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CI Logistics installs garment handling and storage system for 4 million units at Clipper

CI Logistics has designed, manufactured and installed a garment handling and storage system with the capacity to store up to four million units at Clipper’s new deconsolidation centre at Wynyard Park near Teesport.

Clipper’s supercentre is built on 22 acres with a footprint of 350,000 sq ft. In addition it boasts three vast internal mezzanines, each 165,000 sq ft.

The company’s first customer for the centre is Asda, with a 10 year contract for its George clothing brand. Previously the George garments were held in two separate Clipper facilities, one in Leeds and one in Darlington. Both of these sites had reached the limit of their capacity, so hence the new facility.

The CI Logistics storage and handling system, which occupies half of the new facility, has been designed to process up to three million George garments per week. The fit out contract provides 43,000m of overhead monorail transportation, 4,000 overhead rail trolleys, 1500m of long distance trolley conveyors, ten full length goods on hangers (GOH) trolley boom conveyors, two tower conveyors, traversing extendable carton boom conveyors, pallet racking, pallet and carton live storage, a steam tunnel and bagging machines.

Selecting a bespoke solution for smooth stock flow
Phil Houghton is the Business Implementation Manager for Clipper, he has been overseeing this important project. He explains why Clipper chose CI Logistics for the prestigious garment processing and storage contract, "Having worked in the conveying and automation environment for around 25 years I was already well aware of CI Logistics. As a matter of course we included them in our initial tender which was sent out to eight companies.

The tender process was particularly protracted because we were considering several site locations close to Teesport that had all of the relevant location attributes we needed. We were looking at a number of developments; each had their own positives and negatives. This meant that we were looking at possible solutions for a number of potential sites and our plans were constantly fluctuating from one development to another.

"As a result it took 18 months from initial tender to contract signing and during that time we had superb support from CI Logistics. One of the main reasons they were selected was the exceptional level of response they gave us during the long tender process."

Houghton continues, "Another key element in making our choice was their input into the design of the garment system. The CI Logistics team is experienced in this type of installation and they were willing to share their skill, knowledge and expertise with us to provide a purpose built solution to meet both our current and future needs."

Optimising the flow of garments to increase productivity
Product sourced from around the world is received into the ground floor of the Wynyard facility to be processed ready for onward transportation to Asda’s three regional distribution centres (RDCs) in Washington, Lymedale and Northampton. Up to 70% of these garments are processed on the ground floor and sent out again either the same or next day to one of the RDCs in an ultra-efficient, cross docking operation.

Both hanging and flat packed garments arrive by container and are quickly and efficiently unloaded with CI Logistics manufactured offloading booms. For the inbound area there are five semi-automatic GOH booms and two telescopic boom conveyors for cartons. Lighting on the end of the booms creates a safe working environment within the confines of the containers.

Hanging garments are placed onto the overhead monorail in sets on Tectrac® trolleys. There are over 4,000 of these trolleys in the system. To save manual movement of empty trolleys between the inbound and outbound areas, a continuously moving conveyor for empty trolleys moves in a loop around the outside edge of the ground floor.

Boxed goods are palletised and placed on gravity roller conveyors ready to be processed through the system. CI Logistics has installed both carton live and pallet live gravity conveyors to handle boxed garments on the ground floor. All consumables used in the value added services area are stored in standard pallet racking which has also been supplied by CI Logistics.

Product enhancement takes place at specially constructed packing benches where experienced pre-retail operators unpack boxes, check garments, price, add care labels and place on hangers. Used cardboard boxes are placed on an overhead dunnage conveyor which takes the cardboard out of the building straight to a compactor.

In the processing area a manual slick rail system is used which is set at a lower height locally to make it easier to work with and overbag the garments. From the enhancement area the garments can be routed by conveyor to a five chamber steam tunnel and then onward to one of the automatic bagging machines, or directly to individual trolley transfer stations allowing the operators to unhook the garments from the slick rail system onto a trolley.

These processed garments are merged with the GOH product in one of
five goods out holding areas, with each area designated as serving one of Asda’s national regional distribution centres. Each outbound loading bay is equipped with a GOH trolley boom.

Hanging storage for one million garments on each mezzanine
Once processed around 70% of the garments are cross docked on the ground floor and the remaining 30% are taken up to the mezzanine storage levels. These garments are automatically transported by the trolleys on the powered System 31 overhead monorail system up one of the two tower conveyors to either the first or second floor mezzanines.

Both of these mezzanines have been completely fitted out with a two tier GOH Hook-in® racking system capable of storing over a million garments on each floor, with every racking aisle serviced by CI’s Tectrac® manual overhead trolley rail system. The third mezzanine is empty at present in readiness for future expansion – it too is accessed by the tower conveyors.

As the garments arrive on the upper floors they can be put into holding lanes or taken directly to the required storage location. The faster moving stock will be placed nearest the tower conveyor – the slowest moving towards the outer edges.

Once garments are picked, a pre sort is carried out into one of five areas of trolley holding lanes representing RDC orders in product type, size and colour to await call off from the ‘goods out’ teams. To save walking time on the huge mezzanine floor, CI Logistics has installed a constantly moving System 31 conveyor around the perimeter of both mezzanines. This feeds picked stock back to the central area in readiness for the pre sort, and eventual transfer down into outbound stock on the ground floor.

Future proofed to 2020
Installation of the garment system took an 18 man team almost four months to complete. "CI Logistics was working to a tight deadline," Phil Houghton comments, "there were interdependencies between contractors and this was managed very well.

"CI Logistics completed on time in spite of the fact that they were also removing existing equipment from a previous site, decommissioning it and recommissioning it again for this site, all during the live operation. They were proactive throughout the whole project, always doing more than just responding to our requests.

"We are now enjoying the benefit of processing all of the George clothing under one roof for the first time. This saves significant road miles on moving containers and increases the efficiency of the entire operation. The new facility is future proofed with the capability and capacity for anticipated growth, up to 2020."

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