Case Study: £4m investment in systems for art materials specialist

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ColArt, the artists’ materials supplier has invested more than £4 million in automated systems. The group’s brands, which include Winsor & Newton, Lefranc & Bourgeois, Liquitex and Reeves, are sold through thousands of distributors and retailers to millions of consumers. It carries a broad product range to satisfy the varying demands of artists, crafters, hobbyists and children – up to 12,000 SKUs can be stocked in any one ColArt company at any given time.

Developments include: an automated warehouse carousel system in Harrow; a mini-load mechanical handling system at the New Jersey warehouse; flexible manufacturing systems – plus major IT upgrade projects in the UK, France, the US and China – all alongside major warehouse expansion, relocation or other upgrades in the UK, Italy, Holland, Sweden and China.

Richard Woolard, ColArt’s operations director, says: “Our strategic re-investment programme has been geared to providing the business with a stepping stone for integrated growth across all our markets. The physical systems are one thing – but without the right control and management software behind them, it becomes impossible to sweat the mechanical assets and optimise performance for the consistency, efficiency and accuracy we need to maintain and hone a global market-leading position.”

The company chose logistics software and integration specialist Central Systems & Automation and its warehouse management & control system – Autostore.

ColArt’s products range from the small and lightweight through to larger, irregularly shaped products such as artists’ pads and easels. For the Harrow operation, this meant deploying an advanced and fully automated warehousing system with nine innovative horizontal carousels (HOCAs).

ColArt opted for several Autostore systems and modules, including the warehouse management & control system, crane control system, HOCA control system, conveyor control system, pick-to-light, put-to-light and check weigh modules.

Autostore communicates with and controls ColArt’s wide range of mechanical handling equipment used at Harrow, including a mini-load crane, conveyors, nine HOCAs and several weigh scales. It also integrates seamlessly with ColArt’s enterprise business system – MFG/Pro – sharing network drives and high-level management information using Autostore’s middleware integration module.

Woolard says: “We wanted to make sure that we could turn orders around faster than anyone else. With multiple line factory input and automatic replenishment, we have created a state-of-the-art, automated warehousing operation that future-proofs our business. Autostore has enabled us to cut the time it takes to process and dispatch orders by a third. We’ve been able to reduce our labour costs by ten per cent and this is critical to maintaining competitiveness while improving our bottom line performance.”

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