Swift Aerospace, a prominent, aerospace fasteners supplier and stockist based in Hertfordshire, plays a crucial role in the aerospace industry. As a leading suppliers to Korean Air Industries, and British Aerospace, they provide essential components, including nuts, bolts, washers, rivets, and screws, vital for assembling aircraft and ensuring their functionality. With over three decades of operation under their belt, Swift Aerospace has a deep understanding of their industry’s intricacies, and they’ve been under the leadership of their current Warehouse Manager, Stuart Bourne for 16 years.
Their warehouse and distribution centre facility spans approximately 640 square meters, in spite of this, their operation faced several challenges, which climaxed as they began to run out of usable floorspace. The traditional, manual operation which had been in place since the company first opened its doors, required staff to walk extensive distances within the space to retrieve (and replenish) items. As their business grew, this manual approach became increasingly inefficient. The company contemplated expanding by way of introducing a new mezzanine floor, adding a building extension, or moving locations. However, the company realised that such a move would involve significant business disruption, as well as add ever greater walking distances, thereby increasing inefficiencies. All obvious suggestions also introduced more overheads, as they would all require more staff to man these areas.
Stuart had prior experience with Industore’s Rotomats (automated storage carousels) dating back to a time he worked at a leading British aerospace organisation. He was familiar with the potential space-saving gains and broader benefits brought forward by Industore solutions. In the year 2020, following significant investigation, return on investment calculations, and a go to market exercise, Industore installed two Lean-Lifts into Swift Aerospace’s facility. The company hasn’t looked back since, as the Warehouse Manager explains:
“Industore’s Lean-Lifts have absolutely revolutionised our operations. We now have the space to increase our stock holding, which since Brexit and the lessons learned from the pandemic, has become business critical. We’ve also become more efficient, despite a natural drop-off of staff over the last few years – who we haven’t felt the need to replace, now that the lifts are in full operation, which has saved us tens of thousands of pounds a year. The software integration from Industore has allowed us to keep the system we’re familiar with, but apply a much better, full operational overview, letting us know whether items are stored in bulk storage, or the Lean-Lifts – in real-time. We know exactly where everything is, how much of it we have, and who uses it, and when. It’s allowed us to forecast much better, and we haven’t over or under stocked anything since the system came online. More than that, just this week [at the time of writing], three-years since we had our first two Lifts installed, we’ve had another, and although it’s only been a few days since it was first switched on, everything is working like clockwork.”
One distinctive aspect of Swift Aerospace’s introduction of automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) is that their primary motivation for adopting Lean-Lifts wasn’t to conserve space but to enhance efficiency. While their warehouse had started to build up, and they were looking to expand, their primary focus was the faster processing of parts in and parts out – ensuring that the process could be achieved more quickly and with greater accuracy. The space-saving nature of the Lean-Lift was just the catalyst, following several years of recognising slower than ideal operations. Furthermore, the forwardthinking organisation recognised the opportunity to optimise unoccupied headspace – as their previous racking and shelving was only a few meters high, with many times that space storing only fresh air above their heads. Today, Swift Aerospace’s tallest Lean-Lift is close to seven meters in height, stretching from the floor to ceiling, and covers a footprint of just over 7.5 square meters. That’s approximately the same size as two king-sized beds.
Stuart Bourne, explains the cost savings:
“We understood that efficiency needed to improve, and we’d been looking into that for some time, to determine the best method or technology, and ensure on-going high standards of health and safety. We knew above our heads was a good area for expansion – which is why a mezzanine came to mind at first, but the space that was going to offer us really wasn’t enough, and it only compounded the efficiency problem. Today, three-years since implementing our first two Lean Lifts, we’ve saved over a million pounds. In just three years. We didn’t introduce a mezzanine floor, which would have increased our pickers’ walking distance, further reducing efficiency, and we’ve not moved locations, which would have been incredibly expensive, disruptive, and again, required more staff. I mean, in terms of a return on investment for the lifts, if you take all of that into consideration, it means the Lean-Lifts really paid for themselves before they were even commissioned!”
At capacity, each Lean-Lift will house approximately £600,000 worth of Swift Aerospace’s fastest-moving inventory. With three Lean-Lifts on-site, the company is currently auditing their stock, with the help of the Lean-Lifts’ in-built software (as well as their software integration), with the view to freeing-up additional space, and introducing more Lifts soon. Swift Aerospace operates on a single day shift, and in that time, they process just short of 1,000 order lines per month. Each order typically consisting of 12 to 15 lines, making for a significant number of individual picks, which were previously dotted around the warehouse taking lots of time to walk to and from, as well as searching for. Today, the smart technology within the Lean-Lifts ensures that the most popular items are located near the extractor of the lift, ensuring the fastest possible pick times. The machines have also learned picking habits (and will continue to do so as habits change into the future), ensuring that parts that share picking commonality (parts which are typically picked together) are also stored near each other, further saving time. Moreover, pick-to-light technology in the Lean-Lifts ensures the fastest possible picking, while safeguarding accuracy. Whenever a part needs picking or putting away, a clear red dot appears in the correct location within the lift, allowing pickers to quickly identify it without error, even when parts are stored in identical packaging. As an organisation, Swift Aerospace has to be exactly that, swift. Their clients rely on them getting goods out at pace.
Stuart Bourne, Warehouse Manager:
“Our most time-consuming picks are our kits. This is where we pick many multiple parts and build items from the ground up, onsite. Before the Lean-Lifts, this would typically take two people two days. Today, one person does that in half a day – which is an incredible achievement, and really far-beyond what we had anticipated, or even hoped for. That’s 90% down to the Lean-Lift’s technology, knowing exactly where every part is, and having it physically (and very quickly) brought to us, every time. It’s perhaps 10% down to the space-saving the Lean-Lifts have brought us, because we now have the best possible space for this assembly to happen too. In short, the saving is 100% down to the introduction of the Lean-Lifts.”
In terms of recommendations, Swift Aerospace is unequivocal about their satisfaction with Industore’s Lean-Lifts and the service they have been provided. They stress the unparalleled efficiency these machines bring, not only in retrieving items but also in optimising storage space and increasing safety, both for staff and critical parts. The “Goods to Person” (previously ‘G2M’) approach ensures no straining or stretching when retrieving or replenishing parts, resulting in zero injuries and zero breakages on-site while using the lifts, in over three-years. Swift Aerospace also values the personalised service they’ve received, and will continue to receive from Industore. The fact that they so regularly mention individuals on the Industore team, including their account manager, the service contract coordinator, the managing director, and their local engineer, demonstrates a sense of trust and credibility.
Despite Industore’s size and presence throughout the UK and Ireland today, it remains a very close-knit team. Stuart was eager to point out that he, and Swift Aerospace more holistically, felt strongly about the relationship they enjoyed with Industore, something in stark contrast to how they feared they would be treated by other organisations with similar solutions. This, combined with their attentive service, and of course, market-leading technology, contributes to a fruitful partnership. With this special relationship in mind, Swift Aerospace also took Industore’s advice and opted for a service contract. The service contract provides regular maintenance, immediate dispatch of a trained, qualified, and experienced engineer, and reduced part costs (in the very unlikely event of a breakdown). Perhaps more importantly, a service contract with Industore provides a sense of security. The name Industore has become synonymous with durability, which is backed up by Swift Aerospace’s most recent service visit, which identified no issues after three-years of daily service.
Stuart Bourne concludes:
“Our experience with Industore has been overwhelmingly positive. They spent time understanding our business, our vision and our hopes for the future, they hand-held and guided us towards what I have no doubt is ‘the perfect solution’, and their service since the lifts have gone in has been unbeatable. In terms of the machines and the software itself, it’s top-notch. They’ve done exactly what we wanted them to – and more – and the machines have been entirely reliable, every day they’ve been in service. I have no reason to believe that the machines will go wrong, because we look after them, and they’re clearly top-quality, but if they were to, I have absolute faith in our service contract – and more than that, in Industore – to be on-hand immediately. I cannot speak more highly of the solution, or the team.”
Swift Aerospace’s journey with Industore’s Lean-Lifts is a typical example of an Industore client experience. Lean-Lifts bring tremendous efficiency and benefits, and more than that, regularly surpass expectation, and solve issues clients don’t know they have. The ability to harness unoccupied vertical space, save time, increase accuracy, and cut costs makes the Lean-Lifts an invaluable addition to their operations. The immense potential that awaits companies with the courage to inquire with Industore about their solutions, alongside Swift Aerospace’s recommendation (and many thousands of other clients up and down the country), should stand as a beacon to all businesses throughout the UK and Ireland. Industore empowers organisations to become the very best version of themselves.