The new service centre from leading pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer, Boots – part of the international Alliance Boots group -has been officially opened in Burton-upon-Trent.

The new facility – which was inaugurated by Stefano Pessina, Executive Chairman of Alliance Boots, on 28 February – not only supports order processing for the 25,000 product lines of the company’s e-commerce operation (boots.com), but also its Christmas gift ranges (some 2,500 product lines) and its international distribution, which prepares orders for Boots stores abroad. Boots has invested over £50 million in the Burton Service Centre, which includes both the purchase of the existing 460,000 sq ft building – the area of six football pitches – and its total refurbishment to provide leading-edge warehousing facilities, including automated handling systems from KNAPP.

Rapid growth

Commented Ken Murphy, Chief Operating Officer for Boots UK and Ireland, “Our boots.com operation has grown rapidly over the last five years. As customers use internet shopping more and more, we needed a solution which worked for both as a business and was responsive to our customer needs. The state-of-the-art supply chain service centre at Burton has not only enabled a step change in operational efficiencies but allowed us to improve our customer experience with excellent environmental credentials.”

Up to 1,000 jobs created

The new service centre will employ up to 1,000 people during peak times, when some 900,000 singles per day will be processed. The Burton Service Centre supports both orders for delivery directly to the customer’s home (approximately 60% of online orders) and orders for collection from the customer’s chosen store (about 40%). In line with its commitment to the environment, Boots collaborated with the Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) to minimise the centre’s environmental impact, resulting in a reduction of over a third in the use of cardboard packaging.

Improved service levels

The automated material handling systems designed and installed by KNAPP at the facility have increased time efficiency by 65% compared to the previous manual operation and improved order traceability through the use of innovative track and trace technology. They also ensure faster, more accurate deliveries to customers, with the commitment from boots.com to offer even later ordering times for next-day delivery in the future.

At the heart of the handling solution are two of KNAPP’s OSR Shuttle™ systems, which provide automated storage combined with goods-to-person order picking at KNAPP’s ergonomically designed Pick-it-Easy workstations. One OSR Shuttle™ with 46,000 storage locations handles containers up to 15 kg in weight and the other – with 25,700 locations – is for containers up to 25 kg. Ideal for slow- and medium-moving goods, the OSR Shuttle™ systems process the majority of the inventory at Burton. Fast-moving products, meanwhile, are picked in a flow rack area at workstations that utilise pick-to-light technology. A total of 26 dispatch ramps ensure the efficient sortation of deliveries. KNAPP also supplied its KiSoft WMS (warehouse management system) and KiSoft WCS (warehouse control software) to optimise all warehouse movements and processes. In addition, Boots has contracted KNAPP to provide a team of resident engineers in order to maintain the centre’s handling system.

Future expansion

Commented David James, Managing Director of KNAPP UK Ltd, “We are delighted to have delivered the automated logistics systems for this prestigious facility and look forward to enhancing our long-standing partnership with Alliance Boots as their Burton operation continues to grow. Our automated solution for the Burton Service Centre provides a platform for modular expansion to support this growth, providing capacity into the future. The teamwork of all involved in this project was exceptional and undoubtedly a huge factor in its success.”

KNAPP UK Ltd

Mr Craig Rollason,

Head of Sales & Marketing

Tel: 01844 202149