Reeling in results

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PD Teesport (formerly known as the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority), the first major UK port to be privatised and part of the PD Ports, Logistics and Shipping Group, has developed a substantial new warehousing facility to handle de-vanned container-based cargo. The new No.5 Shed handles the transshipment of all types of cargo and specialises in the mass importation of newsprint reels. Around 33,000kg arrives at the Teesport Container Terminal (TCT) each week to supply many of the UK’s newspaper groups with the paper they need.

The No 5 Shed is located two miles from the TCT and covers 52,000sq m. It is run by three full-time staff with all cargo movements governed by Autostore designed by Central Systems & Automation and the UK’s leading port-wide management system. Autostore also operates every aspect of the TCT, plus two substantial on-site warehouse operations. As part of an integrated port management system, it is also used to manage its human resources – from work scheduling through to the intricacies of wage and time management.

Designed as a general-purpose warehouse, No.5 Shed specialises in handling imported newsprint from the Volga region of Russia and Syktyvkar in Sweden. The newsprint arrives in containers by ship, wrapped on giant reels up to two-and-a-half metres thick and weighing up to 2,000kg each.

Fully loaded, each container weighs around 35 tonnes and carries an average of 20 newsprint reels and No.5 Shed processes an average of 30 container loads per week.

Additional pressure

There are also a number of different weights and types of paper stock needed for different printing applications that must be stored separately and in a way that allows easy access. While big and heavy, newsprint reels contain delicate product and have to be moved gently to prevent damage. This creates an additional pressure on warehouse management as any reels that have been damaged during shipment have to be separated from viable stock and repaired on-site. No.5 Shed personnel remove any torn layers of paper from the reel and ‘rewrap’ it before adding it back into the pool of available stock. At any given time, PDT needs to know how many reels are out of action because of this, where they are stored and when they are to be returned to the main warehouse stock.

A JIT-based distribution centre in its own right, the general purpose No.5 Shed represents an important new business opportunity for PDT, which employs 450 people and is the statutory harbour authority for the ports of Tees and is the UK’s second largest port, handling over 50 million tonnes of domestic and international cargo per year – 8% of UK port traffic.

Containers are moved across to No.5 Shed from the TCT where they are de-vanned, stored, prepared and then shipped out by road in response to customer demand. Man-riding ‘clamp’ trucks fitted with radio data terminals (RDT) lift the reels from each container, scanning the IFRA barcode that is the standard barcode type for newsprint.

Once Autostore accepts the barcode, the clamp truck moves the reel to the allocated section of the warehouse and a two-digit check-code is applied to ensure that the right reel goes in the right place. It is at this time that any reels damaged in transit are moved aside for re-wrapping.

Autostore ensures that all reel stock is positioned correctly and gives the warehouse operators total, real-time visibility of which GSM reels are where, how many, for which customer and at which production location they’re intended for.

Faster loading

Autostore also manages all reel dispatch. Rather than prepare each load as the receiving wagon arrives, Autostore releases the loads in advance and the clamp trucks move the reels to the correct marshalling lane. Typically, a customer order will cover more than one delivery location: automating this process speeds up loading and allows the warehouse to process each delivery order faster and more efficiently.

Trevor Meredith is PDT’s commercial manager: “We run a fully failsafe warehouse management operation with Autostore. Primary and mirrored secondary servers host the application and five LAN terminals running Windows 2000 look after day-to-day operation: two terminals are in the warehouse and a further three for administration and management reporting.”

Continues Meredith: “The benefits of Autostore are four-fold for us: it’s easy to use; the speed with which we can now bring in stock; the ease with which we can manage it once in the warehouse and again, the speed with which we can dispatch the reels around the country. They combine to produce an operation where we know where everything is, in real-time, where it’s come from, plus when and where it’s going. This also improves our customer service: at the touch of a button, Autostore can answer just about any question we may get from a customer as regards stock availability, plus we can advise them immediately of damaged reels that might need replacing on the next shipment.”

In addition, there is the issue of scalability. Adds Meredith: “Because we know have a precise, real-time picture of stock and planned movements, we can manage our current and planned capacity with much greater finesse. This makes us more efficient and enables us to make more profitable use of the space we have without needing to expand it.”

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