European Conveyor Systems has fitted a new automated conveyor system, capable of handling up to 30 cartons a minute, for wine and spirits wholesaler Waverley TBS after the one it installed in 2000 was damaged by an explosion.
Waverley’s distribution centre at Hemel Hempstead was badly affected the explosion at the nearby Buncefield oil storage depot in December 2005.
As part of the rebuilding project it decided to further automate the order picking process to minimise manual handling.
The original ECS conveyor system was designed to separate full case picking from single bottle picking in order to speed up order fulfilment.
Waverley continues to use the Fast Alley picking system, which was created for single bottles and involves a separate part-automated conveyor system serving an area with live storage modules. All orders are planned, picked and dispatched using paperless systems.
At the input stage in Fast Alley pairs of pre-erected cardboard cartons are placed into wooden trays with a unique barcode. A scanner reads the tray barcode, and the interface to the warehouse management system allocates the tray to the next customer order. It is then released and routed automatically to each of the picking zones as required by the order list.
Once fully picked in each zone, the operator pushes the tray on to a take-away conveyor for routeing to the next picking zone, or to dispatch if the order is complete. A facility has been included on the hand-held terminals to enter exceptions, such as out-of-stock items.
At this stage cartons with fully picked orders used to be manually checked, sealed and labelled, but they are now check-weighed, strapped and labelled automatically by machines integrated into the conveyor system.
Waste packaging materials are taken to a compactor on a separate conveyor that runs above the picking conveyors.