One of the biggest issues facing online retailers is gearing up their fulfilment centres in preparation for intense sales periods. Such is the demand in these peak periods that there is often insufficient workforce in the environs of the distribution centre, therefore additional workers have to be brought in by bus from neighbouring areas.
This problem is now being compounded by the uncertainty that Brexit has brought to our European workforce. Faced with the possibility of a diminishing workforce many ecommerce businesses are increasing the automation of their online order operations. Automated systems working reliably 24/7 help to relieve the pressure of scaling up and down without having to dramatically increase headcount.
Using the latest technology, it is now possible to implement hardware and software solutions that take care of the entire pick, pack, sortation and dispatch processes. Tamworth based Axiom GB specialises in helping customers to increase productivity and reduce costs by introducing bespoke automation into their distribution centres.
Automated packing solution doubles productivity for Asda An automated packing and dispatch solution from Axiom has enabled Asda Stores Ltd to double its order throughput of its online George.com homeware merchandise at Clipper Logistics’ Boughton facility in Nottinghamshire.
The Asda homeware business operates over three floors on the Clipper site. The automated process begins on the bottom floor where three different sized boxes are produced and then loaded onto a conveyor, travelling directly to the operatives in the picking areas located on the third and ground floors.
Once each order has been picked all the filled boxes travel by conveyor through a checkweigh section on the ground floor to ensure pick accuracy. The next stop is quality control where the boxes are checked to see if additional void fill or protective packaging is required. They are then placed back onto a conveyor to be taken automatically to the lidding area.
The two lidding machines measure the highest point of the goods inside every box and then score and fold down the sides of the box to make it a bespoke fit. Finally a lid is glued on and the box continues its journey along a conveyor to the two labelling machines.
Integration between MetaPack and Axiom software ensures that the correct label is applied to each box as the two machines work in tandem to process the swiftly moving boxes. All online purchases are either delivered to a customer’s home address or they are Click and Collect orders which are sent to the customer’s nearest store. The boxes destined for home delivery travel by conveyor and are then boom loaded directly into the trailers waiting in the loading bays.
Nathan Bower, Senior Manager for Asda Stores Ltd was instrumental in selecting Axiom GB to complete the project. He says, “We worked closely with Axiom to finish the project within the tight deadlines we needed to meet. They completely owned the project end to end. As a result our productivity has now moved on massively – we process twice as much volume as before in the same amount of footage. The automated solution Axiom has delivered with us is a good quality, professional product.”
Developing solutions that make a difference
Director of Axiom GB, Matthew Nickson, is passionate about designing and manufacturing systems that make a real difference in the logistics industry – to efficiency, accuracy and ultimately profitability. He comments, “Our first priority is to listen to customers, we need to be absolutely clear what their real challenges are before we can begin. Only when we are armed with this knowledge can we develop an appropriate solution.”
People play a more productive role
Of course people are still involved in the process, but automation enables them to play a much more productive role. Gone are the days when it was necessary to walk miles around the warehouse to seek out a particular product to package and label for dispatch. Products are automatically sent via sophisticated conveyor systems to wherever they are needed in the DC.
Advanced materials handling systems are now combined with bagging, boxing and labelling machines to meet customers’ increasing demands for a next day or even same day order and delivery service.
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