Italian Sportswear Company Prints its Way to Warehouse Efficiency

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Leading Italian sportswear company, Grotto S.p.A., recently completed plans to automate its warehouse in Chiuppano (Vicenza) with the help of the Dainese Group. Their out of date labelling machines were successfully replaced by new Intermec PF4i printers and their old portable computers by Intermec 2435 handheld computers.

Grotto S.p.A. Group, dates back to the early 1970s when Claudio Grotto, founder and Chairman, set up his first craft workshop in the area around Vicenza. It was here that he started to create garments targeted specifically at young people, and in just under a decade the foundations (including both production and distribution) of what now ranks as one of Italys largest sportswear manufacturers were formed. Today the Group, whose headquarters are in Chiuppano (Vicenza), can boast consolidated sales of around 150 million, and employs a workforce of 300 in Italy and 1,500 abroad.

Today jeans are still the companys core product, much like when Claudio Grotto first started to produce denim garments in the early 1970s, responding to the requests of the young, self-assured clientele for whom sportswear and casual clothing represented a mark of identity. Among the garments under the GAS (Grotto Abbigliamento Sportivo) label, jeans make up 75% of the companies total production.

Most of the Groups production plants are located in Romania, China and Hong Kong, but the Chiuppano warehouse acts as the reception point for goods from production plants and then distributes them to retail outlets (GAS Stores), branches and distributors all over the world. When the goods arrive, the boxes are labelled and stacked in a special area of the warehouse. Prior to the implementation of the new automated system in late 2003, labels were prepared using a printer that was operated centrally in response to all requirements; the use of this old technology often caused problems due to glue leaks or jamming. This resulted in wasted time and materials, not to mention warehouse downtime.

Grotto S.p.A. realised that it was important to redefine the labelling processes in order to optimise product distribution, minimise machine downtime and cut costs. Following the advice provided by the Dainese Group, the company opted for a solution that featured Intermecs PF4i thermal-transfer printer, complete with Ethernet networking connectivity, which can carry out all the label printing functions autonomously without being directly connected to a computer.

Grotto S.p.A. installed 15 printers and noticed that their productivity rose significantly.  This was thanks to the fact that each printer operated independently, meaning in the event of a breakdown there were still 14 active units running.  Previously, a single fault would lead to downtime throughout the entire warehouse, sometimes lasting hours.

While the previous printer used by Grotto S.p.A. generated about 30 percent label waste, resulting in a much higher real cost per label, the PF4i is designed for industrial use, meaning there is practically zero waste, because it was produced to work intensely in warehouses. The PF4i also has the advantages of using specialised products: no wasted materials, maximum autonomy, sturdiness and ease of use over the legacy labelling system.

At the same time as installing the new printers, Grotto S.p.A. decided to replace all the portable computers, which were by then obsolete, with sturdier, more reliable equipment. Here too, the company sought the advice of Dainese, which recommended the use of Intermec 2435 handheld computers, which feature a ruggedised casing designed for particularly intensive use.

Given that the warehouse of Grotto S.p.A. handles some 6 million garments every year (equivalent to18 million scans annually), robustness and reliability are essential characteristics, directly linked to productivity. 

Grottos operators welcomed the 2435 handheld computer for its outstanding ergonomics, ruggedness, practicality and intuitive use. They also liked the fact that its battery only needs charging once a day, enabling staff to work a full shift without being forced to take breaks. The warehouse, while handling its 6 million garments each year from production through to distribution, has become more efficient, with marked drops in errors and downtime.

Compared to its previous equipment Grotto has noticed greater impact resistance, longer battery life, and a lighter more ergonomic design from the Intermec products.  This has been particularly appreciated by those working with the devices on a daily basis. Choosing reliable equipment in a warehouse environment has meant avoiding high repair costs.

The steps taken by Dainese Group and Grotto S.p.A. have resulted in very high return on investment, helping ensure that all parties are satisfied with the outcome.

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