Home>Automation>Conveying components>Rolling in the (triple) deep

Rolling in the (triple) deep

12 December 2012

Clothing retailer moves to triple deep automated storage as manual processes prove unable to scale up to meet demand As outdoor specialist Jack Wolfskin experienced strong growth, the company's warehousing and logis

Clothing retailer moves to triple deep automated storage as manual processes prove unable to scale up to meet demand

As outdoor specialist Jack Wolfskin experienced strong growth, the company's warehousing and logistics systems were bursting at the seams. For this reason, the company turned to TGW to fit-out a new distribution centre featuring TGW's storage and order picking systems. The Jack Wolfskin distribution centre involved a conversion of the entire logistics organisation, and now supplies all of Europe.

The logistics centre, located near Hamburg, Germany completely relies on direct carton handling - pallets, trays, or other additional load carriers are not needed. Jack Wolfskin's logistics manager Uta Mohr explains: "Very early in the planning process, it became clear to us that we wanted to work without trays or additional load carriers since that would not be a solution for us, but rather merely an aid for the AS/RS technology."

Season starts The start of the season is the greatest challenge for logistics because all points of sale must receive the new product range at this time. Mohr says: "For this reason, we deliver the new goods to the shops first and then send out the catalogue." Each season, about 8,000 different articles are available, including all sizes and colour variants. With an overlapping of both seasons, about 16,000 SKUs are permanently available in the main warehouse. "The business at the beginning of the season gives us plannability to the extent that we can add this volume to the plan up to four weeks in advance," Jack Wolfskin's CFO Christian Brandt says.

The greater challenge, however, is delivery from stock, which makes up about 70% of all sales orders. "In this case, the shop spontaneously orders what it needs and we deliver these articles up to 30% on the same day and the rest usually on the next day. Only a few companies can do the same," says Brandt. The bandwidth of order sizes varies from onepiece orders up to the initial stocking of a shop with more than 3,000 different articles or the order of more than 1,000 pieces of a jacket by a large customer.

All of these requirements could no longer effectively be met in the old, purely manual logistics solution with sequential two-stage order picking. Brandt says, "We performed a lot of calculations, made plans, and discovered that this concept is simply no longer scalable. It was clear to us that we had to find a radically different solution."

Automated warehouse The core of the new logistics centre is TGW's automatic carton warehouse. This stores the delivered cartons directly and without additional load carriers in the triple-depth storage structure using TGW's Twister technology.

"For us, it was decisive that, using a triple-deep solution, TGW managed to create an optimum ratio between storage capacity and storage density with sufficient dynamics at an acceptable relation to the investment volume. No other company offered such a solution," adds Brandt.

In the first phase, a 12-aisle warehouse with 210,000 storage locations for cartons was implemented. The system has also been designed to allow the warehouse to be expanded to a total of 19 aisles and almost 310,000 storage locations.

The order picking process is supplied with goods from the carton warehouse.

The goods are conveyed to the order picking zones defined by the system and provided in shelving racks. Order picking itself remains manual, but the entire process is controlled by the new system.

"We have made quantum leaps in development," Mohr says. "We used to use sheets of paper on which the goods were checked off with a ball point pen. Now, everything is under control via RF data transmission." Brandt adds: "With automation, another benefit is that articles do not have to stay in a fixed place in the orderpicking warehouse. The TGW system allows for items to be moved and stored in multiple locations to speed up order fulfilment. The distances have become considerably shorter and we can fulfil an unbelievable number of sales orders at the same time through the pick stations."

Value-added services The area of value-added services is a very important function for the business of Jack Wolfskin and its trading partners.

Here, the articles are labelled, repacked, specially documented, and possibly ironed or otherwise prepared according to customer requirements. Coming directly from the order picking process, the system automatically routes items requiring such pre-retail preparation to 16 ergonomically designed workstations in the value-added services area.

The employees at these workstations scan the cartons, and work instructions for that order display. Finished cartons are confirmed in the system and transferred back onto the conveyor. Finally, cartons reach the goods-out area, where they are covered with a lid, strapped, and labelled for shipping.