Today’s technical innovations by big players like Amazon, John Lewis and Ocado tend to become tomorrow’s normal practice for small to medium operators.

Spending on warehouse equipment, including conveyors and sortation, is a key item on UK retailers’ to-do lists, according to a recent survey of retailers by law firm TLT. The poll found 46% of retailers said their future depended on improving fulfilment and logistics and their logistics investment was set to grow from 9% to 12% of annual revenue over the next five years.

The survey also found the proportion of retailers and ecommerce businesses investing in WMS systems and robotics was likely to double in the next five years, from 22% to 44%. 55% planned to invest in proprietary technology, while 30% wanted to partner with tech companies and 20% planned to buy off the shelf. With 53% of respondents not knowing where to invest, it presents a major opportunity for suppliers to lead the way.

Retail and e-commerce’s ongoing convergence is stimulating business for companies like DistriSort who specialise in sorting solutions for E-commerce and retail, either separate or combined, which are suitable for large and small retailers and e-tailers and cover incoming and outgoing goods, cross docking and returns. DistriSort’s clients include a fashion distribution centre processing retail and e-commerce orders simultaneously.

Meanwhile the conveyors and sortation market entered a new era last autumn, when Honeywell bought Transnorm, who provide conveyors that efficiently transport products and packages for ecommerce and delivery customers and complement Honeywell’s warehouse automation business. In a recent major project Interroll, working with L.A.C.

Conveyors, has installed a turnkey sortation system at Skynet Worldwide Express’s Heathrow facility with a vertical crossbelt sorter which can process 4,000 parcels per hour. The Interroll sorter’s main feature is its distinctive space saving design, with chutes that discharge on one side only.

Finally, in an ongoing uberproject that we report on regularly, one of the big retailers mentioned earlier, John Lewis & Partners has been transforming its supply chain over more than a decade, in partnership with KNAPP. John Lewis first invested in Magna Park in Milton Keynes in 2007, developing what is now Magna Park 1. Magna Park 2, connected to MP1 by a link bridge, was added in 2015, creating a ‘campus’ operation to support further growth.

The logistics solution KNAPP supplied in MP1 includes automated storage systems with over a quarter of a million tote storage locations. Among these is an OSR Shuttle storage system, which combines dense storage with rapid access to goods. The automated storage areas feed 30 of KNAPP’s Pick-it-Easy goods-toperson picking stations – equipped with pick-to-light technology – for store replenishment.

Through the addition of the 675,000-sq-ft MP2 building, the Magna Park campus has now risen to 2.1 million sq ft. MP2 features automated garment-handling systems from KNAPP Group member Dürkopp Fördertechnik, enabling consolidation of hanging garments with other goods such as shoes and accessories for store replenishment and online orders. It’s all part of putting the consumer first.

BILL REDMOND

Features Editor