When Stow UK won the tender to supply the racking for Hozelock's distribution centre they knew they were taking on a complex project with a short time frame. Little did the racking specialist know that due to unforeseen circumstances the pressure was going to be turned up to a whole new level further down the line
Hozelock logistics director, Terry Bennett's primary reason for wishing to modify his existing warehouse and for building an extension to this facility was because of the amount of stock that the garden product manufacturer was being forced to store outside of its main distribution centre (DC) in Sutton Coldfield. Because of the success of the business and its seasonal nature there were at times up to 12 000 pallets being stored away from the main DC. This off-site storage was causing great logistical problems and complicated stock visibility as well as increasing the costs to Hozelock.
The storage at Hozelock's DC is an interesting mix of two bays of push-back racking and very narrow aisle (VNA) feeding into wide aisle storage. This unusual mix needed to be mirrored in the new extension to the warehouse but with the addition to both the existing DC and the new facility of one pallet in the height. This extra height required Stow UK to install a rail in front of the rack at the six pallet level.
On the manufacturing side Hozelock has an injection moulding facility in Aylesbury where much of the componentry comes from while the factory in Sutton Coldfield is connected to the DC via a 45m long link conveyor, which at its peak can bring 800 pallets from the factory per day. With the demand for outstore fluctuating between 12 000 and zero pallets there was the permanent shuttling of pallets back and forth between the main warehouse and the outstores. This says Terry “Created a great deal of complexity which we wanted to take out of the business.”
The project was not quite as straight forward as it might at first appear. “Because of the extra pallet height plus the sprinklers, which due to insurance requirements had to be installed at every level in the new extension, it was not just a case of giving the customer more of what they had previously” says Kevin Mallinson, UK sales manager of Stow UK. With its extensive product range and access to sophisticated, well-manufactured products Stow UK was able to provide a solution that fitted with Hozelock's requirements, a fact that demonstrates its design and engineering capabilities.
As has been said the time scale for the initial project was relatively short, not impossible but definitely a difficult task. This short time scale became a punitive one however, when Hozelock's outside storage partner sold the building that both businesses had been using which meant that the Sutton Coldfield site had to start taking pallets by the end of November 2005 rather than the envisaged early 2006 date. As Terry Bennett says “Because of this we had to pull forward the building and the system implementation by four weeks.”
Hozelock's problems was solved through a partnership situation between its contractors, such as Stow, and the company itself. In order to meet the new time scale it was decided to complete the project with an overlap between its fit out and the actual building. As the building was completed Stow began to fit it out in sections, beginning with the push back racking followed by the wide aisle and lastly the VNA section. Terry's inclination that Stow UK would respond to difficult circumstances with flexability turned out to be correct as the company re-structured its installation schedule and was able to take part delivery of the racking to be installed in a timed manner.
Having moved the project forward by a month Terry Bennett's team at Hozelock eventually took possession in late December. With no plans to expand the storage facility in the future Terry is becoming accustomed to his new system but would, if it was needed, have no hesitation in working with Stow UK in the future. “We wouldn't have been able to pull the four weeks out without their co-operation” says Terry “We just knew that Stow would work hard for us, we were important to them.”
Under the guidance of managing director Tony Lock the company has surged forwards and vastly improved its market share in the last two years. A good deal of this success can be attributed to the company's access to high tech manufacturing facilities. Most of the products supplied by Stow UK are made at the group's manufacturing facility in Dottignies, Belgium.
Kevin Mallinson, Stow UK, Marston Gate, South Marston Industrial Estate, Swindon. SN3 4TQ