Founded in 1989, NVS is now the largest veterinary wholesaler in the UK, with over 460 employees and a market share in excess of 40 per cent.
The company offers 18,000 product lines ; everything that vets use on a day to day basis from washing up liquid and cans of soft drink through to flea powder, pharmaceuticals and controlled drugs. NVS delivers daily to around 1950 vets’ practices throughout the UK.
An efficient warehousing, logistics and trunking operation is at the heart of NVS’s success and the company’s UK supply chain model is based on a National Distribution Centre (NDC) near Stoke on Trent which feeds nine smaller hubs strategically located from Larkhall to Tiverton.
The materials handling and storage operation at the Stoke on Trent NDC recently underwent a major restructuring process which has resulted in significant improvements in picking efficiency and productivity, as well as a reduction in manpower.
"With the growth of the business we needed to look at capacities within the warehousing operation. We recognized the bulk warehouse as an area that could be improved from an efficiency perspective. Jungheinrich helped us to develop and implement a plan to achieve this" says Danny Roberts, NVS’s Logistics Manager.
Danny took up his current role with NVS over two years ago and joined the company at a time when available storage space at the Stoke on Trent NDC was dwindling rapidly and plans to source additional space to cope with the overflow were being reviewed.
"When I joined the business it soon became obvious to me that we were not making maximum use of our existing asset," says Danny.
For instance, Danny found that the pallet racking within the company’s bulk store, where full pallet loads of larger items and slower moving lines are held, featured bays of an identical height and width. This weak design resulted in a lot of wasted space and severely restricted the number of picking locations available at ground and first tier levels.
Furthermore, orders were being picked by staff directly into roll cages which they manually pulled from one picking location to the next. Following some investigation and analysis, the results showed that during a typical shift, a worker employed to pick orders in the bulk store could walk eight kilometres and might have to pull a load weighing anything up to 500 kg.
With help from Jungheinrich UK Ltd’s Systems & Projects Division, Danny undertook an extensive stock profiling process before reengineering the existing racking to offer different beam heights throughout the store based on the dimensions of the palletized loads stored. An additional 200 pallet locations were created this way.
Picking efficiency was further increased with the introduction of Jungheinrich high and low level order pickers.
The low level order pickers have reduced the need for manual handling and have resulted in faster throughput. In some cases, staff are now picking up to 33% quicker than they were using the manual system.
The introduction of the low level order pickers has also coincided with a dramatic reduction in absenteeism at the site. "Our staff’s work has become significantly less physically demanding and sickness has dropped notably as a result," says Danny
Jungheinrich supplied NVS with a fleet of 12 EKS 110 medium level order pickers.
The EKS 110 is an ideal truck for stock-picking between the first and third levels. The platform and load section can be raised up to a height of 1000 mm which allows for picking up to a height of 2800 mm.
In addition to the low level units, Jungheinrich supplied NVS with two high level EKS 210 order pickers. The high level order pickers have taken over from reach trucks in the NVS bulk store and their introduction has brought further throughput efficiencies to the picking process.
Before the arrival of the high level pickers, NVS had used reach trucks to drop pallets from the upper levels of the racking to allow slow moving lines to be picked. Now, orders are picked straight from the pallet, removing the time consuming need to drop the pallet and replace it every time a pick has to be made.
Manufactured at Jungheinrich’s Moosburg plant, the EKS is quick, compact and highly manoeuverable. It’s chassis is just 900mm wide and less than 2.7 metres long and the truck has a top speed of 9 kilometres per hour and a turning radius of just 1,550mm. With a capacity of 1,000kg, it is capable of lifting to lift heights of up to 6 metres. The EKS 210 is designed for safe use in wide aisles where more than one truck might be operating.
Both the high and medium level trucks feature 4th generation, three phase AC technology which ensures the highest performance, efficient energy consumption and high levels of reliability. All motors – drive, lifting and steering – are AC. This means that there are fewer wearing parts which makes the trucks exceptionally service-friendly with less downtime and lower running costs as a result.
NVS currently offers next day delivery for all orders received before 7pm.
The morning shift at the Stoke on Trent NDC focuses on the goods-in process and it is at this time that the picking locations are replenished, both within the bulk store and throughout the company’s small parts pick facility.
The small parts picking warehouse is split over two levels with a mezzanine providing valuable extra space. A conveyor system links the upper and lower levels of the small parts store and each client order is picked directly into totes that travel around the system
Picking is done by the afternoon/evening shift. The main core of full time workers is augmented by part time staff who arrive to help cope with the daily peak in incoming orders as the 7pm deadline approaches.
Orders are assembled in a marshaling area before being loaded into one of NVS’s own fleet of trailers and delivered to one of the company’s nine regional distribution hubs.
On arrival at the regional hubs, trailers are emptied and customer orders are loaded into transit vehicles, also owned by NVS, which deliver them to their final destination. Each vehicle is allocated a route with, typically, 20 drops.
On average some 34,000 lines are picked and dispatched from NVS’s Stoke on Trent NDC each day, but at peak times, this figure can reach in excess of 55,000 lines.
Steve Richmond, director of Jungheinrich UK Ltd’s Systems & Project Division, comments: "The overhaul of the bulk store at Stoke on Trent has played a key role in helping NVS drive greater efficiencies through its supply chain. By maximizing the pallet capacity of the facility and introducing a more sophisticated approach to materials handling throughout the unit, NVS has avoided the need to acquire extra storage capacity, improved the productivity of its staff, made their working routine less physically demanding and increased picking efficiency."
NVS estimates that its payback on the investment in new trucks and reconfigured pallet racking will be less than three years.