Guttering firm Marley Alutec turned to Exporta for support in improving the layout, processes, and efficiency of its extrusions warehouse operation in Bedford.

The main issue was that the range had grown over time and processes had changed. New lines and ranges were added, and the racking was extended on an ad-hoc basis over several years. The result was a well-stocked warehouse that operated perfunctorily but was not aesthetically pleasing, or as efficient as the management team would have liked.

Head of operations and customer service Kevin Stanley says: “Our challenge is to become an agile Operations / Warehouse facility to meet our changing customer demands. Reduced Lead Times is one such challenge. We have had to adapt and change our racking and set up to accommodate improved lead times, new ranges and colours over the last few years without disrupting the operation in any way. This has meant ad-hoc changes and making do with what we have had available or expanding some racking or shelving as needed. It means that our site was not set up to be as efficient as we would like it. Having worked with Exporta in the past I knew we could work together and provide a solution.”

Don Marshall, who worked in supply chain operations and warehouses before joining Exporta, visited the site in Bedford to see what might be possible. There were several further changes to the operation and range planned, which needed to be taken into account when considering a solution that made order picking and replenishment as efficient as possible. Discussions and initial ideas from the team at Marley Alutec included various scenarios.

The main solution for the first phase and an area for improvement was to be one of the fastest moving range areas. The initial idea from the team at Marley Alutec was to look at some format of a gravity-fed system that could accommodate the existing recycled bale arm crates, and that worked within the budgetary constraints. This solution meant replenishment could be executed from the back of the racking and picking from the front, avoiding congestion, and keeping both processes efficient and separate.

Exporta created the project’s design, but it was a team effort between Exporta and Marley Alutec to develop and agree upon the final solution. Once agreed, the first bay of the new gravity-fed racking was ordered (as a trial section) so that it could be tested and adjusted accordingly before the full area was installed.

The initial trial was a success and, with a few tweaks to the design, a larger section was ordered for installation. This larger configuration was trickier to install and setup correctly as the installation was not as straight-forward as anticipated. Through discussions between both Exporta and Marley Alutec, the installation was completed and the gravity-fed racking fully operational.

Don Marshall, head of eCommerce & fulfilment at Exporta says: “This was a great project to be involved in. From the start, we knew it would not be easy to find a simple and effective solution within the agreed budget and site constraints, but we managed to create an efficient and leaner picking and replenishment operation in one go. Now we are looking forward to phase two where further innovation will be required.”

Kevin Stanley concludes: “We are really pleased with the outcome. It was not easy turning the concept into a fully working setup and getting it configured correctly. However, we worked together to produce a new and better way of working and look forward to working with Exporta again in the future.”

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