In 1986 Staples invented the office superstore. Today, with sales of over $18 billion, the company is the world's leading office products business.
In Britain, Staples UK Retail operates 134 stores throughout the country; until recently these stores were supplied by two distribution centres, one located in Daventry and the other in Milton Keynes.
To reduce their overheads and increase the efficiency of the distribution operation, a decision was made for Staples to consolidate their two existing UK distribution centres which had duplicate inventories, into one larger facility – a new, 250,000 sq ft site located in Watling Park, Daventry.
The challenge for Staples was to select a company that could design, manufacture and install a storage solution for the Daventry facility quickly; a three month deadline was imposed from placement of order to contract completion. The selected supplier would also be required to interface with the Staples project management team in Boston, USA, the facilities team in the UK and the appointed conveyor manufacturer, VanDerLande.
Peter Scriven, Supply Chain Director Staples UK Retail, said, “In North America Staples operates four DCs – each around 1million sq ft servicing around 1,000 stores, so we already had an efficient base design for Daventry. Our existing US providers have pan European support so they were keen to quote for this new contract.
“Although our US procurement team had already received four very competitive bids for the UK project, two from America and two from Europe, they heard about LINPAC Storage Systems towards the end of their decision making process. However, they were sufficiently impressed, after checking out the credentials of the company and receiving their professionally presented tender, to award the contract to LINPAC – a British manufacturer located within half an hour's drive of the site.”
There are more than 5,000 SKUs in the DC, all held in an innovative storage solution that combines VNA racking with a multi-tier picking module feeding through to conveyors onto outbound.
Store orders are picked in batches, with approximately 19 stores per batch and four batches picked per day. The picking methodology is based around singles, case and pallet pick. In the VNA racking there are 20,000 pallet locations of bulk stock. These pallets are used either to replenish the multi tier pick module or are locations for picking and shipping using VNA Combi machines.
The core of the picking is done from the centrally located four level picking module. Pallets that are held within the module are picked from lanes of dynamic pallet live on the ground level. This allows a fast and efficient solution for these bulky high volume lines which are placed on a belt conveyor.
In the two central levels, reserve pallets are held on the outside of the module. These are used to replenish the 600 carton flow beds which present the medium to fast moving single units directly to the pick face. The pickers use a pick to light solution that enables orders to be sent to each work zone for fast, accurate and efficient picking.
Picked orders are placed into tote bins and then onto a fast moving central conveyor belt. A large spiral conveyor at the rear of the picking module, collects orders from the different levels and conveys them to a slat shue sorter. Here the orders are separated into one of 20 down chutes, each a dedicated trunk route.
The top level of the picking module provides room for further expansion, Peter Scriven again, “It is our intention to accelerate development and fit out the final level, providing further investment for LINPAC Storage Systems.”
Working closely with the other contractors on site, LINPAC successfully completed the fast track project and the DC became fully operational on the scheduled date.
“LINPAC was very responsive to adjustments on the ground and accommodating with the inevitable changes to timescales,” explained Scriven, “The project has been handled professionally from start to finish.
“The storage solution is integral to the benefits of improved pick accuracy, flexibility of storage and overall lower operating costs of our new distribution centre. This important facility represents a £5m investment by Staples to support the UK's sales growth over the next decade.”