Tripled order picking rates for Next

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Retailer giant Next has tripled order picking rates at its Yorkshire distribution centre since implementing a series of high rate put stations.

Automated systems specialist Dematic supplied the stations, which it reckons are the first of their kind to be implemented in the UK.

With the new system, operators can pick up to 1,000 items per hour depending on the order profile, picking errors have been substantially reduced, and capacity has increased at the site in South Elmsall, West Yorkshire.

Twenty stations have been installed to look after the retailer’s fast-moving clothing, footwear, accessories and home product lines, and handle the orders for up to 24 stores each.

At each station an operator is directed by light displays to carry out a series of orders, fed by a sequenced supply of product from storage.

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Product is automatically delivered to the station’s central picking point from the existing automated storage and retrieval system (also supplied by Dematic).

Each station holds up to 24 order totes destined for one of the 500 Next retail outlets. The light display at each location indicates how many items must be put into each of the order totes, which means a single operator can work on up to 24 store orders at the same time.

Once an order tote is full, the display instructs the operator to push it on to a take-away conveyor for transfer to dispatch and loading onto vehicles.

Previously Next used a manual order picking system for its fast-moving product lines. However, given the scale of the retailer’s product range, operators had to travel long distances between static pick locations.

Seasonal peaks in demand could only be met by significantly increasing the number of pickers employed.

The high rate put stations reduce the time taken by staff travelling between store orders. Operators are fed with a continual supply of products, and the stations feature an ergonomic design.

Dematic’s distribution centre Director Labour Management software is also used to help monitor operator performance.

It is used to manage a bonus payment scheme which rewards operators for performance in excess of 100 per cent.

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