Automated Warehouse Picking System – Lex Multipart
Lex Multiparts location in the centre of a residential area of Chorley, Lancashire had come to the end of its natural life. With the site under offer for residential development, the automotive parts distributor took the opportunity to move to a new industrial park close to the motorway and buy-out from the Lex operation. The company faced an unprecedented level of change after years of stability from the same location. The initial conversations with NSI were based around the potential replication of a football pitch sized mezzanine on three levels in the new building.
Recognising the opportunity for an automated warehouse picking system that the relocation presented, NSI proposed an alternative in the use of Lean Lifts – automated storage towers. Through utilising the full height of the building and a dramatic condensing of the stock through the variable height put away facilities that the Lifts offer, the footprint required for the total small parts pick could be reduced to less than 20% of that required for the mezzanine, representing a major saving of valuable warehouse floor space in the new building.
Lex Multipart provide an automotive spare parts service for many vehicle brands in the UK. Speed of pick and particularly service levels around critical VOR (vehicle off road) orders, are the benchmark by which the company stands or falls. Thus pick speed is especially critical. By the development of systems software, the functions of the already sophisticated processors that come as standard with each machine were enhanced to link to the back office order processing system, and to a dispatch conveyor system.
The increased pick frequency that resulted was real-time simulated on PC to provide the customer with the comfort levels to believe in what was at this time a conceptual saving of labour intensive parts picking through the use of an automated picking system. The 20 Lean Lifts are mostly grouped in workcells of three machines operated by one picker and serviced by return spur conveyors automatically feeding prescanned totes into the system. These are routed into each of the work cells as the order driven software dictates. Lean Lifts are programmed so that goods are presented to man in each of the three machines as soon as there is a spare slot, so the operator just picks to goods presented before him. An automated warehouse picking system considerably aides pick accuracy.
From a management perspective, the whole pickface is visible at one time, compared to the acres of pick face on the proposed multilevel mezzanine floor. All goods are now picked at waist height, easing the risk of twisting, turning, reach and weight safety concerns.This is ultimately a quite simple solution using tried and tested technology on a quite dramatic scale, this being Europe’s largest Lean Lift installation.
However, the benefits of space and size are available to many businesses that fit a similar profile of SKU count, stock size and speed of pick to the Lex Multipart operation on a smaller scale. The only way to fully appreciate this installation is to see it in operation. Why not ask for a slot on one of NSI’s factory visits either here in Lancashire or at other locations around the country?