SDI Group Ltd, the British-based materials handling business specialising in retail apparel hanging and flat sortation, has recently developed an innovative flexible sortation unit, the FSU, with a capacity of up to 20,000 items per hour, which top retailers around the world are now using in their distribution operations.
The FSU was recently at the heart of a major project SDI carried out for international sports retailer Decathlon, part of the Oxylane Network, whose 610 stores in 17 countries offer products for 74 different sports under the same roof. In other big contracts, SDI Group has fitted out a distribution centre in Holland for an all-American fashion retail giant, run by TNT’s fashion operation, which serves the whole of Europe. They have also completed a similar project for this brand in the US, both featuring the new FSU.
The FSU has the ability to handle plastic trays, working ‘Scan on The Fly,’ and reading RF tags in line. Working with plastic trays instead of metal ones, the FSU can read RF tags with much higher accuracy.
The FSU is a development on the established ‘Bomb Bay’ design. SDI have taken away the chain or belt drive, so goods can go up and down or in snake sections, hence the ‘flexible’ aspect. The FSU’s modular motors are used on start up, then idle until power is needed again. The FSU is principally designed for use with apparel, but can also handle such items as books, accessories and CDs. Its ease of maintenance, flexibility and simplicity have been well received by the market.
The Decathlon project was a Europe-wide scheme for an Integrated Supply Chain, with the final objective of supporting the client’s sales phase so human resources could be reorganised to provide a higher standard of service to customers.
As part of the planned system, Oxylane/Decathlon asked SDI to design and make an automatic distribution sorter, featuring its proprietary mechanical and computer technology, to manage the distribution process between Oxylane’s three regional depots in Italy, as well as another four depots in France and two in Spain, and the stores these facilities serve.
SDI supplied the client with a solution that could be adapted to the different sites, using the same operating interface and computerised management system in all of them.
The use of automated FSU sorters and standard packaging in SDI’s system has achieved Oxylane/Decathlon’s objectives of optimising distribution to the stores, and freeing up human resources. Employees previously occupied in sorting and stacking the goods on the shelves can now devote their time to serving and assisting customers.
Gordon Smith, SDI Group CEO, says: “Decathlon and our other retail projects demonstrate our international capability as solutions providers, and highlight the world leading technology of the FSU and its ability to handle sportswear and other clothing and produce a compelling payback for the customer. It’s an exciting time to be in this business, and we look forward to more successes with FSU and our other technologies in 2012.”
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