Tesco’s “Dotcom Only Store” (DCOS) in Aylesford has proved to be so successful that they recently decided to open another in Greenford. The Aylesford store, which opened in October 2008, provides the fulfilment service for Tesco grocery home shopping for most of Kent, and replaced picking and delivery from a number of Tesco supermarkets in the area. It is just one of a series of DCOSs that Tesco plans to open over the next few years. Tesco had previously built the home shopping business by fulfilling its Web orders from local stores, where personal shoppers picked orders in much the same way as customers do, with the orders then delivered to customers homes by vans based at the stores. This has worked well, as the business had been maturing and Tesco has achieved very high service levels. However, the volume of business has begun to put pressure on some of the stores and Tesco had to think of new ways of meeting demand in the busy areas. The answer was the development of the DCOS – dedicated fulfilment centres- designed specifically to pick and despatch home shopping orders.
For order picking, the DCOS operate very much like a conventional store with pickers picking customer orders into trays on a trolley. However, the big difference is in the sortation and release of orders for loading into the vans. After picking into trays, the orders are manually loaded onto a conveyor which feeds into a consolidation buffer. The buffer comprises a three-aisle automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) split into two vertical modules, with six shuttle cards per aisle. This system allows picking improvements to be made by picking up to six orders simultaneously. When orders are released the ASRS sorts the trays by van route and presents them for loading in reverse drop sequence.
These new methods of sortation offered major advantages for operational effectiveness and customer service, but the system development required a level of expertise that could not be fully resourced from within Tesco. To address this need for special skills Tesco appointed The Logistics Business to help with the development and implementation of the automated systems. The Logistics Business was chosen because of its extensive experience of implementing warehouse automation for retail distribution, based on a long track record of success with the likes of B&Q, Argos and Direct Wines.
Consultants from The Logistics Business worked with the Tesco team to advise on the designs and help specify detailed requirements. They then played a key role ensuring that the supplier’s designs fully met the requirements.
During implementation, The Logistics Business team worked on site to advise Tesco on testing and acceptance, and played a major role in helping to deliver the systems on time and to specification. Since then the facility has exceeded expectations, delivering improved picking productivity and accuracy. Most importantly, the experience provided by The Logistics Business has helped ensure that Aylesford has delivered its full business case.
Thanks to good planning and implementation the Aylesford store has delivered excellent pay-back, and the Greenford store is now well on the way to achieving similar results.