Skechers, the US footwear giant, is upgrading its European Distribution Centre at Milmort on the outskirts of Liege, with an automated order picking system.
The EDC receives goods coming from China via the port of Antwerp. The goods are then stored at the EDC until they are redistributed to European markets.
The site was inaugurated in 2002 with an area of 21,000 sq m. Continued growth resulted in an extension of the building in 2009 with 23,000 sq m of additional space.
In 2013, the volumes of goods have been four times higher than in 2002 and the employment increased up to 150 full-time equivalents.
The customers of the EDC are local distributors, Skechers stores (29 in Europe) and specialised chains that choose to receive their deliveries either at their own regional distribution centres or directly at individual stores.
The work of preparing orders for each customer consists of selecting the number of pairs ordered according to a triple specification of style / colour / size. Presently, this process is manual: the operator must navigate the 45,000 sq m of shelves and pull the merchandise to be shipped.
However, the company has found that this manual working method is no longer appropriate for the growing volumes that the EDC is handling.
“We have hit a ceiling in terms of productivity,” said Sophie Houtmeyers, Skechers EDC vice president distribution operations.
“We will reorganise the two existing buildings with an automated sorting system to increase the storage capacity with narrow aisles and manage the picking and packing of footwear. This automated system is largely inspired by what Skechers developed in its new North American distribution centre in Rancho Belago, California.”
Together with integrator Wynright, Skechers will install a sorting and shipping system that will be linked together by conveyors. Pairs will be grouped at packing stations into final shipping cartons and conveyor belts will transport each carton between operational departments. Once the order is completed it is palletised and ready to ship.
“Thanks to the efforts of our personnel, we have achieved very good results in terms of the flexibility and reliability of the deliveries to customers, and this investment will allow us to expand our operations and use a skilled workforce in the execution of our European logistics operations,” said Houtmeyers.