Tuesday 25th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Ralawise wises up to VNA

Promotional clothing and leisurewear distributor Ralawise has doubled storage capacity and improved throughput and picking efficiency at its distribution centre after introducing a new warehouse layout designed around Jungheinrich VNA order pickers.

The privately-owned business supplies more than 1,850 product lines to a network of customers in the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe.

Its clients vary is size, but each business specialises in embroidering or printing motifs and messages before selling them on to their own clients, the majority of which are companies, sports clubs and schools.

Paul Shore, Ralawise’s executive director of operations, says: “We are the store room of the embroidery industry. The majority of our clients do not want to store huge amounts of stock so we look after it for them, But that means when our clients order something from us we have to make sure that we get their goods to them as quickly as possible.”

Following a period of growth, and ahead of future expansion, Ralawise decided to undergo a major overhaul of its logistics operation.

The company approached a logistics consultancy firm, which in partnership with Jungheinrich UK’s Systems and Projects Division, devised the solution.

The facility comprises two separate units: a 40,000 sq ft goods-in warehouse and a 100,000 sq ft picking store, which are linked by a short stretch or tarmac.

Incoming container loads of clothing arrive at the site from the Far East and Europe on a daily basis and are put away and stored in the goods-in building until they are required in the picking warehouse.

Prior to the installation, Ralawise staff manhandled individual boxes of clothing from incoming containers onto a pallet, which was then shrink-wrapped and put away in racking in the goods-in warehouse by reach trucks.

The picking process involved reach trucks retrieving the necessary pallet and dropped it to ground level, where another operator would remove the required box from the pallet and take it from the marshalling area using a counterbalanced truck.

The pallet then had to be rewrapped by hand and returned to its location in the racking by a reach truck.

Jungheinrich and the consultancy recommended that the warehouse racking scheme be redesigned and a fleet of VNA order pickers be introduced.

As a result, the aisle widths have been condensed from 3.4m to 1.4m-wide, meaning the goods-in warehouse can now accommodate double the amount of pallet racking. The racking beams have also been boarded to allow individual boxes to be put away on shelves without the need for a pallet.

The reach trucks and counterbalanced machines have been replaced with three Jungheinrich EKS310 electric-powered order pickers, which are fitted with a 7.5m triple stage mast.

The stores capacity has increased from some 24,000 boxes to more than 40,000, while the switch to VNA order pickers has increased the speed of throughput by between six and seven times.

Andy Milne, warehouse operations manager at Ralawise, says: “The new configuration and the move away from the old reach truck and counterbalanced truck combination has completely changed our business. We had been experiencing bottlenecks in our goods-in store but these have been completely alleviated.”

Now orders are picked by the VNA trucks and transferred directly to a marshalling area within the goods-in store. They are then shuttled across to the picking warehouse by a Jungheinrich reach truck fitted with all weather cushioned tyres.

Once inside the picking warehouse, the reach truck lifts the pallet loads to the required level of a three-tier mezzanine bulk store where each box is put away until it is required to top up one of around 40,000 wire mesh SKUs from which outgoing orders on the ground floor of the building.

Shore adds: “The changes we have made to our goods-in store have allowed us to get more product flowing through our warehouse without increasing the footprint of our site and the VNA order pickers are fundamental to the success of the entire operation.”