Warehouse upgrade boosts productivity for Patheon

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Patheon, which provides contract development and commercial manufacturing services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, has completed a major update of its Swindon warehouse improving productivity and reducing stockholding. 

The company has two sites – a 366,300 sq ft facility at Swindon where a range of sterile products and antibiotics are developed, tested and manufactured, and a smaller development laboratory at Milton Park in Oxfordshire.

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It brought in Jungheinrich’s Systems & Projects Division for a reassessment of the Swindon warehouse last year.

A high bay at the Swindon site houses everything from finished products, to the raw materials used in pharmaceutical production as well as packaging materials such as cardboard and glassware.

The store is 16 metres high and features eight aisles of pallet racking with storage for almost 6,000 Euro and ISO pallets. The high bay was served by two 20 year old stacker cranes.

Patheon’s project engineer Steve Kettlewell says: “We had been having reliability issues with our old cranes. Break downs were becoming far too frequent and, because of the age of the equipment, spare parts were often hard to come by, which meant we had to wait far too long for repairs to be carried out.”

Switching the old cranes from one aisle to  another required a rail guided transfer car which was slow and inefficientl

The old cranes were replaced with two new Jungheinrich high density stacker cranes with aisle switching technology, which means they can travel around the store’s eight aisles independently – allowing Patheon to dispense with the transfer car system.

By removing the transfer car and slightly shortening the overall length of each of the existing racking aisles, Patheon was able to add an extra run of racking at the end of the existing storage cube.

Jungheinrich developed a installation and integration plan in conjunction with Patheon so that the work was carried out two aisles at a time and the project was phased over a period of 21 weeks.

“At one point we had one old crane and one new crane operating at the same time, but it meant that we could remain operational throughout the integration of the new equipment,” says Kettlewell.

As well as the efficiency gains that the new cranes’ greater reliability has brought to its operation, Patheon has also seen throughput improvements since the project was completed. The semi automatic stacker cranes are equipped with positioning aids to align the crane at the desired location, making order picking and pallet put away faster.

Goods enter the Swindon warehouse through one of five goods-in doors and are transferred by counterbalance truck from the incoming trailers to a consolidation area outside the high bay store.

From the counterbalance re palletised loads are booked in using Patheon’s SAP system and allocated a place within the racking. The truck delivers pallets to one of the pick and drop stations positioned at the end of each aisle and the stacker crane collects the pallet – on a slave pallet – and delivers it to its place within the racking.

Orders picked from the high bay are either finished goods for delivery to Patheon’s clients, raw materials used for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals or product packaging.

Most raw material orders are picked as full pallet loads and transferred – using a goods lift – to the manufacturing areas directly adjacent to the warehouse. Packaging materials are delivered by forklift to a packaging and despatch area elsewhere on the site. Any items of raw material or packaging that are not used are returned to the high bay store and put away until they are required again.

An unexpected benefit that resulted from Patheon’s review of its Swindon warehouse facility was a reduction in the number of items stored at the site.

“We carried out a stock holding review which forced us to look at what we stored on site and why we stored it. As a result of that we were able to free up many pallet positions,” says Kettlewell.


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