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As one of the UKs largest paint manufacturers, SigmaKalon UK makes more than 800,000 individual picks per week (41 million per annum) from 6,500 SKUs at its National Distribution Centre in Birstall, East Yorkshire. With such a huge number of orders being handled in the warehouse, the company needs to ensure its picking processes are fast, accurate and visible at all times. This has been achieved with the help of Psion Teklogix, which has supplied 180 of its latest 7535 handheld terminals, integrated with SigmaKalons own picking and warehouse management software.

SigmaKalon is one of Europes premier manufacturers and suppliers of decorative and protective coatings. At its operations in the UK, it specialises in decorative paint and woodcare products, wallcoverings and a range of decorative sundries. It supplies products to both the professional and DIY markets with a network of 170 Johnstones Leyland Decorating Centres. It also supplies private label products to national DIY retailers as well its own branded range of Johnstones and Leyland paints. All manufactured and bought-in finished goods are stored in the 32,000 sqm (350,000sqft) National Distribution Centre (NDC) at Birstall, which has a capacity that holds the equivalent of four weeks paint sales for the whole of the UK. Orders are loaded via one the NDCs 50 loading bays directly onto one of its dedicated fleet of over 65 vehicles. Typically, the fleet makes more than 3,000 drops each week to retail customers, wholesalers, Trade and SigmaKalons own Decorative Centre branches.

Steve Jackson is SigmaKalon UK & Irelands Logistics Controller and he explains the companys ordering and fulfilment processes, We receive more than 4,500 orders every week, either via EDI (electronic data interchange), the internet, our intranet or by phone. Customers have varying delivery commitments from us, so the process of fulfilling each order accurately and in a timely manner is of paramount importance. Prior to our current picking system, these orders would be printed out and sent to the warehouse. Pickers would then take the printed order and collect the goods using a scanning device to confirm when the pick was complete. With this method, any stock inaccuracies could only be updated manually when the pick was complete, which was an inefficient use of time and labour. This system did not give us a real-time view of stock availability or up-to-date order status. In addition, it generated an unacceptable number of picking errors because there was no capability to confirm that each pick had been correctly made.

SigmaKalon decided to invest in improved technology in order to drive much greater efficiencies for its picking processes. We looked at the solution offerings from all the leading handheld data terminals suppliers and carried out an exhaustive review. This included trialling each device in the warehouse and gaining feedback from the operators themselves. After this review, we selected the new 7535 terminals from Psion Teklogix, which was the number one choice of both operators and management for a number of reasons. From a management perspective, we were very impressed with the companys support and back-up services provided by its pioneering TekNet service, which gave us the confidence that the system would be up and running as much as possible.

SigmaKalons warehouse staff put a number of handheld devices through their paces in their quest to find the best solution. Peter Atack, SigmaKalons Team Leader Projects, explains why the Psion Teklogix 7535 came out on top with the pickers. The screen is big and it is bright, which the pickers really liked. It doesnt suffer from glare even directly under the lights and the background and font colours do not clash, which makes it very easy to read. The keys are big and colour coded and the pickers think they are perfect because they are truly fit for purpose. They provide ample space between them for even the biggest finger we could find. The pickers all thought this was how a handheld keyboard should be laid out.

Implementation of the system was fast and straightforward. As well as 180 Psion Teklogix 7535 terminals, SigmaKalon installed a Cisco network backbone to handle the integration between the terminals and the picking software. Psion Teklogix worked very closely with us to ensure implementation was as fast and as smooth as possible, and the complete system was delivered on time earlier this year, says Steve Jackson.

He continues, Orders are now transmitted directly to the 7535 terminals, which informs the pickers what they need to get and directs them to where to get it. It allows the pickers the freedom to re-arrange the order of the pick in order to ensure that pallets are built up as safely as possible, but at all times it ensures that the actual picks are complete and accurate. A copy of the order is also transmitted to the transport people and load planners to ensure that pallets that arrive at the delivery areas are in the right location and have the correct items on them.

SigmaKalon immediately saw significant benefits from the system. Steve explains, With the Psion Teklogix terminals, we have increased our picking accuracy to more than 99.5%, which ensures we have a true real-time view of stock availability and order status at all times. This creates an almost immeasurable benefit due to improved customer service. One of our biggest customers no longer even checks our incoming orders because they are so confident in our ability to deliver exactly what they have ordered exactly when they want it.

He adds, The handheld terminals provide an excellent level of control over the picking process. For example, if a picker says there is no stock available to fulfil an order but the system knows there is surplus stock in a back-up area, the terminal will not allow that pick to fail. This alone has a massive impact in our ability to fulfil as many orders as possible in the fastest possible time.

Steve Jackson concludes, We are delighted with the reliable and well-supported solution provided to us by Psion Teklogix and estimate gaining a complete return on our investment within a year of implementation. This return is generated by the increased accuracy of our inventory and picking which gives us real-time visibility in the warehouse and greater efficiency and control over the whole order fulfilment operation. This control drives massive improvements in the quality of our customer service, ensuring increased customer satisfaction and confidence in our ability to fulfil their demands.

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