With increasing sales and a determination to maintain its promise of next day delivery, dstributor of hand and power tools, Toolbank appointed Conveyor Systems (CSL) to streamline the labour ­intensive order picking process and flow of product from its stores located on three floor levels, through to packaging and despatch from their national ­distribution centre at Halesowen

Toolbank was presented with system proposals by CSL which used its latest 3D CAD service that enables the customer to evaluate design concepts in terms of throughputs and product sortation.

The system was designed and manufactured to reduce manual handling, improve efficiency and accuracy of order picking. Increased productivity was achieved by enabling staff to pick and place products directly into tote boxes to be conveyed to a central order consolidation and packing area.

On the upper floor, slower moving items are picked from storage and placed into individual tote boxes. On completion of an order, the tote is placed onto a heavy duty powered roller conveyor that runs along the end of each picking aisle in order to enable the fastest and most efficient batch picking process.

From the upper mezzanine, totes are transported down an inclined belt conveyor onto a powered roller conveyor fitted to the outer edge of the middle floor. This saves and optimises available space but enables totes from the upper and middle floors to use the same conveyor.

Regular product lines are located on the middle floor, picked to order from storage into tote bins and placed at any point along the whole length of the powered roller conveyor, which runs alongside the outer edge of the mezzanine. CSL designed a strengthened framework to support the mid-floor conveyor above the length of a ground floor corridor, while ensuring that a clear access is maintained.

From ground floor storage areas, orders are picked and located in totes to be placed on a powered roller conveyor feeding onto a 12m inclined belt conveyor to eventually merge with the middle floor conveyor.

As part of the contract, CSL installed offices and a separate mezzanine to create a separate order consolidation and packing area. The two conveyor lanes carrying completed orders from the three floors are merged into one automatic zero pressure accumulation conveyor, located on the new mezzanine at the same height as the existing middle floor.

Using a drive concept involving 24V motorised rollers with zone sensors to construct the conveyor modules, this provides for a compact, low profile design that is extremely energy-efficient. The individual conveyor zones, which ensure product gapping and easy removal of the tote bines, are automatically fed and only run when there are containers on the line.

Located on the new mezzanine, the single conveyor lane is flanked by packing tables that can be manned by 16 personnel. Once a tote bin has been removed onto a packing bench, the empty zone signals other totes upstream to index down one position.

Once the order is consolidated and packed, the tote is placed at any point on a conveyor running around the perimeter of the mezzanine to be transported down a compact 3.5m spiral elevator to accumulate at ground floor level for marshalling in the despatch area and re-sorted by van route.

Phil Corby, Toolbank logistics director says: “CSL made an excellent three dimensional presentation of the proposed installation that quickly confirmed they understood our needs. They met our project criteria to the full, overcoming the possible difficulties of operating on three floor levels. CSL provided an energy efficient scheme including software and user friendly controls. Flexiblity in design enables the system to be evolved to cater for future extensions or to include automated sortation.”