For 40-years, Metal Work UK Ltd has been the exclusive, ‘complete range distributor’ of Italian, parent company “Metal Work Pneumatic”. The head of UK/Ireland operations in Milton Keynes holds an enormous stock of their market leading products, and with the help of their Hänel Rotomat, the organisation now achieves 90% next-day delivery on orders. Components vary from simple valves less than an inch square to complex, high-value products weighing 25kg and measuring over three meters long. Metal Work UK has an enormous, diverse client-base – their customers range from medical to printing companies, and one-off orders to decade-long partnerships.
As the company were exercising expansion plans, the Covid pandemic gripped the country – and the world. As a result, the organisation sought alternative methods to achieve their aims.
Metal Work UK opted to specify their Hänel Rotomat in their brand colours. Industore lifts, whether Rotomat or Lean Lifts are available in a wide range of colours as standard, but the possibilities and variations of design are unlimited.
Jason Felce, Operations Manager:
“During the pandemic, the Rotomat was absolutely critical to our success. The carousel allowed us to continue trading while ensuring social distancing measures were adhered to – as the machine only required one operator, compared to what in the past would have required many, many staff. Perhaps more than that, at the time (‘20/’21), we were due to act on our expansion plans, which originally included a premises move. This clearly wasn’t possible during the crisis, but the Rotomat empowered us to repurpose large areas of space, allowing us to continue with the expansion, despite the restrictions the country faced. In fact, to date, just one Rotomat has allowed us to stay where we are, while ensuring we’re able to meet – and to some extent surpass our plans – which has saved us time, money, and disruption. As restrictions eased and we entered the post-Covid world, we’ve repurposed several picking staff across the organisation into more appropriate, valuable roles, particularly in client support. We’ve found that pickers have an enormous amount of product knowledge, which fits customer service roles perfectly.”
Today, Metal Work UK operates one Rotomat, 7m high, which stores over 5,000 products across 50 ranges. The extremely dense, vertical storage carousel consists of a continuous series of shelves (or ‘carriers’), which stores Metal Work’s fast-moving, high-value inventory. On demand, the Rotomat rotates, retrieving the appropriate carrier via the quickest route; and presents the appropriate goods to the picker or stockist (G2M/’goods to person’) at an ergonomic height.
Thanks to a tenacious appetite and strong ambition, Metal Work UK managed – in spite of several turbulent years – to carry through their expansion plans. This was achieved by working with industry leaders and intralogistics experts, Industore Limited who perfectly specified the ideal product – the Hänel Rotomat – to meet the needs (and future needs) of the organisation. Both the height, width and depth of Metal Work UK’s Rotomat was built to order, in-line with their facility’s operational logic and capacity.
Industore Project Manager, Henoc Bananga explains:
“At Industore, our products and services are tailored to our client and their needs. No two solutions are the same, and we are committed to ensuring the best possible solution for our partner. Metal Work UK identified the need for expanded storage capacity, and efficiency savings during a challenging time for business. The Industore solution has managed to use the full facility height to truly maximise their storage capacity, and of course, bring along all the added benefits automated storage and retrieval (AS/RS) has to offer – such as the innovative warehouse management system (WMS).”
Industore’s broad integration abilities allow us to work with just about any existing software application, but we also offer our own, highly configurable, scalable integrated management system (IMS). For Metal Work UK, HänelSoft has offered a huge boost in productivity and savings. The easy-to-use process sits on top of a complex set of rules and setup. For pickers (and replenishment activities), the MP14 controller provides comprehensive, integrated storage management for article numbers, storage locations, stock quantities, minimum inventory levels and other supplementary data fields. Operators need only indicate (at the touch of a button) that they’re ready for the next order, and the machine jumps into operation – bringing the appropriate shelf to the perfect ergonomic height. To further ensure correct picking/replenishment, the pick-to-light technology indicates both the location of the required item(s), and the number of items needed. From here, the picker uses the hand-held scanner to confirm the correct order has been picked, (further fail-proofing the process), and the system automatically updates the stock count. This ensures inventory is perpetually monitored, and crucially, never over or under ordered. Automatically, as the member of staff completes the order, the next order automatically sets off, and the next shelf is rendered.
The Rotomat, and transformation holistically, has allowed Metal Work UK to greatly improve their efficiency and speed of throughput. In the, “I want it now” world we have become accustomed to, this is absolutely critical to success. Ultimately, as well as helping the company secure their place as the ‘go to’ suppliers of pneumatic components, this investment in AS/RS and software has improved the bottom line of the company, by improving their picking accuracy (and in-turn, client relation) and the volume of orders which can be achieved daily.
Metal Work UK still have a great deal of racking within their facility, but the products stored here are much slower moving than their counterparts in the AS/RS. All products within the facility are managed in the WMS (Warehouse Management System), to ensure that there’s always 100% stock transparency. Moreover, the new space realised by rationalising the lion share of their stock into the Rotomat means that new services have been made available to Metal Work UK’s clients. Today, for example, clients can rent space within the warehouse, to stock bulk orders of Metal Work products. This new service has proved very popular with clients.
“It’s hard to imagine that just three-years ago, we were operating using only racking. Since then, the company has managed to expand enormously, increasing stock levels, bringing greater levels of employment to the company, and safeguarding our future. The Rotomat has helped us in so many ways it’s difficult to even think of them all. Even things as simple (but important) as stock rotation: On racks, stock was constantly being replenished and picked from the very front – because it was harder to reach to the back of the racking. It would cause back strain (especially if the items were heavy) or it would increase the likelihood of drops, losses or breakages. That’s just not the case anymore. Now, whether stock is picked or replened, it’s done so with great ease, safe in the knowledge that we’re using the older products first – which gives us the confidence that we’re always supplying the best quality items. The benefits of our Rotomat are just endless, and far beyond what we set out to achieve.”
Finally, Metal Work UK recognised the benefits brought forward by an Industore service contract. This service contract ensures Metal Work UK’s machine continues to run at peak performance, and leaves the organisation safe in the knowledge that in the very unlikely event of a breakdown, they’ll receive a prompt and thorough response from Industore. Perhaps most importantly, it ensures that Metal Work UK is fulfilling their legal requirements under EN 15095 – the European safety standard for storage carousels, lifts and mobile shelving.
Metal Work UK is currently in talks with their Project Manger on specifying another Rotomat, to increase further their efficiency and performance capabilities.
Metal Work UK key features:
We’re incredibly grateful to be working with Industore, whose expertise, knowledge, and dedication to their clients mirrors our own – I am an Industore advocate.”
Operations Manager at Metal Work UK