Go with the flow

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Flowtech, the fluid power component stockist, has increased floor space and is now able to achieve 90 to 100 picks an hour after installing 13 Kardex Shuttle XP systems.

The company produces a new catalogue every year containing an additional 5,000 to 10,000 products each time.

Keith Greenwood, IT and systems director at the company, says: We realised after the addition of new products for the next catalogue space would become a problem; this was further compounded by ordering more stock from the Far East which meant we had to hold greater quantities of buffer stock to counter the longer delivery times.”

Flowtech doubled the size of its original warehouse from 20,000 sq ft to 40,000 sq ft in 2001, and did enquire about a implementing a crane-based system in 2003 but decided against it because of cost and service level issues.

However, a business review in 2005 predicted it would see a growth in small and medium sized parts, so it decided a vertical storage system was the most sensible option to address present and future storage needs.

Five 12m high Kardex Shuttle XPs were installed over a four week period in October 2005, and the company then chose bespoke tote boxes for the components.

Flowtech also reviewed its traditional picking procedures and updated some of the complementary systems with hand-held RF scanners and mobile label printers, as well as implementing a back office software suite.

Phases two and three saw a further eight shuttle units being installed, along with more narrow aisle racking bringing the total to 6,000 pallet location spaces.

The shuttle units store more than 40,000 medium to slow moving, small to medium sized parts in a 250 sq m space. This compares to the previous system which required 450 sq m to store 7,000 products.

Greenwood adds: “In the past we could achieve a rate of about 30 manual picks an hour. The addition of RF technology and barcoding, and tour management has increased this to 40 to 45 picks an hour, but we must then compare this to the automated shuttles which are giving us 90 to 100 picks per hour. These advantages are further enhanced by much quicker replenishment.”
Furthermore, pick accuracy is now more than 99 per cent, based on an error rate of 0.46 per cent.

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