GROUNDBREAKING UK AUTOMATED FULFILMENT CENTRE
Committed to delivering innovative and reliable solutions for customers.
As the demand for e-commerce continues to rise, warehouse and fulfilment centre operators face increasing challenges to optimise space utilisation, maintain operational efficiency, and address the current labour shortages.
In particular, with the run up to the main peak period fast approaching for most e-commerce businesses, processes are under pressure to deliver both efficiency and customer service.
At their new warehouse premises strategically located in Corby, Northamptonshire, iForce, a leading 3PL specialising in retail fulfilment, was looking for an automated system that would provide a rapid and agile order picking and replenishment solution for a large range of SKUs, typically being updated every two weeks.
The key challenge for this project was to provide a solution with the necessary agility and throughput speeds that could handle such a quick turnaround of SKUs and be highly flexible and expandable to ensure scalability, yet without compromising on efficiency. The system also needed to fit within an already busy warehouse environment, without impacting existing fulfilment operations.
Experts in warehouse systems integration, L-A-C’s design team analysed reams of volumetric SKU data to determine the most fitting solution for iForce’s requirements, and concluded that the Exotec Skypod would deliver the necessary throughput and replenishment levels for iForce’s high profile retail clients. Exotec Skypod is a revolutionary order-picking solution using a fleet of robots, uniquely operating in the x, y and z axes, developed to help e-merchants and retailers to best utilise their available warehouse space.
The LAC design for the Exotec Skypod structure installed at the Corby facility, consists of high density racking on the warehouse floor, reaching to 12m in height, with a capacity for 16,000 bins.
A total of 43 Skypod robots are deployed to autonomously pick items using Lidar scanners located on the front of the robot, which map the floor and navigate to the required SKU location.
To streamline the order picking process, six pick stations were installed with a further pick station used for replenishments. Albeit, in order to offer 100% flexibility, any picking station can be utilised for replenishment based on demand. Operators stand at each pick station, where they receive the items in the bins from the Skypod robots, and then place the picked order item(s) into a tote. The order tote is then placed on a 30-meter length of L-A-C’s automated powered roller conveyor located behind the pick stations, which transports the tote to the packing area, ready for dispatch.
The replenishment process involves an operator collecting the relevant SKU carton from the racking. The replenishment SKUs are then transported to the Exotec replenishment station, where they are decanted into an empty storage tote. The Skypod robots are then deployed to replace the tote within the Exotec racking structure, ready for the next order. Comfortably facilitating the e-commerce model, the Exotec Skypod offers a maximum rate of 1082 tote presentations per hour, a level designed to manage high order volumes for peak periods.
The L-A-C and Exotec solution has provided iForce with a highly efficient and agile system for their fulfilment requirements, offering enhanced productivity with the robots capable of working 24/7. The customer is delighted with the solution as it offers them even higher throughput than they thought possible, as well as the agility to integrate additional robots should requirements change. The Skypod system supports reactive order picking with the ability to adapt the system in tight deadlines, in line with customer needs.
Furthermore, L-A-C and Exotec have provided iForce with a comprehensive maintenance and support service. This includes 24/7 remote monitoring of the robots, mobile engineer support, as well as the integration of a maintenance area within the warehouse facility, providing a lift to access robots as well as storage of critical spare parts.
Overall, the innovative order picking solution combined with the service contract from L-A-C and Exotec, provides iForce with the peace of mind in the performance of the system, knowing that operational efficiency will not be compromised.
In this age of evolving demands, L-A-C continues to be the partner of choice for innovation and reliability. Our team of experts are committed to delivering bespoke solutions that provide precision, control, and efficiency for our customers, every time.