n A specially-designed conveyor system with a high degree of automation is enabling National Veterinary Services (NVS), part of Dechra Pharmaceuticals, to ensure a reliable next-day service to 1,500 veterinary practices nationwide. A five-fold growth in sales over the past ten years had been put increasing pressure on the existing manual stock replenishment, order-picking and tracking system at NVS’ central warehouse at Stoke-on-Trent.
n Some 32,000 order lines are now processed daily, with about 60% of orders being received between 5pm and 7pm. All of the orders are for next-day delivery.
n The new conveyor system has been installed by European Conveyor Systems and serves a new live storage mezzanine in the warehouse, carrying incoming goods for stock replenishment and picked orders for despatch. For both operations the use of barcodes on tote boxes automatically ensures they are directed to the correct areas with the relevant documentation.
n Stock replenishment is performed in the morning and early afternoon, with order picking taking place through the afternoon and evening.
n The most commonly ordered items are concentrated in a quick-pick storage area served by eight conveyor spurs, designed to maximise picking speed and accuracy, while the main storage area is served by six spurs off the main conveyor. The barcodes automatically direct tote boxes to the correct zones for orders to be fulfilled, with a re-circulation system coming into operation if a zone is full. The conveyor system’s total capacity is 1,000 totes an hour.
n Automatic tote weighing provides a final check that each order has been picked correctly. As each tote is released into the system for picking, its empty weight is recorded and the total weight of the products on the order is calculated from a standard database. When the order picking has been completed and the tote is entering the despatch area, it is weighed again and its weight compared with the expected total order weight. Those that comply go through to despatch, while those that are out of tolerance are