BITO Storage Systems has provided Regatta, the UK outdoor clothing and footwear brand, with 2000 bays of specially designed shelving to make picking individual polythene-wrapped garments and footwear easier and to gain the approval of insurers.
Regatta is fast becoming a leading brand across Europe. On the back of up to 30 per cent year on year growth the company decided to install new storage equipment into a larger premises. It found the ideal 400,000 sq ft distribution centre at Pioneer Point, Ellesmere Port and moved in during September 2011, ready for the fit out.
Optimising the order picking locations is vital in such a vast operation and Regatta had two key requirements. Firstly, the shelving, which would be integrated within the ground level bays of the wide aisle pallet racking system installed by Link 51, needed to allow effective sprinkler operation in the event of a fire, thus meeting the approval of Regatta's insurers.
The second goal was to retain stacks of polythene wrapped garments in a way that would make it easy to pick an individual garment from the top of the pile, without causing those below to slide out of the shelf and onto the floor. Whenever a pile of such products gets to about ten high, it starts to arc making it easier for garments to slip out.
Regatta had previously used bespoke, wire mesh baskets of about 500 square mm x 800 mm to hold its stock for picking. While suiting its smaller warehouse operation, providing these baskets for 2000 locations in the new DC would be both costly and impractical and so, with an outline design of what was required, the retailer turned to BITO Storage Systems to provide a new solution that would turn its concept into a successful reality.
Within eight weeks of receiving Regatta's enquiry, BITO provided four prototype designs for a flexible, multiple-product picking unit, based on its galvanised shelving system. This eventually resulted in an order and the system became operational in November 2011.
Each module of BITO's simple solution is configured with four levels of 1300 mm wide x 1800 mm deep shelves. The module's width means that two of these units fit snugly between the uprights of a typical 2.7 m wide pallet rack bay.
The 1300 mm wide shelf is split into two locations by a divider, which has a 75mm wide vertical return on one side at the pick face. Together with a corresponding 75 mm vertical return running down the face of the module's solid side wall, this creates a retained location that holds a pile of individual, polythene wrapped garments securely, preventing them from sliding around during picking, while providing a gap that is wide enough to make an easy pick.
The location on the other side of the divider, without any returns, is fully open to access split case picking of stock, which is replenished from the bulk pallets stored in the pallet racking above.
BITO also provided Regatta with variations on this shelving module to suit different product lines. One of these has dividers with double returns to give retained locations in both halves of the 1300 mm shelf. Another version has no retainers at all on the dividers, while a further version, without dividers, is used by Regatta to accommodate either three x 400 mm wide single cartons or three sets of three high, 400 mm wide picking trays for small items.
A major feature of this project was the extensive involvement from Regatta's insurers so that the design criteria satisfied their requirements. That means ensuring that, in the event of a fire, the shelving would allow water from a sprinkler system to flow through the shelves.
BITO's solution addresses this thanks to the punched shelving that provides large holes in the top three shelf bases (the ground level base is solid) to allow water from Regatta's sprinkler system to flow through. Despite the reduced amount of steel from the large perforations and Regatta requiring each shelf in a module to hold 50 kg, BITO's rigid design still gives an impressive 200 kg capacity. In fact, during testing the shelves still didn't sag under a 300 kg load.
To further maximise the effectiveness of the sprinklers, the BITO design actually controls the direction of the fire. The shelving has mesh at the rear and at the side of the module next to the racking upright but a solid sheet is placed between the two 1300 mm wide modules sitting within a 2.7m wide bay. This solid wall will prevent fire spreading left or right and forms a flue to channel the fire directly to the location of the sprinkler heads to put the fire out as quickly as possible.
"We were looking for something unique in terms of shelving, which would afford us the versatility to be able to place multiple products in a location and also to vary the size of locations depending on the product," says Alistair Wood, General Manager - Logistics at Regatta Group. "We devised a potential design and then looked for a partner to develop it into a working solution. We invited BITO in and they examined a variety of designs to achieve the optimum height, occupancy and flexibility. A trial bay was then built, refining the design through a number of prototypes. BITO's shelving works harmoniously with the pallet racking, the protective equipment, and the sprinklers provided by other suppliers.
"We were trying to satisfy a number of different criteria and drew from both BITO's experience and their ability to work with other companies in the storage equipment sector. BITO's shelving not only meets our criteria but they were able to take our concept and implement the reality within a very short period of time."