Pets at Home is working on a two-phase automation project at its distribution centre in Northampton. The first phase, which launches at the end of this month, will see a self-contained boxing process introduced to automate the dispensing of flea treatment on subscription.
The second phase will see the introduction of two box and bagging machines to deal with orders for the company’s website, fully automating the whole process apart from the picking operation. The second phase is due to go live in around April/May next year.
Speaking in an exclusive video interview with eDelivery.net at the recent IRC 2018 Simon Hayward, senior project manager at Pets at Home, said that automation had to be considered after looking at projected growth and future staff needed within a physical operation constrained by space and realising the company would hit tipping point in 2022/23.
“We’re trying to reduce the cost of delivery and the distribution cost and to maintain that stability of colleagues within the operation as well as keep and sustain our throughput,” he said.
The retailer is working with Conveyor Networks to deliver the new automation with the pair already partnering at Pets at Home’s Stoke warehouse. Hayward said getting the right partner was vital. “If you know how you want your operation to run the right partner can come in and build that around your operation,” he said.
As well as looking at what other retailers were doing around automation Hayward says it was essential to get existing distribution and warehouses staff onboard in the project and that a virtual reality presentation and workshops (or doughnuts and discussions as Hayward calls it) have helped. “Get them engaged and be transparent,” he said.
Image credit: IRC2018