check barcodes and place the correct product in the proper stores bin.


  • Reduced operator walking by 25%
  • Improved the order picking accuracy
  • Improved order fulfillment rate
  • Able to pick for up to 8 stores at a time rather than just one
  • Ability to process and pick orders electronically
If you would like more information about automating your warehouse, contact Cirrus Tech.


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By choosing “The Crane” ASRS System from Cirrus Tech, we have gained efficiencies through our entire warehouse; how we receive, rotate and shuffle back stock, cycle count, pick and replenish pick locations.  The real surprise was the efficiencies gained on the load building side. Cirrus Tech’s “Crane,” Cirrus WMS and Cirrus Directed Picking have helped us in all areas of the warehouse.

Jose Rivera

Company Name : J. J. Taylor Companies, Inc.
Designation : VP of Administration

Choosing Cirrus Tech to implement, manage and support our Cirrus Automated Case Picking System has turned out to be one of the best decisions we've ever made.  Cirrus Tech's commitment to partnership, coupled with their exceptional 24/7 support is best in the industry by a mile.  We are proud to be partners with Cirrus Tech.

Nick Economos

Company Name : Eagle Rock Distributing Company
Designation : President

The Cirrus Tech Crane System not only saved us from doing a costly expansion, it also helped us organize our warehouse in a manner that put efficiencies in places that we would have never realized by building a new warehouse.

Brad Nichols

Company Name : Eagle Distributing of Shreveport, Inc.
Designation : CEO

The Cirrus Tech Crane System provided our company an opportunity to consolidate an entire warehouse (Norfolk, NE) into the existing warehouse here in Fremont, NE.  It will incorporate 5 years of growth while providing less than a 5 year ROI with the efficiencies of the system.

Bruce Nelsen

Company Name : Eagle Distributing, Inc. in Nebraska
Designation : CEO

The Cirrus Crane System will increase our available pallet storage significantly. When we take into account the organization and many efficiencies the system will bring, this will be a real game changer for us in our warehouse.

Jeff Knight

Company Name : Cherokee Distributing Company
Designation : General Manager

The Crane System is the right fit for our operation. We will be able to build the expansion, place The Crane System inside of it and maximize the clear height to go 5 pallets high in the system. Because of the additional space savings, we will be able to absorb another operation into our existing building and still have optimal room for future growth. Cirrus is the industry leader in Crane System implementations in the beverage industry and we look forward to our partnership for years to come.

Rodney Long

Company Name : Long Beverage, Inc.
Designation : President

We’re confident that our new partnership with Cirrus Tech will provide critical support to the realization of our long-term strategic goals. In the near-term, the Cirrus Tech Crane System will play a key role in to our efforts to modernize our warehouse and delivery operations. As we look towards the completion of our new facility, our investment in the Crane System will result in a substantial one-time construction costs savings while providing a platform to realize impressive reoccurring annual warehouse efficiencies.

Frank Sourbeer Jr.

Company Name : Wilsbach Distributors, Inc.
Designation : President

The Cirrus System will provide our company with many years of growth along with excellent annual efficiencies that will allow us to best serve Birmingham and the surrounding areas. We are pleased to partner with a like-minded company like Cirrus Tech as partners in warehouse automation. We are looking forward to the implementation of our new system.

Louis Maisel

Company Name : Gulf Distributing Company of Birmingham
Designation : President

With Cirrus Tech's HLA approach to automation, our company is able to take advantage the best automation for our environment today (The Cirrus Tech Crane System) while giving us a vision and the ability to add components down the road that will provide our warehouse with a nearly fully automated solution. It is exciting to have a road map to full automation that we can grow into over time.

Frank B. Fuhrer III

Company Name : Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale Company
Designation : CEO