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BITO Storage Solutions provides NEXT with precise storage fit

BITO Storage Solutions has supplied Next Group Plc with pallet racking, shelving and special picking carts equipped with detachable steps. BITO worked closely with NEXT to design all of these solutions to suit the retailer’s precise needs for picking and packing on a new 210,000 sq ft timber mezzanine.

BITO has provided Next Group Plc with a storage solution comprising a range of equipment that significantly improves the retail chain’s order picking options on its recently installed timber mezzanine floor. NEXT erected the 70 m x 300 m mezzanine at its 700,000 sq ft Dearne Valley automated pallet warehouse, near Rotherham, in October 2010 to give 210,000 sq ft of additional space following significant growth of its Home business.

Next had planned that a timber mezzanine could be installed retrospectively following the DC opening in May 2008. The DC is used to distribute the retailer’s Home goods to its network of retail stores as well as its Directory business.

Working closely with Next, BITO developed a racking solution that would work with a fleet of special Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) supplied by JBT Corporation to perform pallet movement duties, such as replenishment and extracting empty pallets from the picking positions. Having tendered for the pallet racking scope, BITO subsequently designed the special order picking carts, which it equipped with detachable steps.

JBT’s forkless AGVs are significantly lighter than normal pallet handling AGVs (which would be too heavy to use on a timber mezzanine). Instead of forks, these AGVs have a table that simply raises and lowers, so each vehicle needs to position this table beneath the pallet to pick it up. BITO designed the racking so that pallets rest on ledges running between the uprights. The runners are positioned high enough in the floorless pallet bay to allow the AGV to position its table right inside the bay and beneath the pallet so that the table can raise to lift the pallet up, for the AGV to extract it, or lower to place the pallet down on the runners.

BITO’s pallet racking is configured with a single pallet bay level with shelving above to provide locations for unpalletised ‘returned to stock’ items. Next’s operatives pick orders into BITO’s specially designed pick carts. The detachable ladder, which can be switched from one cart when it is full to the next, allows staff to reach the shelves above the pallet bay. As the cart fills up with orders, staff can raise a netting ‘fence’ around the top of the cart, which allows more items to be placed into the cart without the risk of them falling out. Separate carts are used for collecting waste plastic and cardboard and are located in a pallet bay at the end of the aisle.

BITO worked on the idea of making the ladders removable because Next wanted to be able to leave a trolley, which is effectively the size of a pallet, to be picked up and moved by the AGV as if it were a pallet. The pick trolley features spring loaded cart wheels, so as the AGV picks up the trolley, the wheels will flick into line to stop them moving and prevent them catching as the AGV departs. BITO worked with NEXT to devise a design that met all requirements.

The solution involved a lot of engineering and BITO excelled in both understanding the requirements and then devising engineered solutions to suit. Next was looking for specific solutions for the project and BITO invested time in building various prototype trolleys.

BITO also supplied Next with equipment for 24 packaging locations. These are formed from galvanised shelving, which provides pigeon holes to place items for building customer orders, surrounding 2.2 x 1.2 m packing tables. Each table is equipped with waste bins, pull-out drawers, a computer shelf and a monitor stand – everything that is needed to pack efficiently.

Commenting on the installation, BITO’s MD Edward Hutchison says: "Because BITO manufactures such a broad array of products it has the ability to engineer precise solutions that provide smooth operational flows for customers. Having originally tendered for the racking we were able to offer Next the benefit of our capabilities to engineer a solution not just for the racking but also for the picking carts, shelving and packing tables, all meeting Next’s needs precisely."

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