Retailer Next has hired Bito to fit out a 210,000 sq ft timber mezzanine with racking, picking and packing systems for its home retail business.
Next erected the 70 m x 300 m mezzanine at its 700,000 sq ft Dearne Valley automated pallet warehouse, near Rotherham, in October 2010 to give additional space following significant growth of its Home business. The DC is used to distribute the retailer’s Home goods to its network of retail stores as well as its Directory business.
BITO developed a racking solution that would work with a fleet of special automated guided vehicles supplied by JBT Corporation to perform pallet movement duties, such as replenishment and extracting empty pallets from the picking positions.
Normal pallet handling AGVs would be too heavy for use on the timber mezzanine, so Bito selected JBT’s forkless AGVs that use a table which rises up beneath the pallet to lift it.
The racking has been designed so that pallets rest on ledges running between the uprights. These runners are positioned high enough in the floorless pallet bay to allow the AGV to position its table right inside the bay and beneath the pallet so that the table can rise to lift the pallet up, for the AGV to extract it, or lower to place the pallet down on the runners. There is a single pallet bay level with shelving above to provide locations for unpalletised “returned to stock’” items.
After several prototypes, Bito arrived at Next’s preferred design for bespoke picking carts. They have detachable steps and netting around the top of the cart, which allows more items to be placed into the cart without the risk of them falling out. They also have a detachable ladder which allows staff to reach the shelves above the pallet bay.
The ladders are removable because Next wanted to be able to leave a trolley, which is effectively the size of a pallet, to be picked up and moved by the AGV as if it were a pallet. The pick trolley features spring loaded cart wheels, so as the AGV picks up the trolley, the wheels will flick into line to stop them moving and prevent them catching as the AGV departs.
BITO also supplied 24 packaging locations. These are formed from galvanised shelving, which provides pigeon holes to place items for building customer orders, surrounding 2.2 x 1.2 m packing tables. Each table is equipped with waste bins, pull-out drawers, a computer shelf and a monitor stand.
Edward Hutchison, managing director of Bito, said: “Because Bito manufactures such a broad array of products it has the ability to engineer precise solutions that provide smooth operational flows for customers. Having originally tendered for the racking we were able to offer Next the benefit of our capabilities to engineer a solution not just for the racking but also for the picking carts, shelving and packing tables, all meeting Next’s needs precisely.”