Tamworth based, Axiom GB, has designed, manufactured and installed a complete conveyor picking solution and warehouse management system into Unifix’s National Distribution Centre (NDC) in Smethwick. This fully integrated system has speeded up the picking process at the NDC, improved both accuracy and efficiency, optimised carton fill and eliminated the need for a paper based warehousing operation.
Unifix is one of the UK’s market leading building materials suppliers. The company provides next day delivery of quality fixings, fastenings, sealants and power tools to the UK building trade.
This next day delivery philosophy allowed the company to grow to a scale where its current manual picking methods could not support its delivery promise when receiving orders as late as 6pm. An automated solution was required urgently. It had to be a system that would not only speed up the picking process and permit late order placement, but also provide further scope for anticipated growth.
Picking Solution and Warehouse Management System
Unifix selected Axiom for the £500,000 project which consisted of a complete picking solution with flow racking, carton erection and sealing machines, as well as check weighing equipment. As a late addition to the project, Axiom was also awarded the contract for the warehouse management system, centred on incorporating the use of RF hand held scanners to improve speed and accuracy.
Tony McDonald is the Logistics Development Manager for Unifix, he explains the benefits of the Axiom solution, “The manual picking method we were using was driven by a bespoke system which really didn’t give us any management information.
“Axiom’s system has provided us with a greater level of stock integrity, identifying and centralising fast moving products into the most efficient picking zone of the warehouse. This has ensured that we have the right product in the right place at the right time in terms of pick frequencies and rate of movements.
“We are now able to take the goods to man in terms of the picking operation, locating the picker inside a given zone of the conveyor system where the product is stored conveniently within his or her reach. Our increased pick rate means that we are now picking in the region of 6-7,000 lines a day. This effectively means we could be picking as many as 40,000 items a day.”
Automatic Carton Fill Optimisation
“Another advantage of the system is that it optimises carton fill; determining the most effective packaging arrangement based on the volumetrics of the products, the quantities and weight parameters to select one of seven carton or tote sizes. Then it establishes the most economical route to market – whether that is by parcel carrier or by pallet, selecting the more cost efficient trip.”
Axiom’s warehouse management system interfaces with Unifix’s AS400, receiving goods-in information, static part files and order information. Using the hand held RF scanner, warehouse operatives are able to locate received stock, carry out location audits, relocate stock, pick stock and carry out inventory counts.
Each order received is automatically cartonised using volumetric software. Larger orders are picked directly from the bulk storage areas, whilst the cartons destined for the picking zones are launched onto the conveyor system.
Once on the conveyor the carton/order details are checked to ensure that the order details match the expected carton size and a courier shipping label is automatically applied. Internally controlled routing data sends the cartons around the conveyor system, visiting each picking zone as required. The operative scans the delivery note and picks the stock from a flow rack location within their working zone. If the carton cannot visit a zone it will re-circulate around the system until the zone is clear.
When the carton pick is complete, the carton is pushed back onto the main conveyor where it travels to the dynamic check weigh station. Here the operator has a terminal to update carton problems and, if necessary, re-launch the carton for picking.
Correct cartons travel through to a packing station where they are void filled. Their final destination is either a manual packing area or a palletising position where they are loaded onto a waiting courier’s container for despatch.
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