Friday 28th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Keeping stock of picking errors

One such company benefiting from Exel’s innovative supply chain thinking is Selfridges, the leading UK department store retailer. Providing an end-to-end supply chain solution from its strategically located purpose built 16,510sq m national distribution centre (NDC) at Hams Hall, Birmingham, Exel can effectively serve Selfridges stores in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

Exel has combined a comprehensive range of services for Selfridges, including freight management, multi-temperature warehousing and distribution, and back of store operations. Handling more than 12 million items per year, and with products as diverse as fashion, food stuff, kitchenware and other general merchandise goods, Exel required leading edge technology to process and manage stock information. Combined with a bespoke PkMS warehouse management system from Manhattan Associates, which interfaces with Selfridges merchandise management system and the in-house management information system, Exel chose LXE to complement and enhance the software with wireless infrastructure and mobile handheld computers.

The combination of these leading technologies cannot be disputed as Exel runs daily KPI targets on such areas as pick accuracy, fulfilment, query resolution and inventory accuracy. Errors are reduced as the MX2 handheld computers used by operators display error messages instantly on screen to validate the correct stock has been scanned, in whichever process the operator is following, be it picking, receipt or despatch. The actual scans performed by employees convert into exemplary percentages which are provided by the SmartInfo reporting tool on PkMS and updated and displayed every day.

LXE implemented the Lucent wireless infrastructure in Exel’s facility and enhanced it by including the unique SPIRE antenna solution. The SPIRE solution provides increased coverage, superior performance and greater throughput than conventional antennas, which requires fewer access points to be installed, thus providing a cost-effective system. “The SPIRE characteristics meant we were able to penetrate through mezzanine floors and minimise the number of access points required to cover the warehouse”, comments Matthew Lambert, LXE senior support engineer.

LXE’s MX2 mobile handheld computers communicate wirelessly via the access points allowing users direct interaction with the PkMS system. Used in both the receipt and despatch areas, as well as throughout the warehouse by workers to pick, pack and put-away items, the MX2 places the PkMS system into the hands of users. The MX2 operator has the ability to update the system instantly from anywhere in the warehouse, ensuring accurate stock levels are maintained. Picking is dictated by individual store requirements and is also broken down into department areas such as books, luggage or cosmetics.

The following morning, Exel runs a ‘wave’, which generates the pick tickets for employees to start working from. The picker works in set zones depending on the nature of the goods required, and using the MX2 handheld computer, scans the shipping carton, picks and packs the item and then continues to the next location and pick. The MX2 allows the operator to pick from location after location without having to go back to a fixed station to update. Exel optimises the supply chain flow at the distribution centre by ensuring an end-to-end process is followed, and by using an advanced in-house developed programme which controls the transport of both deliveries and shipments.

The programme maximises the loading space of both the goods-in and despatch areas by allocating trailers an exact spatial dimension in the area. At the goods-in area, space for shipments due in is allocated before receipt and split by department. Exel is aware in advance of what is in the trailer, when it is arriving and how much space it requires and so can control the flow of goods both in and out of the NDC effectively. Using the MX2 handheld computer, operators acan help with the quick turnaround of stock from receipt in the warehouse to store delivery.