West Mercia Supplies (WMS) provides schools and colleges across the North West of England , the Midlands and parts of Wales with the products and equipment they need to teach the national curriculum.
The company is a true ‘one stop shop’ offering everything from textbooks and stationery through arts and crafts materials to cleaning products.
Originally established to oversee procurement of equipment for Shropshire, Hereford and Worcester County Councils, WMS was acquired by the Trowbridge-based care and educational supplies business, The Consortium, in 2012.
In 2010 a strategic review of WMS’s supply chain model highlighted the urgent need to free up additional storage space and order processing areas at the company’s Shrewsbury warehouse.
The company considered moving to a new purpose-designed store close to Wolverhampton however, following a consultation with Jungheinrich UK Ltd’s Systems & Projects Division, it was decided that an overhaul of the existing Shrewsbury site represented a less disruptive and more cost effective option.
Jungheinrich reconfigured the racking layout at the Shrewsbury store around a very narrow aisle design and introduced a 12,000 sq ft mezzanine floor structure which offers over 3000 small parts storage bins. The bins can reconfigured to accommodate different line items as required.
The addition of the mezzanine has allowed WMS to free up valuable ground level picking space with smaller items – such as pens, pencils etc – now held on the mezzanine and picked directly from the small parts storage bins.
‘Before we had the mezzanine, all picking was done at ground level from shelving,” explains WMS’s assistant director, Jim Green. “The mezzanine has effectively freed up one third of the warehouse and we use the space below it for order consolidation.”
The rest of the 62,000 sq ft facility is now dedicated to bulk storage. To minimize WMS’s costs, where possible, Jungheinrich re-used WMS’s s existing racking in the construction of the 8-metre high racking runs that dominate the bulk store. The structure was completed using Jungheinrich’s own brand of pallet racking and provides some 4500 pallet positions.
Incoming container loads arriving at the Shrewsbury facility are unloaded using a mixed (although predominantly Jungheinrich) fleet of counterbalanced trucks.
Goods-in are checked and receipted before being allocated a position in the bulk store by WMS’s warehouse management system.
The aisles of the bulk store are served by a fleet of Jungheinrich wire-guided EKX Kombi trucks.
Jungheinrich EKX Kombis (combination picker/stacker trucks) can be used for stacking and retrieving pallets as well as for picking individual articles.
Capable of lifting loads weighing up to 1,000 kg to heights of over nine metres, the trucks’ 3-phase AC technology ensures the highest levels of efficiency.
Part of the Kombi trucks’ role is to deliver replenishment stock from the bulk store directly to the mezzanine and Jungheinrich’s engineers had to develop a special design for the mezzanine’s pallet gates through which stock is transferred to the raised platform.
Traditional mezzanine pallet gates open outwards but, in WMS’s case, this would have meant that the gate protruded in to the aisles where the Kombi trucks are working – presenting a clear and obvious safety risk.
Jungheinrich’s engineers developed ‘up and over’-style pallet gates that allow clear unobstructed entry to the mezzanine and do not represent an obstacle to the trucks operating in the adjacent aisles.
“The design of the gates is very clever,” says Jim Green. “Jungheinrich’s engineers spotted the problem that the traditional out-swinging gates would have caused and went away and came back with a brilliant solution.”
Orders are picked in to roll cages or pallets handled by a fleet of Jungheinrich low level order pickers.
Peak time for the warehouse is between June and September when schools and colleges are ramping up for the new academic year. At this time output doubles and extra staff are brought in along with additional order pickers and other materials handling equipment which is supplied by Jungheinrich on short term hire contracts.
“The warehouse redesign has proved extremely beneficial,” says Jim Green. “We undertake storage, picking and packing at this site and it had become very congested indeed.
“The introduction of the mezzanine and our new bulk store layout has enabled us to make the most of our existing premises without the cost and inconvenience of a move to a new site.
“Jungheinrich delivered the project on time and within budget and, importantly, the work was undertaken in a way that did not disrupt our operation which meant that our service to our customers was not affected in any way.”
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