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the collector station at the head of the ‘A’ frame. The ‘A’ frames have 3,950 ejectors in total which can each fire stock onto the conveyor belt at the rate of five singles per second. The whole picking operation is served by 2,600m of Knapp conveyor system that transports the retail totes to the three ‘A’ frames and all of the 58 manual pick stations as required by the order structure.

The conveyor system is supported partly on a mezzanine, designed and installed by The Mezzanine Floor Company (MFC). The open grid floor structure at ground level, which provides access for operators and maintenance without the need for low level sprinklers, was also designed and installed by MFC.

The WCS manages the routeing of totes so that, in practice, they are only selectively routed to where picking is needed – thus dramatically cutting system congestion and maintaining a tote throughput of 1,600 units per hour. To ensure optimum tote fill, all products have previously been scanned dimensionally and by weight, allowing the WMS to calculate volume and avoid overfilling of the retail totes, as the lids are automatically closed prior to shipping.

Retail totes are returned to the D80 site nested in packs. To save space, the totes are loaded onto the buffer conveyor in their nested form. When retail totes are required for order picking, they pass through one of three automatic tote de-stacking machines just upstream of the order start position.

Safety measures

Industrial safety and partitioning specialist Troax UK provided a series of safety screens to protect personnel working at the D80 warehouse. Troax also supplied a large, wire mesh security enclosure to ensure that controlled drugs are stored safely and securely on-site.

The company’s Anti-Collapse mesh safety screens are installed along the edge of pallet racking in a picking area in the automated warehouse and are designed to prevent accidents occurring when employees are handling pallets, catching products if they become dislodged from pallets and so preventing them from falling and injuring personnel working in the aisles below.

The all-welded wire mesh screens are of a unique design and were supplied through Knapp.

Troax also designed and supplied a large, wire mesh enclosure to provide secure storage facilities for controlled drugs which must be kept separately on the site. To create this secure enclosure, which is nominally 5m wide, 12m long and 3m in height, Troax used its Broadsword range of industrial wire mesh partitioning. Broadsword’s all-welded wire mesh panels allow warehouse staff to clearly see stock within the area, while ensuring that it remains secure at all times, with access provided only to authorised personnel.

Comments David Teulon, managing director of Troax UK: “The increasing level of automation in warehouses and distribution centres makes machine fencing, safety screens and proper access control essential to protect personnel working alongside potentially hazardous automated equipment. The increase in health and safety legislation and EU Directives and Norms is of course designed to increase personnel safety in warehouses, factories and other industrial environments. It is now standard practice to employ a specialist to help businesses identify and comply with relevant regulations and minimise the potential dangers involved where automated equipment is in operation.”

The system organises the picking of 100,000 order lines each day in waves to match Boots’ own regional demands. Boots has 17 regional distribution centres (RDCs) and goods destined for the ones sited furthest away from D80 – Isle of Man, Scotland and Plymouth – are picked first. Prior to despatch, the retail totes containing fully picked orders are labelled by one of two special Knapp machines that automatically remove old labels before inserting the new ones. The tote lids are closed automatically and the tote is strapped on line. Errors are detected by the system and some totes are selected at random for quality control checking.

The closed and strapped retail totes then pass through a Knapp despatch sorter where loads for each RDC in the picking wave are automatically accumulated and palletised by two Ro-Bur robots. Finally, the palletised loads of retail totes are shrink-wrapped and loaded into Boots’ own goods vehicles via 12 outward docks for shipping to the RDCs.

Clear benefits

The new system began operating on schedule in June 2002 with a gradual roll-out performed, taking on the retail stores served by each RDC

in turn. It became fully operational in March 2003 and the new warehouse was officially opened in October 2003 by Boots group operations director Paul Bateman. “The Knapp handling solution was built to budget and on time,” says Uren. “The benefits for Boots resulting from the new automated logistics system are clear and measurable with the principal ones being reduced total stockholding, lower staffing levels, improved service levels and higher accuracy and customer satisfaction. The system has also opened up possibilities for new operational benefits to be achieved,” he adds.

Knapp and LXE are both exhibiting at Logistics Link 2004, which is being held on February 3 and 4 at Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey. For further information contact Richard Milbourn on 020 8661 1160 or visit www.logosticslink.co.uk

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