Halfords keeps small parts moving

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Halfords is now able to send out up to 200,000 items a day after consolidating two distribution centres into a single unit in Coventry and installing a Dematic picking system.

The combined distribution centre now holds all of the retailer’s range other than bicycles and serves its entire network of 470 stores across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. 

To achieve the throughputs its wanted, Halfords needed to create a small parts store for picking 10,000 SKUs of small products quickly and accurately into order totes and then consolidating them for delivery to stores.

Working together with the retailer, Dematic designed a small parts picking centre on a double deck mezzanine. The structure runs along the entire 165 metre length of the hub over the loading bay doors and facilitates marshalling below, while providing 70,000 sq ft of picking area in what would normally be unused space over the marshalling areas.

The design comprises a conveyor-based system with pick-to-light and pick-by-voice technology. On the mezzanine’s first level, 3,600 SKUs of faster moving small parts are picked from live storage lanes using fast and accurate pick-to-light technology. The system allows 300 lines per hour to be picked.

The upper level of the small parts store houses Halford’s 6,000 slower moving SKUs, which are located in bins on inclined shelves for ergonomic picking.

Voice picking technology allows 200 lines per hour of these products to be picked at a much lower capital cost than pick-to-light. This high rate is helped by concentrating picks into smaller areas so that each tote only travels to one or two zones for it to be filled up and travel distances for staff, who have their hands free, are reduced.

As Vocollect reseller for the project, Dematic supplied a total of 60 voice terminals for the Coventry facility. Twenty are used in the pick-to-voice system while the remaining units are used for other operations within the facility, such as bulk picking, bulk put away and decanting.

These are all controlled by Manhattan Associates’ WMS, which also feeds orders to Dematic’s DC Director WCS. This Warehouse Control System looks after stock profiling and integrates the pick-to-light and voice technologies seamlessly to achieve the most efficient pick possible.

Completed order totes are sent to the Dematic Multishuttle Captive Buffer, which is designed to dramatically increase speed, accuracy and throughput. The automated system’s intelligent controls enable complex sequencing that contributes to its flexibility and allows Halfords to build store friendly orders, calling out whole or part store orders as required. The Multishuttle can also ensure that the heaviest tote is at the bottom of the stack when they get to a Halford’s store.

The small parts picking system helps achieve the throughputs required at the Coventry distribution centre while improved tote fill has halved the number of totes each store receives in a delivery to 30.

The entire small parts picking scheme is future proofed with room for another double deck mezzanine along the side of the facility, which could be linked into the current system thanks to the Multishuttle’s modular design, which allows more lanes to be added, without any change to the flow of Halford’s operation.

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