It is rare for a warehouse to have played an important role in history – but that is exactly what happened in the building now occupied by the award-winning distribution centre (DC) run by CS Ellis for the leading Toy and Diecast Collectables manufacturer Corgi Classics Limited.
CS Ellis's warehouse at Whetstone, Leicestershire was where the first successful jet engines were built by Sir Frank Whittle and the Power Jets company during the Second World War. Now Atlet's very narrow aisle combination pallet stacker/order pickers and refined information technology systems are working together to provide a highly efficient pick and pack distribution service that Corgi Classics estimates is providing substantial savings compared to the previous service provider.
“We looked at a number of truck suppliers and were impressed by the technical ability at Atlet,” says Jonathan Munton, Deputy Managing Director at CS Ellis. “They analysed our proposals and used their warehouse
simulation software to demonstrate that it would work how we wanted and that the trucks they recommended had the right performance.”
CS Ellis is a family owned business, established in 1933, that operates from a number of sites close to Leicester. The company retains an extensive fleet of transport vehicles and participates in the Palletline network as well as offering a range of distribution services including pick and pack.
CS Ellis moved into the Whetstone site to add capacity to its Palletline services. At about the same time Corgi Classics were looking to outsource its distribution operations to a new service provider to reduce costs and save money in its supply chain operations. CS Ellis recognised that the adjoining section of the building could provide an ideal solution.
A number of challenges had to be overcome before the warehouse was ready. The building had been put to a number of different industrial uses in the sixty years since the jet engine had been developed there and the condition of the floor was poor. Despite this CS Ellis recognised the potential for the site and put together a detailed proposal for the re-configuration work, installation of new equipment and efficient operations that convinced Corgi Classics to award the contract.
“The implementation of the real time paperless stock management and a fully integrated transport system were important factors in the decision,” says Jonathan Munton. This was a new venture for CS Ellis and its first high bay installation, but the company has implemented an effective solution that provided benefits for its own business as well as the customer. The warehouse now has a new floor and incorporates 5,000 pallet locations on nine levels of very narrow aisle racking up to 14m high in just 32,000 square feet of floor space.
The first benefit for Corgi Classics was that there are now significantly more pallets on the same footprint compared with its previous service provider. CS Ellis added more value by proposing a highly advanced operation that incorporated a new warehouse management system and bar-coding to control pallet movements and order picking. It was able to transform the building into a modern warehousing environment in just twelve weeks, in time to take over the contract.
According to Corgi Classics the operation is providing a substantial saving in operating costs through improved efficiency and better utilisation of space.
The choice of warehouse trucks was always going to be key to the success of the operation and after an assiduous selection process CS Ellis selected two DCR Omni man-rising combination stacker/order pickers from Atlet.
This type of truck allows single item and full pallet picking to be
completed without switching trucks, which means fewer movements in the warehouse, greater utilisation of capital equipment and very little wasted time. Atlet also supplied two Presto PLP powered pallet trucks that double up as low level order pickers.
The Atlet DCR, capable of lifting up to 13.5m, can be used to handle pallets or as a conventional man-rising order picking for complete flexibility. The operator rises with the forks and load and has clear access to either side of the aisle which means items can be picked from each face at any time. The forks can be rotated through 180 degrees so that pallets can be handled to either side of the aisle without turning the truck round. Operators also have clear access to the load on the forks which can be raised and lowered independently to maintain the pallet at the most convenient height for item placement.
“Some of our staff had never used this type of truck before but they found it was very easy to learn how to operate them,” says Jonathan Munton. “Speed of pick is important to the operators.”
The DCR trucks are wire-guided in the aisles. One of the benefits of
wire-guidance often promoted by vendors is the ability to control truck performance parameters depending on the operational conditions. This is clearly demonstrated in this warehouse where two sets of magnets have been embedded beneath the new floor close to one end of each aisle. As the truck passes over the first its on-board computer automatically reduces forward speed. At the second the truck is brought to a halt to prevent it leaving the aisle with the operator area elevated and avoiding the old overhead gantry crane.
“The solution from Atlet was substantially more expensive than that proposed by some of the other companies but the overall package was better when first-class service and support were taken into account,” says Jonathan Munton.
The combination of Atlet trucks and the new IT system has reduced workloads in the warehouse compared with Corgi Classic's previous warehouse and distribution contract. The Atlet DCR is used for full pallet handling and single item pick tasks which eliminates the need for separate reach trucks, pallet stackers and order pickers. This means only two operators are required during each shift, one for each DCR, compared with at least three in the previous contract. And no time is lost switching between different types of truck for each handling or picking task. In short, it is a more efficient operation managed by fewer people.
Although Corgi Classics is still based in Leicester most of its products are now manufactured in the Far East. They arrive at the warehouse in containers and are unloaded using the Atlet Presto PLP pallet transporters. The warehouse management system controls all movements in the warehouse and instructs the DCR operators to transfer incoming pallets to vacant locations in the racking.
Orders placed by model shops, distributors and major retailers are received from Corgi Classics throughout the day. The warehouse management system consolidates deliveries, compiles picking lists and controls the overall picking operation with small items generally picked before full pallets. With the DCR, small items are retrieved easily from either face of the aisle and placed on the pallet mounted on the forks. Full pallets can also be picked from either side of the aisle without turning the truck round because the forks rotate through 180 degrees. Around 20 per cent of picks are full pallets with the remainder are single items. Orders are delivered to Corgi Classics customers using dedicated carriers and Palletline.
The DCR trucks were supplied with additional lights to help provide better illumination of items and loads being handled in and out of the racking. Spare batteries ensure trucks can be used continuously throughout the shift during busy periods with minimal disruption to pallet handling and order picking. The trucks' batteries are equipped with fork pockets, to enable them to be changed using a counterbalance truck.
“The equipment has been the critical element and the technical advice we received from Atlet has been second to none” says Gary Schofield, Commercial Director at CS Ellis.
The Whetstone operation has been so successful that it was recently awarded theprestigious “Team of the Year” by the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA)for 2005 after being nominated by Corgi Classics. In making the award, the UKWA noted that Corgi Classics had recognised that the “inspired leadership and excellent teamwork from CS Ellis ensured that the project was completed on time and to budget.”
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