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Home>Automation>Picking & sortation>Long-term benefits

Long-term benefits

10 January 2017

The National Distribution Centre for British Gas in Leicester is proof that logistics automation can provide low lifetime costs – the automated handling solution supplied to the site by KNAPP recently achieved ten years of successful operation.

The 12,800m2 National Distribution Centre (NDC) provides next-day delivery of gas and electrical appliance spare parts and ancillary equipment for 13,000 British Gas engineers nationwide. Serving more than 11 million home and business customers in the UK, the company’s Leicester operation is both huge and complex, with some 40,000 stock lines.

“In summer, 25-30,000 items are distributed from the NDC each day, rising to 40-45,000 items per day in winter,” explained Jason Bailey, Logistics Manager for British Gas. “The warehouse operates seven days a week and orders made by our field engineers by 8.00pm are delivered to one of 800 collection points across the UK by 7.45am the next morning. It is the automation that has makes this possible,” continued Jason Bailey, “and in fact the system allows access to any item in a maximum of 20 minutes. We also supply the engineers’ van stock.”

The logistics solution features two of KNAPP’s OSR Shuttle automated storage and retrieval systems, as well as a miniload store, several thousand metres of intelligent conveyor and pick-to-light technology. As British Gas engineers order their required parts and materials at each customer site via their laptops, shipping totes are part-picked and buffer stored in one of the OSR Shuttle systems, allowing rapid vehicle loading when loads are ready for distribution.

Downtime minimised

Under a 7-year maintenance contract signed in 2013 – the longest KNAPP service agreement to date – a resident team of KNAPP engineers provides a 24/7/365 service that includes preventative maintenance, spare parts management, hotline support, IT services and emergency repair. With the life expectancy of each piece of equipment assessed, parts are replaced before they fail, resulting in fewer system outages. “The ongoing programme of preventative maintenance has been extremely beneficial to our business,” commented Jason Bailey. “Downtime has been reduced and the NDC has an excellent reputation within our parent group, Centrica.” 

Successful partnership

The KNAPP solution has secured a number of benefits for British Gas including improved management information, the capacity to handle growth, significantly reduced manual handling, enhanced stock integrity, superior space utilisation and a significant reduction in picking errors. “British Gas has been proactive in investing in extensions and upgrades for its warehouse automation,” commented Nathan Billing, Head of Customer Service for KNAPP UK Ltd. “Of course, having members of our team on site has undoubtedly helped us to understand British Gas’ evolving business needs and suggest enhancements. Under the continuing partnership with British Gas,” he added, “KNAPP also recently took responsibility for providing service support at the British Gas returns centre in Coventry.”