Improved ordering in Malaga

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The new system handles as much in one day as the previous system handled in a week. Millamed has seen sales growth of 30 per cent a year in its Charanga brand and recently moved into the 12,000 sq m Malaga warehouse having outgrown a 2,000 sq m site nearby.

Orders were being assembled manually for its 168 outlets in Spain, Portugal, the Middle East and South America and the company was only able to complete two full picks each week.

The SDI Greenstone sorter is made up of a 43 metre long carousel installed on a steel framework 3.5m above floor level. Inside the carousel are 118 sets of steel trays with hinged twin base flaps known as “bomb bays”. There are 100 drop stations arranged around the carousel beneath the rotating trays.

The sorter is used to handle flat garments packed in plastic bags which make up about 60 per cent of the items despatched from the warehouse. As daily orders are received from the Charanga outlets, the items are assembled from stock in batches by product rather than by individual store order as was the case previously.

The items are picked onto pallets that are then lifted up to the two induct stations on the sorter. Staff scan the bar codes on the items before placing them in the sorter trays. Goods can also be placed in the trays with their bar codes facing upwards to be read by in-line scanners above the carousel.

The sorter is controlled by software written by SDI Greenstone’s sister company RDI which links to the warehouse management system. For each sortation wave, the system assigns specific drop stations on the sorter to individual stores. As the trays move around the carousel, the control software activates the bomb bay flaps releasing items at the required drop station where they are deposited in boxes. When each store order has been completed a blue light comes on that the relevant drop station.

Labels are produced using printers near the sorter that are linked to the WMS. The boxes are closed and pushed onto gravity roller conveyor lanes that lead from the drop stations. Boxed store orders accumulate on the conveyors.

The operator presses a button above the drop zone to confirm that the label has been applied and the box transferred to the accumulation conveyor. This makes the drop zone available for the next sortation wave.

SDI Greenstone has installed short conveyor lanes from small quantity orders, longer conveyors for larger orders. Long or short conveyors and the drop stations to which they are connected are automatically assigned by the WMS depending on the size of each store order at each sortation wave.

The boxes are collected from the accumulation conveyer and transferred to despatch for onward delivery to the stores. As well as being able to assemble order the sorter is used for inventory control. Flat packed garments arriving from suppliers are taken from their transit boxes and individually fed through the sorter for counting and verification. Each day the sorter runs two pick waves for the Charanga stores and one for the factory outlets.

When the furniture giant Ikea decided to expand its distribution centre in Doncaster the initial negotiation concerning the racking was conducted between Ikea, Sweden and Stow International, Belgium.

The two companies negotiate an annual agreement, so that Ikea can obtain the best price on racking materials Stow can be guaranteed a certain amount of business. Stow UK and Ikea UK worked together on the site layout.

In the case of the site in Doncaster, Mattias Ronngard, project manager for Ikea wanted to add more bays to the original design to service the 12 UK and Ireland stores.

Matt Pedley, project manager at Stow UK says: “Upon completion of the Phase 2 extension, Stow was able to offer Ikea the a flexible product to assist it with maintaining a high level of service.”

The original timescale for the project was 16 weeks with the project being split into two halves, West and East phases.

The east side was to have 16 aisles with 57 bays representing 34,713 pallet locations, split between Euro pallets and Ikea’s own bespoke pallets.

The west side was to have 15 double aisles and 2 single aisles, with 57 bays.

Capacity in the west was 36, 632 pallet locations, again accommodating both Euro and Ikea pallets.

The weight of materials for the main installation at Ikea Doncaster was 577,835kg plus a number of small additional orders totalling 24,491kg or just over 600,000kg of material in total, with an order value of around one million pounds.

While Stow provided the 8.5m high racking required, Shepherds were the overall contractor in charge of the construction and all civil works.

A third party provided the high bay racking due to the fact that at that time (January 2006) Stow did not have the capacity to manufacture upright’s to suit the Ikea high-bay requirement. Now Stow can now produce racking in excess of 42m high.

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