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BITO Storage Systems transformes warehouse order picking for Spirax Sarco

A BITO Storage Systems solution has transformed storage and order picking operations at Cheltenham-based Spirax Sarco, a global leader in the manufacture and supply of components for industrial steam systems.

Serving worldwide markets in the pharmaceutical, brewery, food processing, and oil/petro-chemicals sectors, as well as institutions such as hospitals, Spirax Sarco’s product range covers the entire steam and condensate loop, from blow down valves and steam trap stations, to bespoke packaged systems and sustainable boiler houses. Providing a one-stop-shop ensures its vast range of products will integrate seamlessly, spares are readily available and servicing is straightforward.

Every product Spirax Sarco ships around the world is now picked from a storage and order picking system from BITO Storage Solutions, which also offers a one stop shop. Based on BITO’s galvanised racking, the system features pallet rack bulk storage for large parts, 800 x 600 mm XL plastic Euro containers on meshed shelving for medium parts and a carton live system for small parts. The system has been designed to maximise flexibility, health and safety, the number of pick faces, speed of put away and picking and also to use space effectively. Its modularity allows Spirax Sarco to adapt to future inventory requirements.

Business is booming at Spirax Sarco and the company is embarking on a steep growth programme. It is also consolidating two of its manufacturing sites in Cheltenham into its third, main site at Runnings Road, which is currently being refurbished.

To make way for the refurbishment work Spirax’s Sarco Global Distribution operations moved to a warehouse just down the road, giving Spirax Sarco a chance to establish and test a new and far more efficient order picking system, which will play a critical role in the growth programme. Within the next three years, the operation will return to the consolidated centre.

The previous warehouse used a combination of carousels, silos and a 15 year old mobile racking system. This offered no stock visibility, no FIFO storage and relied upon random stock locations and picks. With some 3000 product lines and the multitude of components in an array of sizes weighing anything from a few grams or a tonne, Spirax Sarco required a system that would improve pick efficiency, accuracy and flexibility.

Thanks to BITO’s complete range of storage equipment, which can be seen in its showroom and test facility at BITO’s Nuneaton head office, Spirax Sarco received a seamlessly integrated solution and a single point of contact from the design and manufacture through to the installation and support.

"We went to BITO’s showroom to see how the carton live system works," says Dave Chamberlain, Logistics Manager at Spirax Sarco. "We then set up a sample system in the old warehouse to run the ergonomics of the carton live, which proved very successful. We paid particular attention to ergonomics because with our old silos the pickers couldn’t see the stock. Now, however, they can see products clearly and pick out of the carton quite easily."

Dave continues: "Having a supplier that could provide both racking and containers was absolutely critical. I didn’t want to go to different manufacturers to say the carton live system isn’t working because the bins aren’t right."

BITO’s solution allows Spirax Sarco to complete three tasks simultaneously: put away, pick and cycle count.

Finished products coming off the manufacturing line are stored in the right size container or carton – all based on the Euro-footprint, to be fed straight onto the order picking system without the need to decant, thus eliminating double handling.

Small Parts are stored in the carton live storage system, which has two pick faces either side of the picking aisle with four beds of flow shelves on one side and five beds on the other. The flow lanes are replenished with cartons from the aisles behind, separating pickers from lift trucks.

Dave comments: "A key advantage with the new BITO carton live system is that we have gone from random to fixed locations and adopted the FIFO principle. Now, there’s always an additional box of products behind the carton at the pick face and the density of storage provided by carton live allows our diverse product range to be located within the picking aisle."

Medium sized products are held mostly in BITO’s Euro footprint 800 x 600 mm XL plastic containers – another key component of the scheme. This new BITO product is being employed at Spirax Sarco to its prime advantage. Spirax Sarco previously used a four-legged stillage, which had the same footprint but was heavy, awkward to handle and required a specialised racking system.

The XL containers are stored on racks with seven levels of meshed shelves either side of an aisle accessed by a man-up order picker. BITO placed the container’s pick front opening and fork entry runners on its short side so four containers would fit in each bay, thus increasing capacity by 30 per cent compared to having the broad side on the pick face.

The standardised Euro footprint throughout the facility, means that the shelves can also hold smaller boxes, with 600 x 400 and 400 x 300 mm foot prints, or full Euro pallets without wasting space, thus offering Spirax Sarco greater storage versatility.

Spirax Sarco’s bulk storage and larger products are stored on Euro pallets in the racking. Here again, versatility is offered as containers can replace pallets if required for picking using the man-up order picker.

Order picking in the warehouse starts with the Warehouse Management System issuing pick notes allowing a picker to go to the location, pick the item and then either muster it for consolidated order or send it for shipment that day. Large items are picked from pallets using man-up order pickers, which also access the aisle housing the 800 x 600 mm containers holding medium size products.

To pick small products at the carton live pick face, the picker pushes a tote down a gravity conveyor in front of the pick face to the required location. Once the pick is completed the tote is pushed onto a powered conveyor running behind the gravity unit, which takes the tote to the dispatch area. BITO installed the conveyors as an integral part of the carton live system and they reduce the amount of walking Spirax Sarco’s pickers do a day. The picking totes are BITO’s MB plastic containers in two sizes: 600 x 400 and 400 x 300 mm. They stack and nest to allow six bins to occupy the space of one.

With the new system Spirax Sarco is currently picking 40 per cent more than it did on average previously. "That not only shows the business is there but it also demonstrates that we can now pick it efficiently." Says Dave. "In our old system it took 20 minutes to pick 7 lines; with carton live it now only takes 2 minutes."

Dave adds that Spirax Sarco is investing this time saving to further improve quality control. "We want to ensure that when items leave us they are in the best condition, they have been accurately picked, they are well packed and the customer gets exactly what he wants on the day he wants it. If the maintenance worker opens the delivery box and finds the wrong size part, it could result in shutting down an oil refinery for a day. So it’s critical we get picks right."

Spirax Sarco went fully live with the facility on 1 February 2010, right on schedule and only five weeks from the previous owner being insitu. Not one order was affected during the process.

Dave concludes: "BITO delivered a system on time and accurately down to the last nut and bolt. The project was well managed and well supported resulting in BITO now designing our new warehouse and component store in our refurbished building."

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