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Improving picking efficiency: challenged to install an order picking system at the heart of Spirax Sarco's production facility in a space just 10m wide and 140 metres long, BITO Storage solutions provided a solution that has delivered a 20% improvement in picking efficiency as well as accommodating the company's growth. PWE reports.

Having already successfully installed a carton live picking system for Spirax Sarco's Finished Goods Store at the beginning of 2010, BITO Storage Systems has implemented the next phase in the Cheltenham-based manufacturer's project to transform its order picking.

The new storage and picking installation is a key part of Spirax Sarco's programme to refurbish its manufacturing facility in Runnings Road, Cheltenham. It receives components from the machine shop, which runs on a 24/7 operation, and feeds the production lines where they are assembled into the products that form Spirax Sarco's vast range. This covers the entire steam and condensate loop, from blow down valves and steam trap stations, to bespoke packaged systems and sustainable boiler houses. The completed products then go into the Finished Goods Store.

With this new system, eight staff pick 500 lines per day for delivery to the line side. This means Spirax Sarco is picking at least 20% more efficiently than it did previously and everyday that pick is between 99 to 100% right first time.

The main challenge was to install a system with the capacity to accommodate Spirax Sarco's growth plans and provide a smooth flow through the plant yet fit into a space of just 10 m wide and 140 metres long. Combining its expertise and broad range of products, and with the help of a small extension to the building, BITO devised a solution that gives Spirax Sarco 9000 positions for a range of BITO carton sizes in this space.

The entire storage installation, which is split into four pick zones serving four production zones, comprises two 170 m long aisles of BITO's standard, galvanised Pro Racking, six levels high. One of these aisles is a narrow aisle store, served by two wire-guided VNA (Very Narrow Aisle) trucks. This is the location for Euro pallets with collars or BITO's 800 x 600 XL plastic containers holding Spirax Sarco's bulkier items or large numbers of faster moving small parts. The pallets are stored with their short side at the pick face to allow three pallets to be located between the uprights.

The narrow aisle runs alongside a two-tier carton live structure, which is integral to the rack. With its 650m2 mezzanine this structure provides an aisle of carton live storage on two tiers to hold smaller items, weighing no more than 15 kg, in the company's 600 x 400 mm and 400 x 300 mm XL containers, with the smallest items held in its RK plastic trays. Standardising on BITO containers means Spirax Sarco's handling units are all completely compatible, allowing them to fit together neatly. The carton live flow lanes are two containers deep. Items are picked from the front container into a tote pushed along an integrated gravity roller conveyor. To accommodate further development, BITO's design incorporates space to install a powered conveyor in the future, which will allow goods to be sent automatically down the line.

Picked items from the mezzanine floor are transferred from the integrated picking conveyor to a transverse conveyor travelling to a Gebhardt lift serving that zone. The lift takes the picked goods down to the production floor for despatch to the lines.

BITO's solution gives Spirax Sarco a massive increase in storage capacity and in its ability to pick items. The manufacturer previously used stillages to store its parts, which were stacked 12 high. These cumbersome units, which each weighed 20kg, could only be removed no more than three at a time, so it required three forklift truck movements to access a stillage towards the bottom of a stack.

The old system would receive an entire lorry-load of machine-shopped components at once for booking in and put away. However, 'little and often' is the key to operating successful Kaizan, Kanban and JIT systems and this means keeping the flow going.

Now, loads are booked into a fixed picking location and the installation receives the goods via filtered, hourly deliveries. Parts travel from the machine shop by powered pallet truck on a 2 min journey every hour through a recently completed tunnel, which burrows 6 metres beneath a road to link the machine shop with the new storage facility.

Edward Hutchison, MD at BITO Storage Systems explained: "It was a massive challenge to fit this racking structure, let alone the required stock capacity, within a 10 m wide strip. It required detailed planning involving some 23 drawings to get to the right solution for Spirax Sarco. That's the beauty of what we do and we have all the products needed to design a storage solution to make the best use of density of stock."

Dave Chamberlain, logistics manager at Spirax Sarco, commented: "We were taken to the BITO's group HQ in Germany to discuss timescales and demonstrate that everything could be manufactured and delivered on time - and it was. BITO delivered absolutely spot on, and on time again. As with the Finished Product Store, the benefit of having a 'one stop shop' supplier is that there are no problems with bins rolling properly in the carton live lanes because they come from the same manufacturer. As a customer about to make a large investment on racking, you look a company in the eye and ask: 'can you deliver?' We got the system and it is paying dividends."

Going on to describe how, David Chamberlain said: "Our new BITO racking enables us to maintain production rates and provides much greater visibility of our stock. Items are also easily accessible for order picking. We no longer need to move anything to access a required item. Previously, we had to move silos, stacks of stillages and carousels. Furthermore, if we have a rush on picking we now have the potential to put in 20 pickers.

"The great thing with BITO's PRO galvanised racking system is its flexibility: it can easily be reconfigured. For example, we discovered that the P&D stations were not being used fully on both levels so we simply inserted another few beams in the space in the racking and relocated them. We also have the potential to add another level of carton live storage throughout the whole facility if necessary to give a 25% increase in capacity and facilitate growth in the business."

The next stage for Spirax Sarco and BITO, in addition to optimising the lineside storage, is to complete the flow at the Runnings Road site with a new Finished Parts Store. BITO's installation in 2010 was in a temporary site just down the road to make way for the refurbishment work at Runnings Road and give the manufacturer a chance to establish and test a new, and far more efficient, carton live order picking system. This is now playing a critical role in the growth of the company's global distribution operation. When the new Finished Goods Store is erected next to the production line hall, BITO will transfer the existing carton live storage currently in the temporary site in addition to increasing the pick face by 30%.

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Title Annotation:Handling & Storage
Publication:Plant & Works Engineering
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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