Outgrowing your Automated Warehouse System

Arco Distribution Centre - The Logistics Business UK - Automated warehouse system

All systems are designed to a given future capacity and capability, but what happens when your business grows and reaches this capacity? When part or all of the system is automated and designed for specific product types, volumes and order structures, this can be a significant problem.

The first stage is a course to define the type of business growth that takes the systems beyond their current capacities, and then translate this into stock, flows, SKUs and orders. As important is to understand the design and capabilities of the automated equipment; where are the bottlenecks and can these be addressed to increase the capacity of the system? Is the automated system currently handling the optimum product types, and does the growth allow a greater percentage of the optimum orders to be handled in the automated system and the less suitable products to be handled outside of the automated system? The future growth and capabilities of the system can all be modelled to identify where the current systems will meet their capacities against a number of growth scenarios. The outcome of the modelling exercise can then be used to identify how the existing automated facilities can be best utilised to handle future growth and to define the requirements for new facilities and future volumes.

An example of where this approach has been used to identify expansions to an automated picking system is Arco Ltd. in Hull. Arco is the UK’s largest distributor of safety equipment and workwear. The company stocks over 22,000 products and reaches its customers through its extensive product catalogue, interactive website and 40 strong local branch network. Business growth has led to bottlenecks in their existing automated warehouse systems. The design of the automated warehouse system and business growth were therefore modelled by The Logistics Business to clearly identify the bottlenecks. The detail design of additional conveyors and automated buffer stops were then designed by the OEM to address these issues.

The role of The Logistics Business continued throughout the project as a member of the project team, helping to translate the detailed design and throughput requirements into specifications and contracts. Technical and contractual advice was provided throughout the project in the role of ‘The Engineer’ through to the testing and final handover of the system. The combination of a team that had a detailed operational understanding of the current system and future requirements, along with substantial experience of analysis, modelling, contracts design, warehouse automation and project implementation, all provided by The Logistics Business, helped make this project a great success.

Neil Griffiths, Divisional Director of Logistics at Arco, enthused, ‘I’d just like to thank The Logistics Business for the role played in the project. Having your expertise and involvement was invaluable. You provided a great mix of direction, a sounding board, solid advice and considered options through what were some quite challenging times during the project. The end results speak for themselves in as much as the kit has been performing really well and the Arco business continues to grow.