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Boden scales up operation with multi-tier storage

29 October 2018

The racking solution provided by Apex has a storage capacity for approximately 234,000 boxes and 4,900 linear metres of hanging garments.

Various solutions to offset Boden’s warehousing space issue were discussed, including increasing the racking capacity in the existing facilities and adding mezzanine floors, or even relocating part of the supply chain operation to growth market Germany.

In 2015, with 5 years of its existing warehousing contract still to run, the decision was made to initiate a break-clean option 3 years early and seek alternative larger premises by 2017. The plan was approved by the Board giving Boden time to be selective, address their supply chain issues and prepare.

For the proposed capacity of the racking solution, Boden’s operational team worked with Apex to prepare stock estimates to cover a 5-year timeframe. Both BC1 and BC2 combined had provided 85,000 sq ft of racking capacity, amounting to 104,000 carton locations. Given growth at 4% year-on-year (based on sales reaching a target of £500m by 2021), increased SKUs and the type of products that Boden was aiming to sell, a forecast was made of what the company could expect to stock and ship from its new warehouse over the 5-year period. These figures were further influenced by other key factors including the impact of Brexit, austerity and the influence of Boden’s ongoing retail success. From these root calculations, Boden’s operational team agreed that, if nothing else changed, the company’s new warehouse needed to provide a capacity of 250,000 sq ft, of which 100,000 sq ft had to be allocated to a racking solution. 

New Leicestershire facility

In 2017, Boden moved into its new £30m 250,000 sq ft distribution warehouse (including 25,000 sq ft of offices), on a site at Glenfield, Leicestershire. Being close to their previous facility, Boden invited their 400 staff to relocate to the new premises; the retention of existing staff was a key factor in the location of the new warehouse.  

Prior to the move itself and in collaboration with Apex, much work was done at their current warehouses to plan for the final configuration of the multi-tier racking in the new location. This included the provision and location of conveyors and automation in general, the integration of sprinklers and relative beam heights of the racking, including accessibility for pickers. Bays were constructed to match those planned for the new warehouse so that a full understanding of the performance of the new racking could be made. On the back of this preparatory work, final adjustments to the structure were made resulting in 5 different drawing schemes being produced, each having between 1 to 18 revisions completed per option.

The solution

The racking solution provides a storage capacity for approximately 234,000 boxes and 4,900 linear metres of hanging garments, configured as follows:

  • A grid of 8 blocks of racking, configured as a multi-tier storage system comprising a ground floor plus three-floor levels to a height of 13 metres.
  • Each block of racking is separated by 3m wide aisles running the length and width of the structure. In order to future proof the structure, the aisles were designed to provide additional pallet storage on all levels, should the extra capacity be required. Even with pallet storage, the width of the aisles would still allow for a normal pick operation to be maintained.
  • All blocks consist of 14 runs of 8 bays apiece, separated by a small walk-through halfway. By splitting the block into 2 smaller blocks of 4 bays, picker performance could be fully optimised through the creation of ‘pick zones’.
  • Structural steel mezzanine floors were installed to form both end access aisles with the majority of the structure being rack-supported. 
  • Wire mesh was fitted to external faces of the structure on floors 2,3 and 4. As per their request, Apex supplied the mesh finished in Boden’s 3 corporate colours, a tint per level with blue uppermost to visually ‘cool’ the busy working environment.
  • Access into the structure itself is via 10 staircases, all of which are double flight open structures.
  • The structure provides planned future capacity amounting to 108,000 carton locations - approximately the same capacity as Boden’s previous warehouses combined.

Boden’s relocation to bigger premises was a well planned, orchestrated process. The operational team responsible for the move were experienced and knowledgeable, being able to plan their future warehousing needs from the data supplied, with a high degree of accuracy.

Apex’s multi-tier storage solution fully met Boden’s requirements. One of the key benefits of the structure related to the issue of ‘touchpoints’, i.e. those areas within the operation which could be made more efficient as a result of the new storage solution - for example ‘returns’ or packaging recycling. Given the configuration of the new racking and following some extensive analysis by both Boden and Apex, the returns process was fully reviewed. Due to improved racking accessibility, a new multi-SKU returns process was implemented which meant that garments returned to the warehouse could be back in stock in 45 minutes as opposed to the 2.5 days it took at Boden’s previous warehouses.

The company

Boden is a British clothing retailer selling primarily online (96%), mail-order (catalogue) and retail (concessions and shops). It was founded by Johnnie Boden in 1991 as a mail-order business offering a small menswear range. Womenswear was launched a year later, followed by childrenswear in 1996. The company currently sells in several countries, with websites for the UK, the US (where it is now the second biggest selling UK clothing brand behind Burberry), Germany and Australia. The value of Boden has been placed at over £300 million.

With its headquarters in London, Boden opened its first distribution warehouse in 2002 (BC1) in Meridian Business Park, Braunstone, Leicestershire. Soon after the move, Boden also occupied a second warehouse nearby (BC2), increasing their operational footprint to 150,000 sq ft. Both warehouses were fitted-out with Apex racking solutions, heralding the start of an ongoing supplier relationship with the retailer.

The following years saw Boden’s business develop exponentially to a point where the firm was at risk of outgrowing its existing warehousing space. Driven by increasing customers, particularly in womenswear, Boden had opened a number of concessions in a handful of John Lewis stores, with more planned. Also and in addition to their one shop in Hanger Lane, London, more shops were being proposed with sites identified on Chelsea’s King’s Road and the Westfield Shopping Centre.

The refined process resulted in a reduction of 9 staff from the operation, representing a significant benefit to the business.

“Overall the project went very well. Apex’s advice and consultative approach throughout this particular journey was invaluable - they are a reliable partner for Boden. Our relationship goes back 18 years; they know us, what we do and how we operate. We asked them for a solution and they provided us with what we need,” Leyton Jones, facilities & system support manager, Boden.

“We relied heavily on them during the build plan and they were very accommodating in terms of working with the other contractors. Time wise we put the squeeze on and they responded. We sing their praises often!” 

 
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