Argos looks to Keymas to develop warehouse system

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Growth at Argos meant the business needed to develop its Bridgwater warehouse operation – one of a network of nine distribution centres Argos currently uses across the UK. The Bridgwater regional distribution centre serves 89 Argos stores in the South, South West of England and Wales.

In 1989, Argos installed and commissioned a warehouse at Bridgwater in which Keymas played a major role, putting together not only the basic concept and overall layout, but also the specific detail that was required to allow the automated conveyor system to operate. The system was conceived and designed with Argos to be more efficient and produce better productivity than conventional warehousing at that time and was installed within a 12-month window.

This warehousing system consisted of conventional racking and racking which allowed semi-automated cranes to place and retrieve bulk pallet loads from storage. Selected pallets would be transported on the automatic conveyor system to be located in a sub-system, where semi-automated cranes off-loaded pallets into pick locations for operators to order pick individual items for dispatch to various stores in the region.

Owing to the growth of the business work was required to increase Bridgwater’s throughput capacity to support the distribution network.

After deliberation, Keymas recommended and Argos agreed that a more conventional warehouse arrangement provided the most cost effective and flexible warehousing solution to meet both their current and future needs. This proposal used conventional racking and forklift trucks for handling of pallets.

It was not possible to close down the premises to make the changes without disrupting its constant flow of operation. Keymas was charged with the task of changing the warehouse operation – from a crane driven storage system to a manually operated truck storage system – turning the flow through 90 degrees while maintaining functionality of the existing warehouse and installing the new facilities.

With the help of several partners, Keymas put forward a proposal which included the removal of existing equipment and staggered de-commissioning of cranes to enable the existing facility to continue to operate, while the new system was installed. The project also included the de-commissioning of a multi-level pick mezzanine floor area, which consisted of four individual levels and had to be dismantled in stages.

Partners included sister company Raxel, a specialist in storage and racking solutions. As part of the project management task, Keymas had to also oversee the installation of a sprinkler system and complete new lighting facilities.

Argos reduced the amount of product movement through the existing warehouse to complement the phased installation requirements of the new build. Keymas and partners worked closely together with the customer’s project management team to ensure men and materials were fully co-ordinated on-site.

Regular site meetings monitored progress, reviewed health & safety issues, CDM and compliance with design regulations.

The project was to provide a complete new warehouse package which would facilitate and support the customer moving forward and contribute to a functional storage and logistics system that would be flexible, operate more effectively and efficiently within the distribution arm of Argos.

Keymas managing director John Barton says: “The project was obviously very challenging at times, but through the close working partnership of all those involved, this was completed with minimal disruption to Argos operations, within budget and well within the allocated time frame”.

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