George Utz develops container for John Lewis

John Lewis began in 1864 with the opening of the first shop in London's Oxford Street.Today, it is one of the UKs best known and trusted names on the High Street.Supported by its network of suppliers around the world, John Lewiss 29 shops typically stock more than 350,000 separate lines, and its growing online business over 100,000 products.

June 2009 saw the opening of John Lewis brand-new 45 million, state-of-the-art National Distribution Centre in Milton Keynes. The 650,000 sq ft centre features a huge automated handling system that drives the distribution for some 87,000 products. 

The new centre is a major part of John Lewis' programme of supply chain investment, supporting plans to open ten new shops in 10 years and accelerating improvements in productivity, availability and customer service.

The Solution

The highly automated internal logistics system was designed and installed by Knapp UK, and features 8.4km of conveyors and over a quarter of a million bin storage locations. The system includes 13 ASRS cranes, each running in aisles 78m long by 15m high and handling products in totes that are stored two deep. 
As a leading developer of returnable plastic transport systems, George Utz worked in partnership with Knapp UK and John Lewis to develop a bespoke stack nest distribution container to integrate with the new automated system whilst still being compatible with their existing fleet of totes.  The new container boasts an internally welded anti-slip base plate to provide strength and rigidity.  It additionally reduces the risk of fragile product being damage through high speed automation, or in transit to store.  The bespoke stacking features promote safety and stability throughout their journey from DC to shop floor, whilst the reinforced handle area offers a comfortable and robust feel when manually handling the container.

Over 350,000 high quality polypropylene containers with dimensions of 600 x 400 x 307mm have been produced over the last 10 months in Utzs fully automated, state of the art 24/7 production plant in Alfreton, Derbyshire.  All materials used are fully recyclable, another important consideration which underpins John Lewis strict environmental policies.

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