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LB Foster Materials Handling provides automated solution for NHS Supply Chain NDC

LB Foster Materials Handling, has completed a twin inter floor conveyor controls system for the NHS Supply Chain National Distribution Centre (NDC) at Rugby operated by DHL.

The principal contractor for the project was T J Hall Limited, a commercial construction company based in the East Midlands. Rob Oliver is one of the company’s contracts managers, he comments, "Our remit was to complete a major refurbishment to the Rugby facility. This refit included new offices and welfare areas, external works, warehouse enhancements and a two tier mezzanine complete with storage and automated handling equipment for the NHS products.

"We selected LB Foster to supply the conveyor controls because we were totally confident that the job would be done properly. We needed a company which could ensure that the software for the conveyor system would integrate with DHL’s RedPrairie warehouse management solution.

"Having worked with LB Foster before, I was certain that they would be able to deal with the most complex part of the job, the controls. They’ve created a safe and efficient system, a solution that can be relied upon to constantly deliver the right products to the right place at the right time."

Automated inter-floor conveyor system for maximum efficiency
T J Hall Limited, with support from LB Foster, have supplied a twin-inter floor conveyor solution to transport the NHS products around the distribution centre. This compact system of lineshaft and belt conveyors utilises two main conveyors, one inbound and one outbound, combined with two vertical transfer units and incline belt conveyors servicing the mezzanine floors.

When the palletised goods arrive at the Rugby NDC they are assigned to one of three destinations: the bulk store pallet racking, the Kardex storage machines on the ground floor or the shelving situated on both the first and second floor mezzanines.

Operators working on the ground floor load the low level inbound conveyor with uniquely barcoded totes of products which have a maximum payload of 20kg. Storage destination information is taken from each tote by a barcode reader and products are automatically conveyed to their correct destination on either the ground floor or the first and second floor mezzanines.

Above the low level loading run there is a conveniently located waste conveyor. As the products are unpacked and loaded into totes, all of the empty cardboard boxes are placed directly overhead onto the conveyor. This transports them automatically into a compactor.

The outbound conveyor has been constructed above the inbound conveyor in a neat, space-saving design. Pickers on the first and second floor mezzanines load the outbound conveyor with trays of picked products, each has a maximum capacity of 30kg. If necessary, outbound trays travelling down from the second floor can be diverted to the first floor to complete the order pick.

All the trays of picked products are taken to a single despatch location on the ground floor for onward transit to NHS trusts, hospitals and other healthcare organisations.

Gary Bale, managing director of LB Foster concludes, "The ability to supply a quality conveyor solution isn’t enough to win a contract such as this one; it was won on the strength of our control systems.

"At LB Foster we have a team of experienced in-house electrical engineers. They designed and installed complex controls which integrate with DHL’s own software resulting in an effective, reliable solution."

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