Roomservice by CORT is a home and office furniture hire provider. Established for over 20 years, the company offers a wide range of rental furniture – from office reception goods and accessories to desks, storage solutions and conference tables, as well as stylish bespoke home furniture hire packages.
In the current climate Roomservice by CORT’s business has continued to grow – due, in part, to the fact that more companies and, indeed, private clients, are now looking to rent fittings as a way of reducing capital expenditure.
The company operates two warehouses – about five minutes drive from each other – in Surrey. One of the sites is dedicated to office furniture while the other stores residential fittings.
Residential furniture hire is the biggest part of the company’s business and at CORT’s residential furniture warehouse – a 14,300 sq ft facility in Chessington – some 14,500 different product lines ranging from cutlery to mattresses and sofas are stored.
Incoming orders at the site are a mixture of new products arriving from Roomservice by CORT’s suppliers and previously hired furniture returning at the end of the hire period.
New furnishings arrive in containers direct from manufacturers around the UK and Ireland and, in some cases, China. The containers are unpacked by hand – nothing is palletised when it arrives to enable more products to be packed within each container – before being booked in and allocated a racking location by Roomservice by CORT’s warehouse management system. The majority of the company’s bulk orders arrive in the first quarter of the year and everything has to be kept in ‘showroom condition’ until it leaves the site.
Furniture returning from rental is quality checked, cleaned and refurbished on site before going back into stock. Roomservice by CORT undertakes all of the refurbishment work – including French polishing and upholstery cleaning – in a dedicated area within the warehouse. Goods deemed to fall short of their high quality standards do not go back into stock. They are sent instead to a retail outlet owned by Roomservice by CORT where they are sold to the public at discounted prices. In addition, some items go to auction.
Roomservice by CORT holds enough stock within its warehouses to be able to supply any product in its range anywhere in the UK within 72 hours. To ensure that this happens, the company is constantly assessing its storage and handling methods. For example, the racking system at both sites is regularly reconfigured to meet the changing flow of products through the store.
Orders are picked and put away at the Chessington facility using two specially modified EKS 308 order pickers supplied by Jungheinrich.
"Before the arrival of the Jungheinrich trucks, the order pickers that we had been using were supplied by a Scandinavian company and were poorly designed and built," says Alan Kirton, Roomservice By CORT’s logistics manager. "We had experienced a number of problems with them – not the least of which was the fact the micro switches often failed which allowed the trucks to be driven with the gates open – a major health and safety issue," he adds.
A design team from Jungheinrich’s factory in Moosburg, near Munich, Germany, visited Roomservice By CORT to discuss the company’s requirements, "Having listened to our operational needs and concerns about the existing machines, Jungheinrich’s design team was able to demonstrate bespoke designs of their truck at our first meeting which was very impressive," says Alan Kirton.
The rail guided narrow aisle trucks supplied by Jungheinrich have been fitted with side gates and drop ramps to enable large items of furniture to be easily and safely put away and picked from the racking. The trucks that formerly operated at the site had a completely caged picking platform which meant that getting some of the bigger items stored at the site on to and off the picking platform was often a struggle for order picking staff.
An end gate has also been incorporated into the Jungheinrich machines to give the operator access on and off the truck while it is in an aisle. This has removed the need for the truck to be parked in a transfer aisle when the operator requires access or needs to leave the machine, thereby preventing obstruction in the transfer aisles.
The trucks have also been fitted with a weight sensor that gives an audible warning signal in the event that it is overloaded.
Around 300 items a day are picked and dispatched from the Chessington facility. Orders are usually made up of a host of different furniture items and are picked two or three days (but, on occasion, up to three weeks) in advance of delivery. Picked goods are transferred to a collation area within the racking system. Once a full order has been picked, the furniture is moved outside the racking to a ground level storage area close to the loading bay from where it is loaded – manually – onto waiting vehicles for onward delivery to clients.
"We are continually assessing the way that we work to not only improve the service that we offer to our clients but also to make the working life of our staff better," says Alan Kirton.
He adds: "The new trucks are, in my opinion, not only far more efficient than the models they replaced, they are also safer. Clearly we would never compromise worker safety for customer satisfaction but with our new machines we can provide a better service to our customers and a safer, more comfortable working environment for our staff."