Designing A Distribution Center For Growth

Dairy Crest's U.K. facility sets the standard for chilled dairy DCs.


The monorail, a single-track Dematic DSB system with 28 suspended pallet carriers, is the heart of the pallet transport system. It can carry 200 inbound pallets and 230 outbound pallets an hour and is supplemented with five lifts for moving pallets between levels in the building as well.

"The system runs smoothly," Jeffreys says. "Incoming pallets are transferred from trailers to infeeds on automated receiving conveyors via ride-on powered pallet trucks. The pallet identity is verified against information held in the warehouse management system (WMS). Pallets are moved to one of the two fully-automated high-bay warehouses via the monorail. The monorail enables load stability to be maintained, due to the gentle nature by which the pallet is handled."

"The finished goods store offers over 12,000 pallet storage locations, spread across five aisles, each of which is served by a high capacity, double-pallet handling storage and retrieval crane," Jeffreys says. "Typically, goods remain here for no more than a few days before being transferred via the monorail to the picking hall."

Five storage and retrieval cranes replenish the picking aisles automatically. Order pickers are guided by radio data terminals (RDT's) to product-pick locations, while traveling around the area on ride-on pallet trucks. When picking is complete, the pallet is fed into an automatic in-line shrink wrapper, and then through an automatic shipping label applicator, before being transferred to the dispatch area via monorail or powered pallet truck.

Warehouse Control

Siemens also implemented a WMS application tailored precisely to the requirements of Dairy Crest. Product coming in is tracked with EAN-128 pallet labels. As soon as each pallet is received and scanned, it associates with a prior electronic-received purchase order.

The WMS also integrates with Dairy Crest's sales order processing IT platform, creating a seamless path from the customer through to the dispatch of picked goods.

With picking, the WMS includes the ability to continually assess future order requirements and assign and replenish picking locations. The order picking software employs systems to ensure pick pallets are assembled correctly. Volumetric data, "crushability" factors and customer-specific delivery requirements are factored in.

Yard management is also encompassed by the WMS, with the movement of trailers monitored and controlled with the help of two dedicated shunting vehicles equipped with on-board RTD's.

"We greatly benefited from putting all of our activities together," Watson adds. "Our customers are now happier. By moving our stock control next to our transport, we can now run efficient transport out of the distribution center, whereas before our distribution vehicles might have only been 60 percent to 70 percent full.

"We have moved the distribution point closer to some of our factories, and all of our stock is now in one building and on one system. This has proved a worthwhile investment for Dairy Crest," he concludes

Order fulfillment is up to 99.9 percent. Stock turnaround decreased from 24 hours to 14 minutes. Accurate fulfillment of incoming orders within tight deadlines is consistently achieved, Product dispatch happens within six hours of receiving an order.

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