Fulfilling customer commitment

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Pearson is a leading international media company with market leading businesses in education, business information and consumer publishing – its brands comprise Pearson Education, the FT Group and Penguin. With more than 30,000 employees in 61 countries worldwide, the company is expecting to handle about 100 million books a year.

In the UK, Pearson has been consolidating its activity, a key element of which has been establishing a major distribution centre (DC) at Central Park, Rugby. The complex comprises a 38,967sq m, 15.6m high bay warehouse with 2,139sq m of office space. According to Project and Build Consultancy, the base-build cost £13M and fit-out £15M.

Project and Build Consultancy handled the preparation of specification and evaluation of the developer’s proposals before Pearson entered into an agreement for the lease. It also monitored the construction phase for compliance with Pearson’s requirements as well as helped with the fit-out contracts and materials handling equipment.

At the heart of the new facility is an extensive range of equipment installed by storage specialist Link 51. Pallet racking, pallet and carton live storage facilities and a wide range of the company’s shelving products are now featured at the site, all closely integrated with other services and equipment – not least highly advanced crane handling systems. The result is an extremely versatile facility which can accommodate long term storage of bulk and archived products alongside those identified as high demand requiring rapid turnaround. The site can thus react to a wide range of customer requirements – notably from within the retail and education sectors.

A total of 59,000 pallet positions are available at the site, 3,500 of which are located in a wide-aisle facility that allows oversized pallets to be readily housed. The majority of the installation, however, comprises some 33 aisles of high bay bulk storage racking, all of which are swept by ten automatic / manually-operated, aisle-changing Jungheinrich cranes. These provide access to the vast majority of the bulk racking layout which comprises 42 bays per aisle, each able to accommodate the width of two pallets.

Ten beam levels are designed into the facility with selected lower levels configured to hold pallets of just 750mm in height, with larger units up to 1,250mm high located above. The adjacent wide-aisle section of the bulk store can also accommodate ‘Jumbo-pallets’, with a height of 2m. This ability to accept varying pallet sizes provides an important degree of flexibility for the operation and clearly contributes to the optimisation of its storage capacity.

The aisle-changing cranes deliver either full pallets to some 400 pick locations or part loads to an adjacent 10,000 position live storage area via mini-load cranes and totes, from where books are packed into cartons.

This Link 51 pallet racking and live storage facility is, however, only part of the company’s involvement at the new Pearson site. Several separate shelving areas are also operational – designed to fulfil a number of different functions. These include a facility for handling third party agencies, a dedicated area for slow moving products and separate archive/library storage for copies of each publication.

Euro-shelving from Link 51 is used throughout with sensor-triggered lighting built into the third party agency section which, itself, is located on a mezzanine structure alongside the wide-aisle racking facility. The slow-moving products are housed in a separate area at ground level within about 1,000 shelving bays installed back-to-back to facilitate simple hand picking to order. The archive / library, using the same Link 51 system, has been located in a separate room away from the day-to-day operation of the warehouse. Significantly, in all cases, the Euro-shelving system has been specified to provide 1,200mm of clear access. This allows Pearson to locate four adjacent storage boxes, each measuring 295mm wide – the standard unit size used by the organisation – onto each shelf.

“The Rugby development represents a major investment in our fulfilment operations and demonstrates a key element of our commitment to customers,” comments Pearson project manager Pat Nichols.

“Link 51’s ability to interface with others involved with the project – including integrator FKI and consultants In-line Logistics and the Project and Building Consultancy – was a crucial success factor, as was its ability to respond rapidly and accurately to our tender documentation,” he adds. “This was key to establishing confidence in Link 51’s ability to turn around variations quickly and efficiently, essential to the smooth running of a fast-track project. Our confidence has now been fully realised with the successful completion of Link 51’s installation within this complex facility.”

Nichols also highlights the close attention paid to the working environment, and to safety. Examples include the use of specific paint colours and the open design as well as safety barriers in key locations, sacrificial legs at the base of the racking uprights and full height mesh protection in the wide-aisle racking area. Additionally, a full width, double-skinned steel wall with lockable access doors has been installed at the end of each of crane aisle to restrict access to operational and maintenance personnel only.

From Link 51’s perspective, its involvement with the project at Pearson demonstrates not just the company’s range of products but also its ability to play a central role in the installation and project management process.

“Because the racking, storage and materials handling systems are at the heart of the Pearson project, we have been involved at all stages of the process,” comments Link 51’s sales director, Keith Evans. “This runs from the site survey, from which the original designs were created, to handling modifications in the construction process and close liaison with suppliers of other key services. The latter does not only encompass the crane suppliers for Rugby but also other service installers such as the sprinkler system manufacturer.”


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