National Grid now has just a single Distribution Centre, located in Birmingham, which supplies low value, high throughput spares and components for gas projects throughout the UK. Originally a regional gas store, the site now provides each of its engineers with two deliveries per week via a network of 23 logistics centres. The site also recycles meters, handling some 1.4 million per year. All transport operations are outsourced and until recently it was supported by two other sites close by.
The layout of the site was not ideal and there was a belief that logistics flows could be improved with much of the storage and picking operations previously taking place outdoors. It was felt that better use could be made of the available space and there were some concerns that health and safety was being compromised. At this point National Grid turned to The Logistics Business to carry out a thorough logistics study that would look at reconfiguring the site. Before getting on to the future layout of the distribution centre it was important to first consider the intended use of the redeveloped site and to ensure that the key operational requirements were clearly understood. The brief also included the rationalisation of the external support sites to make the central DC self sufficient and improve processes.
There were therefore two main parts to the project. The first was to apply more appropriate workflows and best practice in warehouse layout, bringing parts of the storage and picking inside and using racking to improve storage density and safety. Secondly, process maps were developed in conjunction with the operations team, and then implemented to once again incorporate best practice and maximise the potential of the new layout.
Thanks to the chances recommended it was possible for the redesigned layout to incorporate all of the current operational functionality within a smaller footprint, thereby releasing enough space to accommodate an additional, related operation plus an increased car parking facility. Consideration was applied to both working conditions and aspects of health and safety which resulted in a safer, better working environment for the workforce. Although no detailed analysis was included, the resulting solution provided more efficient and manageable operations, and significant productivity increases were anticipated.