Better flexibility and handling

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A high-capacity garment storage system by SDI Greenstone has been integrated into a new 88,000sq m distribution warehouse at Mexborough which is dedicated to The Zip project, an innovative joint venture between Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Ireland-based clothing company Desmonds.

The installation comprises a three-floor mezzanine for boxed garments which has been built around existing narrow aisle pallet racking. The new system has increased the boxed stockholding capacity from 1.8 to two million units.

The Zip project involves the design and manufacture of quality children’s wear and accessories, and includes a prototype testing, costing and manufacturing facility in Northern Ireland designed to drive down procurement costs and reduce time-to-market. Volume manufacture is undertaken mainly in the Middle and Far East and, until recently, the goods were received in the UK through as many as 20 different distribution centres (DCs), most of which were dedicated to individual manufacturers.

Only two DCs are now used, dealing with freight forwarders working with multiple manufacturers. One is at M&S supplier SR Gent’s site in Barnsley and the other at Mexborough, operated by Exel Logistics.

SDI Greenstone was commissioned to develop storage facilities for garments arriving in cartons to complement a 3,500-location narrow aisle racking installation for handling full pallet loads. The company has designed a three-storey, 25,000sq m footprint, mezzanine, equipped with shelving to accommodate around 5,000 cartons, which is accessed by goods lifts and pallet gates.

De-palletised cartons are stacked manually in the shelving with the aid of hand pallet trucks. Along with the pallet racking the mezzanine area now gives the DC the capacity to store up to two million single items.

Orders are relayed to the Mexborough DC from M&S’ central computer three times a week. Up to 120,000 individual items are being picked each day, and goods are despatched to 11 regional hubs for onward delivery to M&S stores nationwide.n Integrated storage and materials solutions company Locators has provided Scottish & Southern Energy’s Perth distribution centre with an improved and more cost-effective storage and handling facility. By combining a suitable mix of materials handling equipment with the realignment and replacement of an existing large narrow aisle racking systems, Locators has improved flexibility and handling efficiency at the site while at the same reducing the size of the forklift fleet and its associated costs.

The narrow aisle system in Scottish & Southern Energy’s Perth DC was outdated and could not accommodate the new European size pallets, resulting in slow and cumbersome handling. Following an in-depth survey of the site, Locators came up with a scheme to update the materials handling and storage systems which involved removing the old racking system and replacing one half of the building with a new racking system, serviced by articulated trucks. It was decided that the other half of the storage area was best left clear for the block stacking of white goods that could be handled by counterbalance forklift trucks fitted with carton clamps.

The total project was carried out while the centre remained operational. Locators, with the support and co-operation of Scottish & Southern Energy’s staff emptied one rack at a time, removed the sprinklers, modified the lighting and then put back the pallets in the space created. Working in this way required extensive programming and careful project management to ensure the smooth running of the operation so that delivery targets were met.

The existing narrow aisle stackers were replaced by two new Manitou DPV articulated counterbalance trucks which have not only negated the need for guidance systems but are also capable of working both indoors and outdoors to support activities of two new Toyota gas trucks.

These have been fitted with carton clamps so that white goods can be block-stacked giving greater density of storage and much faster handling. The clamps have quick-release couplings, allowing the attachments to be removed so the trucks can handle conventional palletised loads when necessary. A new Toyota ride-on power pallet truck has been supplied to provide some additional low-level handling capacity.

A seven-tonne Kalmar diesel truck is now handling the bulk of the outdoor operation. All handling equipment has been fitted with an Event and Activity Recording System instead of the conventional ignition keys only nominated drivers have access to each truck, thereby increasing safety and control. Scottish and Southern Energy is one of the largest energy companies in the UK.

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