Having a team of KNAPP engineers on site has proved the right decision for The Co-operative Pharmacy at its new, £16 million National Distribution Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.
"That’s not to say that we’ve had a whole host of problems," says Peter Batty, Head of Supply Chain. "In fact, the commissioning and start-up of the facility here at Meir Park has been remarkably smooth. There are always teething problems, however, and it’s been fantastic to have the KNAPP engineers on site to sort out any issues involving the automated handling system."
The purpose-built 17,000m2 (190,000 sq ft) distribution centre was opened in October 2009 to supply the pharmacy chain’s 800 branches nationwide with the fastest-moving prescription medicines and OTC (over the counter) products. All the internal logistics systems at the site were supplied by KNAPP, acting as general contractor and systems integrator. The highly automated handling solution features a miniload AS/RS, an A-frame autopicker, 3,700m of conveyor systems and robotic palletising, all controlled by KNAPP’s ‘KLASS-X’ control system.
By signing a comprehensive support contract for the DC, The Co-operative Pharmacy became the fourth KNAPP client in the UK to have a resident customer support team – joining Clarks, British Gas and John Lewis Partnership.
"The benefits of having support engineers permanently on site are clear," says Ebb Kretschmer, Head of Customer Services for KNAPP UK Ltd. "As well as the obvious advantage of fixing any problems quickly and efficiently to minimise costly downtime, there’s also the fact that on-site engineers often prevent problems from even occurring, whether by preventive maintenance or simply by proactively thinking about where potential problems could arise."
By outsourcing the maintenance and repair of its automated handling systems, The Co-operative Pharmacy is benefiting from priority support at a fixed cost, with the peace of mind that all statutory and legislative requirements are being met by fully trained technicians. The resident service team uses KNAPP’s web-based E-Support system to order spare parts required for the facility. With engineers at the Meir Park site and customer support staff in KNAPP’s Austrian headquarters using the same system, communication is excellent and errors have been virtually eradicated.
"Of course, our resident support engineers at our customer sites are able to provide a wide range of services within each contract, if required," adds Ebb Kretschmer. "As well as supporting the handling system, they can also cover building services and OEM handling equipment, as well as undertaking all kinds of preventive maintenance audits such as thermal imaging, leak detection and crane rail surveys."