Asda invests in space efficient automated storage
16 May 2013
Swisslog’s AutoStore boosts space efficiency at Asda’s Lutterworth IDC providing an advanced storage and picking solution featuring 140 robots.
ASDA is a leading proponent of warehousing innovation. The business is constantly looking at ways to improve the use of space within its existing distribution centres. The Lutterworth IDC was no exception, already one of the most complex depots in the logistics network.
ASDA selected Swisslog‘s AutoStore solution to handle a range of its products in a more space efficient and productive way. An intelligent storage and retrieval system for small case lines, the solution provides ASDA with flexibility for its future expansion.
Swisslog worked with ASDA at each phase of the project from the initial design to the installation and on-going support.
Ant Everett, Head of Capacity & Engineering, Asda Logistics Services says: "The IDC is already one of the depots in our distribution network. The ability to reengineer our facility and build a space-efficient and ergonomic materials handling application that can integrate with our existing operation and systems was therefore a key selection factor.”
"The ability to reengineer our facility and build a space-efficient and ergonomic materials handling application that can integrate with our existing operation and systems was therefore a key selection factor.”
Work started on-site in 2012. Before installation of the AutoStore system could commence a robust mezzanine level was built on which the new solution would be constructed. Once the preparation work was completed, installation and commissioning took place in a matter of months, as the rest of the IDC was in full operation.
Pallet loads of in-bound goods are conveyed automatically to one of six ergonomic decant stations. An ASDA colleague working at each station transfers products from a pallet into AutoStore bins, whilst lift tables eliminate the need for bending, thereby making the whole process highly ergonomic. Each station also has a chute for colleagues to dispose of waste, and the area has the feeling of calm efficiency.
In the storage area, robots place the bins directly on top of one another in a self supporting aluminium grid. The grid is not only used to guide the bins but also serves as a track for the robots to travel along. A wireless system controls the battery operated robots and manoeuvres the bins within the grid and to and from both the decant and picking stations. Bins containing faster moving items are positioned at the top of the grid whilst slower moving items are stored in the lower sections.
The AutoStore robots always work ahead of colleagues to ensure a constant stream of bins are presented at the picking port. Reaching required bins usually involves a digging process, which temporarily stores those above the required bin on top of nearby stacks.
The solution includes carousel picking ports, designed for high throughput operations. These ports have three rotating arms which are able to carry three bins simultaneously in order to provide seamless delivery to colleagues.
With ten ergonomic picking stations, where orders are collated for store delivery, the site is able to process a large quantity of orders. They’re also aided by the robots delivering the bins in sequence. Each colleague has a touch-screen computer instructing on how many of each product line to pick for particular orders, moving them from the captive AutoStore bin into the store consolidation tote. Once all items for a store are picked, colleagues push the tote onto the conveyor for shipping.
Swisslog equipment and services used
Storage & picking
• Number of robots: 140
• Number of bins: 44,860
• Number of pick stations (ports): 10
• Number of decant stations (ports): 6
• Bin presentations 335/hr per pick station
• Length 48.8m
• Width 29m
• Height 6.8m
• Height of mezzanine approx. 6.5m from ground level
• Design and delivery of AutoStore solution
• Installation and integration of all materials handling equipment, including software
• Overall project management
• Lifetime partnership
From the outset, the system enables ASDA to manage several thousand different product lines, whilst allowing further phased investments to accommodate more bins, in line with the retailer’s developing requirements.
AutoStore’s key benefit is that of space efficiency, allowing for maximum utilisation of the area, in this case bolstered by its installation on a mezzanine level. This leaves the ground level available for other operations.
Such benefits are clearly of interest to those in the retail sector where warehouse efficiencies can have a real impact on the bottom line, and yet AutoStore is also geared for future growth and offers flexibility for retailers that continue to grow their online and high street operations.
Thanks to Swisslog’s forward planning, mezzanine installation and seamless project management, ASDA was able to implement the whole system without any disruption to the current set up. Having an ergonomic goods-to-person solution also maintains colleague wellbeing in what can be a demanding environment.
Ant Everett concludes: "The Swisslog design team have shown great aptitude in understanding the needs of our business, and demonstrated a willingness to customise the application to meet our requirements.”