Leading materials handling specialist Exmac Automation is helping Asda change the way it picks online grocery orders at its new "Home Shopping Centre" in Morley, near Leeds, which now delivers to households previously covered by Asda stores in Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield.
The Home Shopping Centre uses an Exmac belt and roller conveyor system to transfer merchandise from a mezzanine floor to a despatch point on the ground floor, enabling online orders to be picked and processed; and shopping baskets compiled. The 50,000 sq ft centre, which carries the full range of products but is closed to the public, is dedicated to Asda’s fast growing online shopping business and is expected to complete twice as many orders per hour and give customers a fourfold increase in the number of delivery slots.
Merchandise stocked in the centre is picked for online shoppers by 500 Asda colleagues and placed in totes ready for delivery. Totes from the mezzanine area, which forms the upper floor of the facility, are deposited manually on shelves located either side of two Exmac conveyor systems. Each system consists of 45 metres of conveyor modules featuring a combination of horizontal and inclined belt conveyors, roller conveyors and powered bends.
Totes are pushed manually from the shelves into available spaces on the moving belt, which carries them via a powered roller curve to the feed section of two 21 degree inclined belt conveyors. These move the totes to another powered roller curve and onwards to a second inclined belt conveyor, which transfers them to the ground floor. At ground level the totes transfer to a series of indexing roller conveyors for transportation to the off-loading point.
The PLC-controlled indexing conveyors are fitted with sensors and integral drive motors that not only control the normal conveyor functions but also prevent the build up of totes if they are not removed during the cycle.
The conveyor systems are designed to handle a tote every 2.5 seconds and are equipped with a touch-panel HMI (Human/Machine Interface) that holds diagnostic and trouble-shooting information, and enables colleagues to use manual mode if required.
When picking in-store, Asda achieved about 120 orders per hour. At the new centre, colleagues are achieving close to 250 orders per hour, making it possibly the most efficient home shopping facility in the country. When orders were carried out in stores, there were 3,500 delivery slots per week using twenty vans. The centre can now carry out 12,000 – 15,000 slots per week with 50 vans.
Commenting on the installation, an Asda spokesman says: "The Exmac conveyor system plays an important role in maintaining the efficiency of our first Home Shopping Centre and will help us increase the reach of our home shopping business, which currently is able to deliver to 94% of the UK."
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