NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Limited (NGK), has been developing spark plug technology since the 1930s and continue to manufacture plugs for every type of automotive engine. NGK is favoured by Ford, Jaguar and Rolls Royce to name but a few.

The company comprises of two sectors: Automotive products (NGK) and Technical Ceramics (NTK). Operating its UK and Eire distribution operations from a single site in Hemel Hempstead; the product range currently includes spark plugs, spark plug covers, glow plugs, ignition coils, temperature sensors and Lambda sensors (sensor products are manufactured and sold under the NTK brand).

NGK supply products to national distributors, wholesalers, factories and other independents, of which there are approximately 2,000 in the UK. The company headquarters covers a surface area of 34,000sqm, 21,000 of which, accommodates the logistics centre for the United Kingdom; stocking more than six million spark plugs. On average NGK receives 340 orders per day, ranging from a single item up to a mixed SKU pallet, ordinarily many are parcel deliveries.

Looking to improve their level of customer service, NGK sought improvements for one of their key issues; the accuracy and speed of which orders are picked.

NGK engaged with the specialist consultants at Gideon Hillman Consulting, to undertake an operational review of the warehouse and distribution operations; to identify layout and process changes and to ultimately enable improvement of service levels, with the aim of reducing overall costs.

The consultants from Gideon Hillman, initially spent time on site gathering data and reviewing the existing processes. This data was then analysed to show the flow of product through the warehouse, to identify where each product line was stocked.

This diligent process allowed the consultants to accurately benchmark the productivity rates being achieved and correctly identify areas of congestion which were causing delays. Having undertaken such a meticulous review, the consultants were able to provide a variety of recommended improvements.

The recommendations made by the Gideon Hillman Consulting included: changes to the layout of pick faces to reduce congestion and improve product flow, zoning of products within the pick-faces to facilitate faster picking, additional pallet racking to accommodate growth and free up processing space, changes in shift patterns to allow extension of order cut off times, and changes to the warehouse systems to improve reporting and resource management.

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