Dematic has installed an automated pick face replenishment system to help casual clothing retailer Lands' End handle significantly increased throughputs resulting from strong sales growth.
Having previously replenished its pick faces throughout the day at its 16,300 square metre distribution centre in Oakham in Rutland, the new system gives Land's End the efficiency to perform this function within a 3-hour window from 0630-0930, dramatically reducing the amount of tied-up labour resource.
"Dematic's proactive approach to the project's challenges resulted in a forward-looking, cost effective solution that now contributes to on-time customer fulfilment, with improved accuracy. The system will be giving us a payback on our investment in about 1.5 years, so the Internal Rate of Return IRR is about 65 per cent," says Adam Osbourne, Facilities Manager, Land's End Europe.
Part of the Sears Holding Corporation in the US, and often described as one of the UK's best-kept secrets, Land's End is known predominantly for its catalogue sales though is now driving more business through online retail to develop its multichannel offering. The retailers's significant recent growth has resulted in 300 per cent more demand on an average day during 2011's peak than it had seen previously.
The system supplied by Dematic's Product Solutions Division went live in September 2011. It allows the DC to replenish cartons to pick faces located in zones on a double deck mezzanine, with both speed and accuracy to ensure that goods arrive at the correct location. Previously, whole pallets were sent to the floors in a time-consuming replenishment process that risked product not being in the correct location for picking.
"Our existing replenishment from reserve to active was outdated and inefficient," says Osbourne, "So we looked at an automated solution primarily to gain efficiencies but also to cope with future demands."
The key to the new Dematic system, which comprises 180 metres of conveyor, is a continuous elevator with a 1.5 x 1.8 metre footprint. It transports the cartons at high throughputs of up to 600 cartons / hour to the relevant floor, essentially acting as a sorter.
Pick Face replenishment now begins with an operative decanting pallets of stock into cartons at ground level. The cartons are placed on an adjacent conveyor, which takes them to the continuous elevator.
Before entering the elevator, the carton's label is scanned so that the system can determine which floor to route it to. Once on the relevant floor the carton travels along a conveyor to one of 3 pick zones.
Dematic's system handles the complexities involved in delivering multiple sizes of cartons (from small 300 x 300 mm units up to 700 x 800 mm cartons) to 3 floors.
"Using a lift to get from the ground floor to the first floor of the mezzanine is simple but when you start adding multiple floors, high throughputs and different sized cartons you need to pay more consideration to the controls," says Mark Pain, Sales Project Manager, of Dematic's Product Solutions Division. "First, we had to ensure that the lift could cater for the different sizes of cartons used by Land's End. Then, being a
continuous elevator, a device is required to drop the cartons onto a carrier that feeds into the pick zone on the floor. That carrier has to move out of the way if the next carton is not required for that floor."
Dematic interfaced the controls with Land's End's Warehouse Management System (WMS), which
happens to be located in the US. "When the carton is scanned, the signal is actually sent back to the WMS at Land's End's headquarters in Wisconsin, which determines the carton's destination," says Pain.
Dematic won the contract for this project in a competitive tender by offering a competitive price backed up by the company's reputation as a supplier of innovative solutions, as Mark Pain explains: "Because our design employed a continuous elevator when competitive tenders featured inclined conveyors, it was by far the most compact solution."
Installation had to be carried out within a tight window of 20 weeks and on a fully working site, without
disrupting existing operations. This included installing the 60 metre long conveyors that feed the floors, for which Dematic used existing racking as a support structure. "Effectively, we threaded the conveyor through the existing racking, which was quite tight," says Pain. "But now it looks like they've always been there."
Dematic completed the project successfully, without any fall in Land's End's service levels.
Adam Osbourne concluded: "Dematic's solution was competitive but more importantly, Dematic had well understood what we were trying to achieve and provided the best solution compared to the other bidders. They listened more to our needs and thoroughly investigated them, which has resulted in a high quality, flexible and scaleable system that allows for future growth."