SSI Schaefer has provided The Wine Society with a much-needed high-bay storage solution and a picking, packing and sortation solution within its Stevenage distribution centre in Hertfordshire.

The installation, now fully operational and complete with high-bay pallet racking, Live Carton Storage (KDR), shelving, integrated conveyor systems, case-picking, single item zone-picking and carton shipping sortation, has given The Wine Society a 40% increase in productivity since going live.

Warehouse one, the original building is now the store for maturing wines, warehouse three contains reserve pallets of stock held in warehouse one; warehouses two and four are the heart of operations. It is in these two warehouses, containing medium to fast moving products, where SSI Schaefer installed the high-bay pallet racking system and the picking, packing and sortation system, the latter of which on two levels.

Warehouse four currently boasts the flattest warehouse floor in Europe and the highest Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) racking serviced by forklift trucks in Europe – the high bay pallet racking system that has over 12,000 pallet locations, stands at 15.3 metres tall with eight pallet levels inside the 20 metre high building. The VNA racking is serviced by Linde forklift trucks, which extend to the highest point of their range and can handle up to 1250 kg per pallet lift – man-up trucks pick from levels one to six and forklift trucks bring down pallets from levels seven and eight.

Full case picking is effected from pallets in warehouse two; put on conveyors, brought down by lowerators to conveyors on the ground level and merged with single item picks (in cases); the single item picks are made in one area surrounded by KDR for fastest movers and shelving for the slower movers.

All cases enter a carton sortation system with 13 lanes, two routes per lane; this means The Wine Society can pick and sort 26 van routes in one pick wave – The Wine Society’s own van fleet does 70% of all deliveries. The sortation system also carries cases from the upper level and delivers them to the pick area, via dedicated lanes, for replenishing the shelving and KDR.

Peter Styne, Operations Manager, The Wine Society, said: “Once we had chosen SSI Schaefer as our preferred partner on this project, we worked closely with them to develop and design the best solution for our business. We operate a fleet of dedicated delivery vans which resulted in the need for us to develop a routing sortation system. The Schaefer solution, designed to include the high bay, has proved perfect for our needs. ”

The busier the operation gets the more efficient it becomes because more people operating in smaller zones means they spend less time walking and more time picking. The Wine Society works just one day shift with 30-90 operators, depending upon season. SSI Schaefer also installed a trash conveyor to remove empty cartons from the building, which are subsequently compacted and recycled.

The existing distribution centre in Stevenage, which has been operational since 1965 has undergone steady expansion over the years and now has capacity to store over 7,000,000 bottles; prior to its current location, wine was stored at three separate locations across London, including below the London Palladium in Soho.

The Wine Society, founded in 1874, is a multi-award winning member-owned co-operative. Over 100,000 members have access to excellent wine at fair prices, with any profit made ploughed straight back into the business. Its team of 6 buyers continually travels the world, discovering new producers and exploring new regions so that members really can have access to a lifetime’s supply of wine.

SSI Schaefer is hosting a Regional Logistics Event at The Wine Society on Wednesday 21 March – numbers are strictly limited – to attend the event or for further information please email

SSI Schaefer

Tel: 01264 386600


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