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British retailer picks the light solution

Light-directed put stations are designed to help an apparel retailer optimize split case fulfillment and account for a 300% improvement in pick rates.
By Lorie King Rogers, Associate Editor
October 01, 2011

British apparel retailer, Next, markets home products, clothing, footwear and accessories in its 500 stores throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, and in 50 franchise branches in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

To keep up with demand and its changing business requirements, Next installed a new goods-to-person order fulfillment solution that has enabled the company to achieve a dramatic increase in distribution productivity and capacity.  The high-rate order fulfillment system (Dematic) delivered a threefold increase in order picking rates, along with far greater peak capacity.

The fulfillment system, which is dedicated to the company’s fast moving product lines, has 20 stations that fill orders for up to 24 stores each. At each high-rate put station, an operator is directed by put-to-light displays to fulfill a series of orders, fed by a seamless, sequenced supply of products.  The products are automatically delivered to the station’s central picking point from the automated storage and retrieval system.

Each station holds up to 24 order totes destined for one of the retail outlets. The light displays at each location indicate how many items must be put into each of the totes, allowing a single operator to work on up to 24 store orders at the same time. When an order tote is full, the display instructs the operator to push it onto a take-away conveyor for transfer to shipping.

The high-rate put stations minimize the time an employee must travel in the warehouse to access each pick face. Instead, they are fed with a continual supply of products, and the ergonomic design of the stations ensures that high productivity is combined with minimal physical demands. The innovative design enables operators to achieve pick rates up to 1,000 items per hour depending on the order profile. An additional benefit of supplying stock to pickers is that errors are substantially reduced, improving accuracy and customer service levels. 

About the Author

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Lorie King Rogers
Associate Editor

Lorie King Rogers, associate editor, joined Modern in 2009 after working as a freelance writer for the Casebook issue and show daily at tradeshows. A graduate of Emerson College, she has also worked as an editor on Stock Car Racing Magazine.


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