Thursday, May 25, 2023

News: Inside the massive Rotherham warehouse where staff share the work with 250 robots


NEXT, the British multinational clothing, footwear and home products retailer, has announced the success of an automation collaboration at its Dearne Valley Pallet fulfillment centre in Rotherham.

In 500,000 sq ft of warehouse space at Manvers, 250 Geek+ robots handle both goods-to-person picking and order sorting processes for NEXT's e-commerce operations.

Opened in 2008, Next's 1.1m sq ft Rotherham operation at Brookfield's Park had 1,500+ people working there in 2021, when the robots were first introduced. The two buildings can handle over 100,000 pallets and includes the largest warehouse in Next's 13-site distribution network. A £50m, 200,000 sq ft extension is on the cards, creating an additional 150 jobs.

Faced with high demand and operating in the volatile fashion industry, NEXT decided to streamline its processes and scale up efficiently to meet new customer requirements. To achieve this goal, they have sought efficient solutions including selecting Geek+ as their robotic warehouse automation partner. The hybrid “Pick-and-Sort” solution is the result of the successful co-development process between the two companies.

Liam Jenkinson, Site Manager at NEXT, said: "Working with Geek+ has been a positive experience for us, both from the start and with the ongoing support provided. The flexibility offered by Geek+'s picking and sortation system is critical to our operations, and the integration between our Warehouse Management System and Geek+'s Robot Management System is seamless. As our business continues to expand, we are planning to extend the warehouse and replicate the success of this project in the new space."

The process begins with the Geek+ P800 picking robots, which retrieve the pallets from the pallet transfer area and move them to the storage area for picking. Once a picking order is initiated, the robot transports the rack to a multifunctional workstation that is utilised for both the picking and sorting procedures. Once the picking is completed, the operator deposits the item onto the S20C sorting robot. The S20C robot then transfers the goods to the designated chute for the depot, while the parcel heads downstairs for packing. The flexibility of the Geek+ solution enables NEXT to manage a wide variety of products that differ in size, weight, and velocity of sale.

With this solution, NEXT can process 16,000 units per day. According to NEXT, the efficiency of the automated process is twice that of manual picking.

Brian Lee, VP of EMEA Region at Geek+, said: "NEXT is a visionary customer that placed their trust in us. We are proud to have fulfilled our promise and provided NEXT's warehouse with our intelligent and flexible warehouse automation solutions. We are eager to replicate it in more warehouses across the UK, Europe, and around the global."

This improved efficiency has not only enabled NEXT to handle a record volume during the last Christmas season without requiring additional labour, but it has also allowed them to push the cut-off time from 6 pm to 10 pm while still meeting their NEXT day delivery promise. One of the advantages of the Geek+ solution is its scalability. To meet their growing demand, NEXT introduced 50 additional S20C robots earlier this year.

NEXT plc website
Geek+ website

Images: Geek+ / NEXT


Anonymous,  May 25, 2023 at 2:35 PM  

If only the Planning Department was manned by robots

Anonymous,  May 31, 2023 at 7:24 AM  

Well their meetings certainly drone on

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