A BITO Storage Systems installation has helped Autoparts & Diagnostics (APD) transform its central warehouse operation for the UK by giving extra capacity and a more efficient picking operation through greater density of storage.
In July 2017, leading supplier of top quality automotive parts, tools and diagnostic equipment, APD moved into a new central warehouse just across the road from its existing facility in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. BITO racking, shelving and carton live flow lanes with XL containers give the space capacity that APD needs inside the new facility to establish new and more efficient work processes. This will result in a throughput this year of 4 million items, doubling what was achieved in the old warehouse.
Enjoying consistent growth over the last 9 years, APD needed a building that could accommodate that trend for the next five years. The company supplies a broad range of automotive parts from 50 different suppliers – anything from small spark plugs, right through to heavy clutch kits. The range is constantly evolving as APD takes on more suppliers and looks at new opportunities.
Throughput of the product in the old warehouse was a major challenge, according to Charlie Baker, Operations Manager at APD. He says: “We had a warehouse and layout that was fit for purpose of an operation of about half the size of ours.”
The new building offered more warehouse capacity and the company turned to external consultant, Chris Lima, for advice. “Carton Live Storage and the drive through racking were a core part of the project that we developed with BITO to maximise the space and integrate with the way we want to work.”
According to Lima, the BITO installation has not only increased capacity of storage but it has also been a catalyst for the introduction of more customer-centric process in its new warehouse.
Orders are picked as soon as goods arrive, with incoming pallets placed straight on the warehouse floor in the middle of the building. Once a pallet for an order is complete, it’s wrapped, labelled and put into a customer-specific area of the drive through racking, ready for customer collection. The narrow aisles are served by an articulated forklift truck, saving space on the counterbalance lift truck / wide aisle combination of the old facility. BITO’s drive through racking design accommodates different pallet sizes and also allows double stacking, when possible, which reduces the overall number of lifts by up to 60%.
“Sometimes clients order small amounts of a certain product from a certain supplier, which were kept in a palletised backorder tub,” says Lima. “This was space-inefficient in the old warehouse because we needed a pallet for each customer, which meant a significant number of pallets were lined around the sides of the warehouse at varying levels of being full or empty. We saw carton live as an opportunity to condense this storage from a space perspective.”
The Carton Live Storage (CLS) provides 11 bays of flow lanes, giving small parts storage for 16 customers per bay on the opposite side of the warehouse to the racking. APD spent time with BITO to find the right height for the flow lanes and to select the right container to match its products, which turned out to be the BITO XL 800 mm x 600 mm x 320 mm high storage container. BITO retrofitted the carton live flow lanes onto racking brought over from the old warehouse.
Stock that APD holds is located on rows of BITO boltless galvanised shelving, which has been designed to fully optimise the space. In the old warehouse, this stock was all on pallet racking, hogging space.
BITO commenced installation after Easter 2017, working closely with APD on phasing the work to ensure business continuity while the existing racking was transferred to the new facility.
“It was a big jump from what we had to what we were moving into,” says Lima “Having BITO’s constant support, the ability to consult with them regularly and play around with equipment in BITO’s facility was crucial. Installation was completed in mid-July and since then we have been constantly refining our process as we go.”
Lima also highlights how the new process has created safer work practice by segregating pedestrian operatives in the warehouse and the articulated forklift trucks within the racking.
Baker concludes: “We now have a facility that we are proud to show to customers. The BITO installation has allowed us to change our processes, which has made us a lot leaner. The new warehouse design has allowed us to change our strategy and be able to adapt to changing requirements.”