Direct Wines has opened a new distribution centre at Gloucester designed to handle more than 50 million bottles a year.
The company uses a number of trading identities including Laithwaites, The Sunday Times Wine Club or The Barclaycard Wine Service. Since its launch in 1969, it has grown to a turnover of more than £250m.
It chose Linpac Storage Systems to provide a combination of very narrow aisle racking for bulk stock and specially designed shelving for the picking areas. Linpac had already worked on the Direct Wines warehouse at Theale.
Direct Wines general manager Melvyn Brown says: “Linpac met all of our specifications and we presented them with some very precise storage issues to address, particularly with regard to the way bottles are presented to pickers. Theale proved to be a very good test bed and Linpac demonstrated that it could modify its standard carton live product with upward sloping trays at the pick face specifically designed for us.”
Direct Wines required another distribution centre because it had outgrown the Theale warehouse which is attached to its head office. The company had spent time outsourcing a large part of its operation, but has now brought the complete storage and distribution operation in house using both the original warehouse and the new distribution centre in Gloucester Business Park.
At 180,000 sq ft, the Gloucester facility is larger and more modern than the Theale warehouse. It has been specifically designed by Direct Wines in conjunction with consultant The Logistics Business to support a high level of consumer service.
Inside the warehouse the very narrow aisle racking has a bulk stockholding of 18,000 pallets of wine which is destined, almost exclusively, for the UK market. Pick and deposit stations facilitate the safe handling of loads into and out of the racking and there is a special racking section for packaging which is stored on mesh decks at one end of the warehouse.
There are several areas of the distribution centre dedicated to picking – pick to light, pick to voice and two step picking. In the pick to light area, Linpac has installed pallet racking with carton live beds. Longspan shelving is used in the pick to voice area with tilted mesh decks for the speciality wines and carton live beds with upward sloping picking trays for the more popular brands.
At the pick face these special trays present the opened cases of bottles to the picker at an ideal angle. The upward slope of the tray also acts as a brake on the cases of wines stored on the carton live, preventing them from rolling down and knocking into the case which is being picked from.
In the two step picking area, wines are picked from carton live on the top level while the bottom section is fitted out with galvatite decked reverse slope chutes. These chutes are used to remove the empty cardboard wine cases.
The cases of wine are transported around the distribution centre on an automated case conveyor system – this system is also supported by Linpac’s racking.