Inside Vargo’s Distribution Center: Automating fashion distribution

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Varner,

Vänersborg, Sweden

SIZE: 500,000 square feet

ITEMS: Owns 10 retail chains. Fashion retail.

SKUS: 50,000

SHIFTS PER DAY/DAYS PER WEEK: 2 shifts, 6 days


Read the feature article on the Varner warehouse.


Varner’s distribution center was centrally located in Sweden for access to ports and the retailer’s network of stores and customers across seven European countries. Processes were designed to manage pallets, cartons and item-level units and piece picking for e-commerce fulfillment and garments on hanger.

The facility is divided into several processing areas.

High-bay AS/RS: The high-bay area provides bulk buffer storage for 50,000 pallets. The product stored here represents a limited number of SKUs purchased in large quantities for one of Varner’s value chains and stored at the pallet level. When floor-loaded containers arrive at receiving (1) from the port, cartons are unloaded onto extendable conveyor (2) and transported to a cross-belt sortation area (3). The cartons are sorted by SKU to a robotic palletizer (4). Pallets are automatically stretch wrapped and then conveyed to the automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) (5) for temporary storage.

When product is retrieved from the AS/RS, it’s conveyed to a manual processing area where the stretch-wrap is removed. The pallets are then automatically depalletized and the cartons are conveyed to the mini-load storage system (6), which is the facility’s main order fulfillment engine for store replenishment.

Carton receiving

The carton receiving area can sort 6,000 cartons per hour. Cartons for which there is immediate demand are crossdocked to shipping (7) into an outgoing truck for store delivery.

Mini-load system

Cartons destined for storage are conveyed to a mini-load storage area (6) serviced by 22 cranes and with storage capacity for 500,000 cartons. The mini-load serves as the primary carton order fulfillment system for the facility. When Varner’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system assembles orders, they are sent to the warehouse management system (WMS). Cartons are then retrieved from the mini-load and sent either to the shipping area, where they are loaded onto a truck, or to the robotic goods-to-person picking area (8).

Robotic goods-to-person picking

Cartons destined for the goods-to-person picking area may come directly from receiving or from the mini-load system. Cartons go first to a decant area (9), where the contents are emptied into a tote and conveyed to the upper level for storage and handling by the robots. Where there is demand for product, the robots remove a tote from storage and send them to one of the workstations. All stations can fill e-commerce orders and orders for mixed SKU cartons for store replenishment. Items for store replenishment are picked into a corrugated container. Once all of the items for that container have been picked, a lid is automatically added, the box is labeled and then conveyed and sorted into an outbound truck. Items for e-commerce orders are put into one of 40 different polybags. Finished bags are then conveyed to a bag sorter and sorted into a roller cage.

Garment-on-hanger (GOH) area

Some incoming cartons are sorted directly to the GOH area (10). There, they are decanted onto hangers that are inducted onto the GOH system. The area serves a three-level pick module. Associates are directed by voice to pick items. Those items are placed on a central conveyor line, delivered to a labeling area and then loaded onto trucks.

System suppliers

SYSTEM DESIGN, INTEGRATION & GENERAL CONTRACTOR; LIGHT GOODS & PALLET CONVEYOR SYSTEMS; MINI-LOAD AS/RS, PALLET-HANDLING AS/RS, WMS, WCS & WES: Swisslog

CROSS-BELT SORTATION: Beumer

ROBOTIC GOODS-TO-PERSON PICKING: AutoStore

ROBOTIC DEPALLETIZING: Kuka Robotics

ROBOTIC PALLETIZING: Qimarox

AUTOMATIC CARTON ERECTION & CLOSING: Jomet

E-COMMERCE BAG SORTATION: Qubica

MINI-LOAD RACK SYSTEM: Bito Storage Solutions

PALLET RACKING: Stow

ORDER RELEASE MODULE FOR SORTING INCOMING CASES: Dynamic Logistic Systems

TELESCOPING CONVEYORS FOR LOADING AND UNLOADING: Caljan

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock

Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


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