LINPAC Storage Systems has recently completed one of its highest ever VNA racking solutions at the 310,000 sq m Midland Distribution Centre (MDC) of United Biscuits situated in Ashby de la Zouch.
With 18.6m high frames, pallets stored 12 high and run lengths of 100m, the imposing installation has enabled United Biscuits to store an extra 5,000 pallets in one area of its immense MDC. This was done by changing the storage technology to maximise the cube right up to roof height, making it the one of the tallest distribution centres in the UK. The top beam is at 15,500mm with the top pallet at 18,500mm
United Biscuits is a leading European manufacturer and marketer of biscuits, cakes and snacks. In the UK the company turns over £500m and is famous for its brands, which include McVitie’s, Jacob’s, KP and McCoy’s. With the increased storage capacity in the MDC, all of the products are now distributed from there.
Gradually, the company has reduced the size of the distribution network, moving from being a secondary network company to having one main hub; the MDC. To put this into perspective, 15 years ago there were a total of 14 United Biscuits distribution centres dotted all around the UK.
It became evident however, that in one area of the MDC there was a 40% loss of space capacity. The company had originally installed a typical wide aisle racking configuration with a maximum top beam height of 9.6m, yet the interior roof eaves measure 21m.
Mike Howells is the company’s Logistics Operations Controller; it is his responsibility to get the right products to the right retailers at the right time, at a standard that beats their expectations. He comments on the recent expansion, "We needed more storage capacity because United Biscuits is a growing business. Over the last five years there has been a significant uplift in sales, particularly in the snack and biscuit market. We had the challenge, as a business, to create as much space as possible within the Midland Distribution Centre by changing a section of wide aisle racking to VNA. The alternative was to meet the cost of outside storage which is an expensive overhead for 5,000 pallets, and environmentally unsound."
Howells continues, "To spend capital of this magnitude, we have to have convincing documentation from the potential partner in order to be able to do our own internal sell to our Board. LINPAC Storage Systems differentiated themselves as a company by giving us a very professional sales and design pitch as well as delivering a quality innovative solution.
"They demonstrated an understanding of the complexity of our business and the potential impact if there was a problem. We couldn’t shut down the site whilst the old racking was taken down and the new racking erected; the DC is very full and we needed to be operational to a high level throughout. LINPAC were accommodating and understanding of our needs, working to a project plan which was effective for both companies, yet remained safe for all concerned.
"It is also important to note that by looking long term with this project, we had to get a partner with whom we were comfortable to move forward. We’re not stopping here; we will continue to grow and we want to be able to use the same supplier, building on our relationship. It’s all about quality and delivery, and LINPAC ticked all the right boxes."
Once the capital expenditure was approved, Project Manager, Mike Hellier sent out an invitation to tender to seven different racking companies.
Hellier takes up the story, "There were multiple rounds of proposals as we refined the designs and costs. As the tenders came in there were some companies whose prices didn’t match the quality of their documentation and, at the other end, a number of companies who had done good work, matched by good prices; LINPAC was one of those. At this point, we narrowed the field down to three possible vendors and then carried out site visits.
"LINPAC won the project because of the additional work they were doing that the other companies weren’t: They were extremely good at providing appropriate documentation; they were also very responsive and were happy to talk things through on site which was clearly a benefit to us. Also the tendering was a very long, drawn out process and they were more than willing to work with us on it.
"Another important aspect was the project management side, and again LINPAC differentiated themselves by providing us with thorough and detailed racking schedules so that we knew exactly what was going to happen on a day by day basis. They also worked very well with the other contractors. They took a real team approach, working together to make the project happen within a very short timescale – a 10 week window starting at the beginning of the year and going live right on schedule, all done safely without incident or accident."