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Dematic install small parts picking system for Halfords distribution center

Halfords’ 320,000 sq ft Coventry DC operates an innovative small parts picking system, designed and installed by Dematic, which combines conveyors, a combination of picking technologies and an automated buffer that consolidates picked totes into store orders. The system is helping the UK’s leading retailer of automotive, leisure and cycling products, to send out up to 200,000 items a day in a highly efficient order fulfilment operation.

To achieve highly efficient store order fulfilment Halfords’ recently consolidated two DCs into a single new Distribution Centre in Coventry, which now holds all of the retailer’s range other then bicycles and serves Halfords’ entire network of 470 stores across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

This means ultra high throughputs are required from the new DC. The key to achieving this would be to create a small parts store for picking 10,000 Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) of small products quickly and accurately into order totes and then consolidating them for delivery to the stores.

Working together with Halfords, Dematic designed a solution that located a small parts picking centre on a double deck mezzanine. Running along the entire 165 metre length of the DC over the loading bay doors, the structure facilitates marshalling below yet provides 70,000 sq ft of picking area in what would normally be unused space over the marshalling areas, allowing Halfords to truly optimise the warehouse cube.

"The design, planning and implementation of the small parts picking system went very well and we developed a good working relationship with Dematic. We asked them to take our numbers and come back with a design that would give the results we were looking for. After working together on the scheme this is the solution you see here," said Mark Shirley, Logistics Controller

Dematic’s cost efficient and highly productive small parts picking solution comprises a conveyor-based system with pick-to-light and pick-by-voice technology. On the mezzanine’s first level, 3,600 SKUs of faster moving small parts are picked from live storage lanes using fast and accurate pick-to-light technology. The simplicity of this system allows 300 lines per hour to be picked.

The upper level of the small parts store houses Halford’s 6,000 slower moving SKUs, which are located in bins on inclined shelves for ergonomic picking.

Voice picking technology allows 200 lines per hour of these products to be picked at a much lower capital cost than pick-to-light. This high rate is helped by concentrating picks into smaller areas so that each tote only travels to one or two zones for it to be filled up and travel distances for staff, who have their hands free, are reduced, thus giving a very efficient pick.

As Vocollect reseller for the project, Dematic supplied a total of 60 voice terminals for the Coventry DC. Twenty of these are used in the pick-to-voice system while the remaining units are used for other operations within the facility, such as bulk picking, bulk put away and decanting. These are all controlled by Manhattan Associates’ WMS, which also feeds orders to Dematic’s DC Director WCS. This Warehouse Control System looks after stock profiling and integrates the pick-to-light and voice technologies seamlessly to achieve the most efficient pick possible.

Completed order totes are sent to the Dematic Multishuttle Captive Buffer, which is designed to dramatically increase speed, accuracy and throughput. The automated system’s intelligent controls enable complex sequencing that contributes to its flexibility and allows Halfords to build store friendly orders, calling out whole or part store orders as required. The Multishuttle® can even ensure that the heaviest tote is at the bottom of the stack when they get to a Halford’s store.

Dematic’s small parts picking scheme helps achieve the high throughputs required at the Coventry DC while improved tote fill has halved the number of totes each store receives in a delivery to 30.

The simplicity of pick-to-light not only ensures fast and accurate picking but means new pickers can achieve good pick speeds after just an hour’s tutorial. Voice picking gives accuracy and speed benefits for slower moving products at a lower cost.

Multishuttle maintains higher throughput and gives greater flexibility for order consolidation than can be achieved with sortation systems that require lanes of conveyors, which places constraints on operations.

The entire small parts picking scheme is future proofed with room for another double deck mezzanine along the side of the DC, which could be linked into the current system thanks’ to the Multishuttle®’s modular design, which allows more lanes to be added, without any change to the flow of Halford’s operation.

Key benefits:
Pick to light offers high throughput and accuracy

Improved carton fill halves number of cases to stores

Simplicity of pick to light means pickers can achieve good pick speeds after just an hour’s tutorial

Accuracy and speed benefits with voice

Flexibility to consolodate orders; whole or part store orders as required

optimum use of otherwise dead space over loading docks

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