As Levin Furniture of Smithton, PA, debated the future of its 80,000-sq.-ft. Cleveland warehouse, the prospect of how to continually ship product to its stores and customers from a single warehouse a state away was a concern. “Our goal was to get rid of the warehouse,” says Scott Frazier, director of operations. “We heard about the Demountable Concepts product and went quickly to that.”

The situation resolved itself — and with a significant cost savings — in mere months, thanks to the Warehouse on Wheels TruckTainer body system. Introduced by Glassboro, NJ-based Demountable Concepts, the system is delivering cost savings as well as creating greener fleets in the process. It allows loading anywhere from two to four truck bodies on a single chassis. Transfer time between the special chassis and a straight-truck chassis is less than five minutes, Demountable says. The system also includes flat-bed bodies and is built to load on various truck chassis. Each body can hold 24,000 lbs.

“Everyone wants to become greener,” says Michael Frett, sales representative for Demountable Concepts. “Instead of driving one or two trucks 100 mi., [customers] drive one semitrailer 100 mi., cutting the number of trucks in half.”

Levin Furniture shuttered its Cleveland warehouse within six months of introducing the system. Levin's product is now shipped to 12 retail outlets throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio from its Smithton, PA, warehouse — and the company has been able to ensure timely delivery. “If someone bought over the weekend, [they] can get delivery by Wednesday,” Frazier says.

One of the initial advantages to the system, of course, was the closing of the warehouse and the elimination of all costs associated with operating the facility. Since then, additional cost savings have been realized through the added productivity of drivers. “My drivers who drive the straight trucks have the ability to deliver two truckloads of furniture a day,” Frazier says.

Frett says initial reactions to the product oftentimes change once they see the Warehouse on Wheels in action. “A lot of these guys think it's more difficult than it is to do, but they come back and say how easy it is.”

Another advantage to the system is the quicker loading time. A warehouse team loads the bodies once and the furniture is delivered, as opposed to loading a full-size trailer, then unloading it only to reload a straight truck for local delivery. Frazier estimates one and one-half hours per truck in time saved a day. Additionally, the company is now trying to load as many items in their original packaging as possible, further reducing packing time.

In Levin Furniture's case, the company utilizes twin 26-ft. bodies on a chassis. The bodies are loaded at the Pennsylvania warehouse; a tractor-trailer driver then transports two containers to local stores, where a straight truck driver picks up the bodies for local deliveries. The first driver loads the containers from the previous day, some of which are used to haul nondelivered furniture as well as boxes and wrappings from the local stores — thereby nearly eliminating rubbish costs for the local stores — back to the warehouse.

Levin, which has just over $150 million in sales annually, runs eight tractors with 19 demountable chassis carrying 102 of the container boxes. Frazier says there are usually 17 runs, 12 into the Cleveland area and 5 into Pittsburgh-area stores, each day. Without the TruckTainer system, those numbers would double, along with having to employ twice as many drivers, Frazier says. “The unique part is I can get twice the loads a day out of half the delivery team and run half the trucks,” he says.