Logistex has recently carried out an extensive £0.5m programme to upgrade scanning and picking technologies in B&Q’s 880,000 ft² NDC in Worksop. The vehicle mounted terminals and wearable scanners originally supplied to improve order preparation were nearing the end of their operational lives and have been replaced by up-to-date equipment and software to help B&Q handle steadily increasing demand. Carried out over several months, the programme was planned to introduce the new systems and equipment smoothly and without disrupting daily deliveries and shipments.
With a storage and materials handling system originally installed and maintained by Logistex since its opening in 2006, the centre supplies a diverse range of gardening and DIY products to 330 B&Q stores across the country. The new facility was designed to meet growing demand, with the challenge of providing flexible and adaptable storage and handling for some 17,000 lines ranging from screws and nails to paints and power saws. Goods arrive from around the globe, with orders often needing to be split from shipment packaging to place in suitable storage locations then picked for onward shipment.
From the beginning Worksop operated a sophisticated RF picking system to manage the picking system for up to 1.5m cases each week. The system’s reliability is crucial to ensure that the centre operates efficiently so that its stores are fully stocked and able to meet customers’ requirements.
Both the existing Motorola wearable scanners and vehicle mounted terminals have been in operation since the facility opened and were nearing the end of their useful operational life. The 98 new wearable scanners for use in the low bay pick zone are equipped with colour touch displays, keyboards and Bluetooth finger scanners.
Vehicle mounted picking terminals are equipped with a 10.5” colour touch screen, integrated keyboard and associated hardware.
Picking operations are based on item size and frequency of picking between pick from pallet and pick from tote. Pick from pallet products are held in the high bay store with a local reserve stock as well as larger, individual pallet based products.
The replacement models recommended by Logistex are the natural successors of the previous designs, helping to smooth the roll-out of new technology, while providing improved performance and reliability. In addition the WMS and other software systems operated by DHL on behalf of B&Q in the warehouse needed to be updated to integrate the new equipment.
Throughout the project, Logistex worked closely with Zetes who supplied the original RF equipment, advice and support, continuing the long-term strategic relationship both companies enjoy with B&Q. Zetes automatic identification solutions link the physical and digital worlds and provide customers with improved visibility on the movement of goods and people. In turn this means more informed decision making, streamlined processes and automated, mobile workflows across a collaborative supply chain.
To optimise worker productivity at B&Q, Zetes and Logistex proposed a combination of wearable devices, picking trolleys equipped with mounted terminals and cordless Bluetooth scanners.
In addition to providing hardware, Zetes is providing full hardware support, through a dedicated helpdesk and repair commissioning with a Service Delivery Manager whose remit is to ensure B&Q is getting the maximum level of utilisation from its investment in mobile hardware.
Everything about the site is on a grand scale as befits one of the UK’s largest distribution centres. The 22m high, high bay store serviced by 15 Logistex VNA cranes provides over 95,000 pallet locations in double-deep racking. The low bay zone comprises 5,773 pick faces and holds a further 27,346 bulk storage locations. Six Logistex miniload cranes operate from 9,035 pick faces and 51,000 tote storage locations, served by 45 pick trolleys with RF technology. The system can take in 360 pallets per hour, with 1,300m of conveyor feeding goods into store. Order collection Commissioners with 1,284 locations can handle 475 totes in and out each hour.
With a holistic balance of manual and automated technologies, efficient pick by light trolley picking and automatic triggering of picking replenishment, Logistex’s original design concept has proved successful in enabling B&Q to grow its business during turbulent times and in a fiercely competitive field.
Logistex maintains a team of 27 staff on-site, responsible for the maintenance and service of around 167 different pieces of materials handling equipment on site.
Andy Garrett, Business Solutions Manager (UK) for B&Q commented: “The Worksop site recently went through a major upgrade to all their RF devices. Logistex project managed the changes during live operation of over 500 users without any adverse effect to service. The site now reports both an increase in reliability and a more user-friendly experience which has in turn helped boost morale amongst the team. A project that was also delivered on-time and to budget – an excellent result”.