Essentra Components, part of FTSE 250 company Essentra plc is a global manufacturer and distributor of plastic injection moulded, vinyl dip moulded and metal items.
It produces over 80 million industrial components a week for industries including equipment manufacturing, automotive, fabrication, electronics and construction. The company has regional distribution sites across Europe and an international network extending to the Americas and Asia, including 42 principal manufacturing facilities, 64 sales and distribution operations and five research/development centres.
Essentra Components has a large catalogue of finished product – more than 136,700 items.
The company's main production and distribution centre for Europe is in Kidlington near Oxford (UK) where it has an injection moulding facility, over 80,000 square feet of warehousing and employs 68 staff in the distribution operation. Kidlington runs 700 order lines a day, with seven warehouse staff per shift covering picking, packing and put-away.
"The Kidlington site is substantially larger than most of our other facilities and its physical layout is very different; as we grew it became clear that we needed a different warehouse picking solution," says Essentra Components distribution and service delivery manager, Michael Armstrong.
Essentra's go-to logistics IT provider TouchPath (formerly known as AIDC Solutions and TransitionWorks Software) has installed its WMS systems in 23 Essentra sites across Europe, five sites in the Far East and three in North America. The system's multi-lingual capability has been particularly useful with eleven languages now supported including Chinese, Turkish and Finnish.
"Over the last four years picking volumes through Kidlington have doubled. Most of our facilities use an order picking process where one picker picks everything for one customer in one wave, visiting every area of the warehouse. This is quick and easy in a smaller warehouse, but in Kidlington we operate across four floors of mezzanine plus high-bay storage. We decided that we needed a solution that was centred on wave-picking," Armstrong explains. "You need a certain scale to make this type of solution viable. Our German site is probably reaching that point, as is our distribution centre in Louisville, Kentucky."
Essentra asked TouchPath to provide a solution that would meet their new demands. "We have always worked well with TouchPath and they have been responsive to our needs. They know our business, they understand what we do and how we do it," says Armstrong.
The system installed by TouchPath in its Kidlington plant allows Essentra to send out a team of pickers, independent of each other to pick product which is then consolidated in a central sorting area. "Say a customer places an order for three types of product. They are located in three completely different areas of the warehouse, and picked by three different warehouse staff," Armstrong explains. "Each picker has no knowledge of what his colleagues are picking or which customer order they are picking for."
"The benefit is that it makes the pick time very quick, and the picking itself very accurate. We are picking around 30 lines an hour per individual against the previous rate of 15 to 20, even though we have added a sortation and packing stage to the process. "We estimate that every pick error costs us around £60 in administration alone – and on that basis we are looking to save up to £50,000 a year through reduced pick errors. We expect to make further savings by reducing the level of overtime."
Key to the success of the new system is the Control Centre. This enables warehouse management to assign specific picks to specific pickers, filtering by warehouse, zone, load, customer or order then tracking the status of those picks as each is taking place. The Control Centre does away with the need for pick notes, as when the picker logs into the WMS the screen displays the specific picks that have been assigned to them. It also provides management with a real-time picture of the current picking load and its status.
"Fans of the new picking system say it is the most intuitive they have used," Armstrong concludes.