Change in aisle storage meets customer demand

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A faster, more efficient order picking routines are now being realised by Hi-Tec Sports UK following a major reorganisation of existing material flow procedures at its Southend warehousing and distribution complex, coupled with investment in a brand new fleet of Crown trucks.

Distribution and operations manager Keith Prigg explains: “Moving away from double-deep to narrow aisle storage techniques is a direct result of us adapting to meet changing customer demands, whereby goods are now called off more regularly and delivered in smaller quantities than before.”

While Hi-Tec’s original double-deep storage methods provided a cost-effective means of using space, over recent years it has moved from being just a storage company to become a major distribution organisation serving more than 4,500 UK retail outlets.

“As one of the top four sportswear companies in the UK, and the fastest growing footwear brand in Europe,” insists Prigg, “we’ve also seen stockholding more than double, to a point where we now hold several thousand SKUs that collectively encompass over 560 different styles of footwear. As a result, we simply were getting to a point where we could not cope with daily outputs that can exceed 15,500 individual pairs of footwear using the existing live storage pick zones built into the original racked storage areas.”

To resolve these and other operational issues, Prigg looked at a variety of alternative storage and picking solutions prior to concluding that the VNA route was the most beneficial in terms of speeding internal picking and material flow procedures.

Several potential warehouse truck suppliers were initially approached to provide the most efficient means of getting the goods out of the door in the fastest possible time, and at the lowest possible cost. Prigg says: “While there were variations in price our decision to award Crown the single-source supply and service contract was based on the premise: it’s better the devil you know, than the one you don’t. In fact, we’ve been using Crown equipment on this site from day one, almost 18 years ago, and it has never let us down when it comes to responding to unexpected downtime issues or truck breakdowns.”

Now installed within the newly reconfigured bulk storage and picking warehouse, the two wire-guided Crown TSP Stockpickers are used for the put-away of incoming goods from the Far East into stock, as well as the retrieval of bulk pallet load quantities destined for UK retail outlets.

While these trucks have the added flexibility of allowing eye-level picking of carton quantities from any of the locations housed in the ten aisle VNA racked complex, should the need arise, carton picking from each and every location is currently the sole task of the four SP 3000 man-up order picking trucks.

As well as the aforementioned machines, now installed in the company’s 54,000 bulk storage and picking warehouse, Hi-Tec’s new Crown fleet also includes two FC three-wheeled electric counterbalanced forklifts and one RR stand-on reach truck. This latter truck is used extensively in an adjoining 2,604sq m warehouse facility at Southend, which is now given over to the bulk storage and subsequent picking in pairs of medium to slow moving items of footwear. Movement to and from this and the other warehouse complex is carried out by the FC forklifts, which also undertake despatch functions.

Purchased on long term contract hire, inclusive of fast response service support for one all-inclusive monthly payment – thus allowing all operational costs to be fixed in advance and thereby making for easy budgeting – Hi-Tec’s newly installed Crown trucks are collectively responsible for the picking and despatch of more than four million pairs of shoes per annum.

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