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Lalesse Europe handed over the very first AutoStore system in Benelux at the end of last month to the sports clothing manufacturer Patrick from Oudenaarde in Belgium. At the beginning of next year, Patrick will be using AutoStore fully for distribution to its sports shops throughout Europe. The system at Patrick comprises over 45,000 plastic bins in which 6,000 different clothing items and sports accessories will be placed. 

Eight robots for storing and fetching

The AutoStore at Patrick’s warehouse in Oudenaarde consists of 3,100 cells in 6.5 m high grid . Each cell has is rooming 16 bins, making the total count 45,378. Patrick will use 8 robots to start with.

Large numbers of items on a small floor area

Patrick’s quest for a suitable storage and order picking system has been long. “We were looking for a ASRS already before Patrick was taken over in 2008,” explains chief operating officer Wouter Degroote of Cortina, which is the primary company and shoe supplier.

“Two tricky considerations were the determining factors in the search: the investment had to be justifiable, and it also had to fit in our premises, which are 7.5 m high. We only kept finding solutions that were far from ideal, until we discovered AutoStore in May last year at CeMAT in Hannover.”

Old picking process was inefficient

Until now, Patrick picked the items directly from pallets in a conventional warehouse with pallet racks. The process was inefficient, meaning that order pickers sometimes had to cover 22 kilometres on peak days. “Patrick’s product range comprises 6,000 different articles, 1.5 million items in total, of which one third only move extremely slowly but still take up a lot of space. AutoStore lets us handle a large number of items on a small floor area,” says Mr Degroote.

Bins placed on an extremely flat floor

The installation of the system started in April when a new floor was poured. It had to be extremely flat so that the stacks of plastic bins could stand directly on the ground. Lalesse Europe started fitting the frame in June, a job that took about six weeks. It then took four weeks before the eight robots had put all the 45,000-plus bins in the right places. After extensive testing, the system was handed over to Patrick at the end of September.

1,600 picks per hour

The system is dimensioned at a capacity of 270 picks per hour for the three order picking stations taken together. The first tests have shown that this capacity is comfortably exceeded. “The advantage of this system is its flexibility. The three order picking stations are letting us scale up to a maximum of 1,600 picks per hour. In addition, we can deploy extra robots and create extra order picking stations if market growth demands it,” explains Mr Degroote.

Step-by-step commissioning

Over the next three months, the sports clothing brand will be carrying out thorough tests to see how AutoStore interacts with their own warehouse management system. They will also be training the staff. From January next year, the system will be filled and they will start using it, step by step.

Thirty AutoStore-systems worldwide

If everything goes according to schedule, the manufacturer Hatteland Logistics will have implemented more than thirty AutoStore systems worldwide by the end of this year. Sales engineer and project manager Johan Kuijs of Hatteland now has a reference for comparison.

“In terms of the number of robots, this project is one of the smaller ones. But in terms of the number of bins it is in fact one of the largest. The implementation went extremely well and the system is running beautifully,” Mr Kuijs tells us.

Lalesse Europe are satisfied

Lalesse Europe can look back on the project positively too. “We started selling the system in the Benelux countries in 2010. So it’s a good feeling to see the robots running flawlessly over the framework of our first system less than two years later. This first project went very smoothly,” explains Rob Pauls, sales and service manager of Lalesse Europe.

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