A Healthy Simplicity
Link 51 designed and installed Pallet Racking and Euro Shelving systems that will provide NHS National Services Scotland with versatility for the future at its new National Distribution Centre (NDC).
NHS National Services Scotland has established a 100,000 sq ft National Distribution Centre for the whole of Scotland in Larkhall near Glasgow that will eventually house 12,000 SKUs. Link 51 provided pallet racking for 9,500 pallet locations as well as a Euro Shelving installation to house small parts on a mezzanine that provides an additional 20,000 sq ft. Link 51 not only provided NHS National Services Scotland with a flexible storage system that can be evolved with its business but also installed it around the client when they needed to move in earlier than planned.
Well-located close to the M74, the NDC supplies everything used in hospitals and health care centres, apart from medicines and drugs, to the whole of Scotland. The centre is a first – Scotland’s local authorities previously having their own warehouses – and NHS National Services Scotland is currently midway through the process of bringing all the local health authorities into the NDC.
When it came to kitting out the NDC, NHS National Services Scotland, being a public sector company, was obliged to tender throughout Europe for its equipment. From this process, Link 51 came out with the winning storage solution. “Link 51 gave us the best solution both in terms of product and cost,” says Jack McIntyre, Deputy Compliance Manager at NHS National Services Scotland. “They were able to advise us throughout the project. For example, we brought Link 51 in to advise on the racking during the NDC build to ensure it was an integral part of the whole warehouse.”
The design brief was simple: keep it straightforward. “We wanted a storage system that would be basic enough for us to alter easily if we needed. A standard aisle pallet racking system – all the same size – allows us to consider mechanisation if we need to in the future,” says Jack.
Link 51 designed the pallet racking using Link 51 XL Pallet Racking, which is the most widely used pallet storage system within the UK.
By selecting from a wide range of sizes and duties of standard frame uprights and beams, XL Pallet Racking can be configured to meet precise criteria in terms of load volume and weight, accessibility, handling requirements and space utilisation.
The standard beams and uprights are configured for standard pallets, though the system can also accommodate Euro pallets using wooden platforms across the beams. There are 23 aisles, each 2.9 metres wide and served by a fleet of reach trucks with 10.5m high masts that can reach the top level of the rack. Low level order pickers towing roll cages are used for picking from the bottom level of the rack.
Suppliers deliver bulk goods to the NDC every day, where they are picked for individual hospitals and locations. There are two types of picking operation: a bulk pick and a small part pick located on a mezzanine floor. Link 51’s configuration for the pallet racking allows picking from the bottom level. Everything above that is for replenishment. Small part picks carried out on the mezzanine are also replenished from the bulk store.
Operations are managed using barcoding. When goods come in through the receipt doors the Warehouse Management System allocates a location for put away and products are picked using hand-held data terminals to tell operatives what needs to be picked and where it can be found.
The small parts storage area on the mezzanine can accommodate 6,000 SKUs within 15 racks of Link 51’s Euro Shelving. Each rack is five bays high. Replenishment Pallets are lifted up to the mezzanine by reach truck and received at special gates. Small parts are order picked into blue tote boxes and cardboard boxes depending on requirement, which are then sent down a spiral conveyor to be stored in a carton live system located under the mezzanine for consolidation. Here the barcode is swiped and then married up with large part picks in roll cages for delivery as part of the same order. The roll cages are then taken to the marshalling area ready to be loaded onto the delivery vehicle.
The order is delivered straight to the hospital’s receiving area and roll cages provide a hygienic mode of transit. The NDC also has a tote box washer – every tote going out gets washed.
“Link 51 have been very good, very flexible and did all they said they would do. The racking itself is certainly fit for purpose. This is the first large, central store for this purpose and the whole process represents a significant change. However, it all leads to an improved service plus cost reductions, with the resulting savings going back into front-end patient care.” – Jack McIntyre, Deputy Compliance Manager, NHS National Services Scotland
With the NDC’s base build completed in November the fit out, including the racking together with the sprinkler system and offices, was programmed to be completed 3 months later, when NHS National Services Scotland would take possession. However, a fire at its previous East Kilbride warehouse led to NHS National Services Scotland needing to move in sooner than planned and start operating from the site in December.
This made it even more imperative that the racking was installed on time and necessitated Link 51 having to cooperate closely with NHS National Services Scotland as well as the other contractors involved in the warehouse to accommodate its operations while the racking was being installed. Nevertheless, the installation ran smoothly and Link 51 more than met the challenge, allowing NHS National Services Scotland to maintain normal service levels.
Jack explains: “Link 51 were very accommodating, which allowed us to move in before the racking was complete. Normally we would have racked from one corner of the warehouse and moved outwards. However, we started operations in the middle of the warehouse while Link 51 racked the far end. When Link 51 finished a section, we moved in and they began working at the other end until we met in the middle. Furthermore, the sprinkler system had to be installed at the same time, which saw Link 51 working together with the sprinkler company. Considering that we were operating before the racking was finished, it all worked out very well. We were supplying goods from the warehouse while Link 51 installed the racking yet the racking was installed on time and we officially took possession at the end of February.”
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