Based in Gloucester, Downton is one of the South West region’s leading distribution and storage companies.
The company’s multi-client warehouse in Hardwicke, a small town sandwiched between the M5 and the Severn Estuary, was purpose-built to serve the needs of one of the company’s biggest clients – a leading UK-owned electrical household products manufacturer.
Downton had operated three individual facilities within a short distance of each other but, as part of its long term business strategy, took the decision to consolidate the operation under a single roof some three years ago.
The new unit, which is within easy reach of the M4 M5 interchange, opened in November 2008 and, while Downton’s electrical product manufacturer client occupies the majority of the available space at the facility, various other products – from the manufacturing sector – are stored on site too.
Having considered a number of proposals for the design and layout of the new building, Downton eventually agreed on a proposal submitted by Jungheinrich UK Ltd’s Systems and Project Division.
"The fact that Jungheinrich could supply a full range of materials handling equipment and design and build our racking system was very attractive," explains Chris Dare, Downton’s Warehouse General Manager.
Once Downton’s requirements had been fully analysed and understood Jungheinrich’s engineers designed a racking scheme that not only meets the company’s present requirements but is future proofed to cope with any change in the nature of the goods stored at the facility.
"The actual building was, effectively, built around the racking design," says Jungheinrich’s Mike Smyth, who project managed the contract.
With an 11 metre high top beam level, the racking provides 12,600 pallet locations on four beam levels (plus floor level) and pallets are double stacked to reduce the number of beams required. Currently each pallet stored in the system weighs around 600 kg but loads of up to 2.5 tonnes can safely be stored at each pallet location.
The 1750mm wide aisles are served by three wire-guided Jungheinrich EKX 515 VNA Kombis which deliver full pallet loads to the location allocated to them in the racking by Downton’s WMS.
Typically, electrical goods arrive at the facility boxed and loose loaded in a container. This means that before they can be put away in the racking, each boxed item has to be handballed onto a telescopic conveyor and delivered to a marshalling area where it is scanned and built into a pre-set pallet configuration. Each full pallet load is then shrink-wrapped, labelled and delivered by counterbalance truck to a marshalling station where it is block stacked before being taken by the EKX Kombis to the right pallet location.
The Jungheinrich EKX Kombi trucks in operation at Downton feature an RFID-based floor control system that automatically adjusts the truck’s operating profile to match the conditions in the warehouse. The RFID technology automatically controls the truck’s lift and travel speeds as well as aisle end braking and stopping.
The majority of outgoing orders are picked in stages. Full pallet loads are picked by the Kombis and delivered directly to specified loading bay locations, while single product orders are picked, again using the Kombis, onto a pallet and delivered to a P&D location where they are marshalled, wrapped and transferred using counterbalanced truck to the correct loading bay location.
In excess of 30 lorry loads a day leave the facility bound for the distribution centres of various leading electrical goods retailers.
"The transition from our three separate stores to our new single facility was seamless," says Downton’s Chris Dare. ""It is something of a cliché, but the ‘one-stop-shop’ that Jungheinrich was able to offer simplified the management of the project considerably. Certainly our clients and their customers would not have noticed any drop in the quality of the service that we offer them during the moving process."