Store fulfillment transformed into Omni-Channel fulfillment

WITRON Logistic + Informatik Gmbh, (Parkstein, Germany) was tasked with reconfiguring UK health and beauty retail giant, Boots’ existing Nottingham Store Service Center (SSC) into a fully functioning Omni-Channel fulfillment center in 3 weeks.

During the early stages of the COVID19 pandemic, Boots continued to see foot traffic in retail locations, which included in store pick ups from online ordering. As the UK entered full lockdown procedures, retail sales plummeted and direct to consumer shipping soared, forcing an on-the-fly adaptation of their SSC. Boots had been using an order management system for several months that was set up above the warehouse management system. WITRON IT experts “simply” redefined the SSC to a store – a huge store with a massive inventory in just 3 weeks. “We have never experienced anything like that – transforming a logistics center originally designed exclusively for store delivery into an omni-channel logistics center at record speed”, said Jack Kuypers, Vice President North-West Europe at WITRON.

Originally designed to service more than 2,300 stores with millions of units from a 37,000 product range, Nottingham employed WITRON’s Dynamic Picking System (DPS) and 252 workstations. The highly dynamic and automated picking of small items in DPS is supported by a pick-by-light system. The DPS works according to both, the goods-to-person and the person-to-goods principle. Depending on the order structure, the items are arranged in the pick front either permanently or on demand, so that the picking process is optimized at all times. The DPS supports different types of order picking: From tote into tote, from pallet into tote, from tote into the shipping carton, etc. Regardless of the picking type, the picker is always guided by a pick-by-light system. Large-volume items from the Boots inventory in the SSC are picked by radio data supported and route-optimized by the semi-automated Car Picking System (CPS) onto roll containers. In total, Boots employees in Nottingham pick almost 3 million units on a peak day.

“We have been working very well with WITRON for more than ten years, always coming up with new, creative processes,” said Alan Penhale, Supply Chain Director at Boots. “I am surprised that we managed to ship over 6,000 online orders per day. It is top class what we have achieved together during the crisis.”

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