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M&S to build online automated warehouse within Bradford DC

27 April 2021

Work has begun to extend M&S’s Bradford DC so it becomes a second online warehouse for M&S.com.

By Christmas 2021 M&S will serve online customers from Castle Donington, Bradford and through its stores which act as micro-fulfilment centres.

Improving online capacity through reengineering the supply chain is an important enabler to the retailer’s MS2 division. Under MS2, M&S is setting itself up to digitally serve shoppers in the future, including reflecting the shift to online shopping. M&S opened the Bradford DC in 2010 and it delivers both Clothing & Food to M&S stores in partnership with XPO.

The investment follows a trial over Christmas where Bradford’s colleagues manually picked product from the existing automated distribution centre to service online orders – at its peak, the site was dispatching 14,000 items a day. The team will start with the target of dispatching 35,000 items a day, looking to increase capacity over time. Bradford will be an online warehouse for boxed products (from bras to belts) and the aim is for it to eventually support around 20% of M&S online orders.

Automation

Bradford was selected for this extension due to its location, its excess space and as it is M&S’s most automated distribution centre, with an engineering team already on site. Cost-efficient automation is seen as key to the success of an online warehouse. The use of automation is what enabled M&S to adapt to servicing more online orders from Castle Donington during the pandemic and most importantly doing so in a safe way. While what’s being built is an automated system, the extension to Bradford will still create around 300 roles (as product is picked off the automation).

M&S.com director Stephen Langford said: “We’re transforming our Clothing business to be more relevant, more often for our 22 million customers – however they choose to shop. While it’s exciting our stores have reopened, growing our online business has never been more important and part of that is a behind the scenes network which means we can serve our customers as efficiently as possible. Building Bradford is a key way we’re setting ourselves up for a more digital future at M&S under the banner of MS2.”

Alongside investing it its physical space with Bradford and equipment (such as the autobaggers at Castle Donington).

Director of supply chain & logistics, Paul Babbs adds: “We’re reengineering our supply chain to ensure we can deliver our Never the Same Again programme – including increased online capacity. Working closely with XPO we’re investing in Bradford which has been selected for its central UK location, the space available and most importantly because it’s our most automated site which is crucial for an efficient supply chain.” 

Programme manager for the Bradford project Sarah Monk, says: “Warehouse colleagues have been our behind the scenes heroes during the pandemic – making sure customers’ parcels are picked, packed & shipped – safely & efficiently. The team at Braford did an amazing job supporting with online Christmas orders and we’re all so excited that we’ll now be permanently running an online operation from the site which will include the recruitment of 300 new XPO colleagues.”

 
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