Unifix, which supplies fixings and fasteners, power tools and accessories direct to professional builders worldwide, has worked closely with Axiom GB in developing an integrated order picking system to increase the capacity and accuracy of order processing procedures at its distribution facility in the West Midlands.
Located at Smethwick, the distribution centre serves Unifix’s UK customers and provides a next-day delivery service for orders received before 6pm. To maintain the fast response delivery schedule, Unifix worked with Axiom design engineers to design and build the new system which has replaced an outdated manual order picking arrangement.
The new system comprises conveyor systems from Moving, Bito flow racking, and Endoline carton assembly and sealing machines plus weighing units. Axiom also supplied a series of hand-held RF scanners, the vast majority of which were produced by Belgravium Technologies, so that warehouse operators can easily locate stock, carry out location audits, relocate goods, do inventories and pick required items. The scanners, which have improved accuracy and eliminated the need for a paper base, link into Axiom’s control system which automatically manages all operations within the warehouse, and processes goods-in details and order information.
The control system features special volumetrics software to assess the size of each order and designate the most suitable carton to contain the required items. The designated carton then is then automatically assembled and transferred by conveyor to a checking point where order details are confirmed for accuracy. A courier shipping label is then automatically printed and applied to the side of each empty carton using an Axiom print and apply labelling machine.
The software also uses sophisticated routeing data to control the movement of cartons as they travel around the conveyor system, which serves a series of picking and racking zones. The cartons are transported to specific picking zones where an operator uses an RF scanner to read the delivery note within the carton. Using this information, the operator selects the required stock from picking locations within his working zone.
Once all the items have been picked, the carton is returned to the main conveyor where it is transferred out of the loop. Each carton then travels to the weighing station to check for weight errors, thereby identifying any picking discrepancies.
The work cycle finishes with cartons containing complete and accurate orders travelling through a packing station, where they are void filled and sealed ready for onward distribution.