Photo gallery: TNT Fashion doubles sortation capacity at automated warehouse facility
TNT Fashion Logistics has doubled its current sortation capacity at its facility at Bergen op Zoom in West-Brabant,The Netherlands, by installing an exact copy of its existing FSU (Flexible Sortation Unit) sorter right above it, on a 5.5 metre high mezzanine.
TNT now has the flexibility to release any type of carton from any lane into either sorter 1 or sorter 2. The productivity improvements from this space saving solution will produce a payback in less than 18 months.
SDI Group helped TNT Fashion Logistics to do this. Just as with the original system in 2011, SDI Group designed and installed a 220 drop point FSU sorter, running at 28,000 carriers per hour for the automated sorting of the single and or pre-packed single garments. This now gives TNT 56,000 carriers per hour and 440 drops in total.
The TNT Fashion Logistics facility is operated for a leading US apparel brand. The pan-European operation serves 14 countries for retail stores and 29 countries for the direct channel. All merchandise - which now totals 180,000 SKUs - goes through the building in a unichannel operation.
Terry Norman, Development Director at TNT Fashion Group, said that SDI’s latest sorter installation has “doubled our outbound capacity”.
He added: “This means we have been able to reduce costs by operating both machines on just one shift rather than one machine across two shifts, which produces a substantial saving on staff costs.
“Although we do not need this capacity for 3 years, TNT is investing heavily and early because it is vital to have capacity on hand for when the volatile retail market needs it. We also wanted to minimise costs. This meant optimising the cube of the building rather than just its 320,000 sq ft footprint. So we decided on the innovative, space saving approach of housing the new sorter on a mezzanine floor 5.5 metres above the existing unit.”
This installation future proofs TNT’s operation, allowing peaks to be met for years to come. When desired in the future, TNT can activate the sorter’s split chutes, which will double the amount of available chutes and drop locations available currently. “This means that we are flexible enough to respond quickly to any change in the demand pattern from retail stores or the direct channel,” said Terry.
Another significant benefit from the new sorter is the contingency factor.
Norman said: “Now, by having two sorters, we can flick between the two in the event of a problem. The immense flexibility provided by the sorter has been a huge move forward for our operation and helps us to meet the challenges posed by very demanding retail environment.”
The system has been live since July of this year. Norman added: “We still have SDI on site tweaking the sorter to get even more than was originally specified.” During the installation, which overcame the challenge of installing a sorter and a mezzanine over an existing operation, TNT maintained full service levels and hit every KPI including cost. SDI was also able to engineer out any oscillation movement due to locating a sorter on a 5.5 metre high mezzanine, preventing any risk of motion sickness for staff.
Biden establishes Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force
The US government is to establish a new body with the express purpose of addressing imbalances and other supply chain concerns highlighted in a review of the sector, ordered by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration.
The Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force will “focus on areas where a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident,” the White House said. The division will be headed up by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture, and will focus on housing construction, transportation, agriculture and food, and semiconductors - a drastic shortage of which has hit some of the US economy’s biggest industries in consumer technology and vehicle manufacturing.
“The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions - large and small, public or private - that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints,” the White House said.
In late February, President Biden ordered a 100 day review of the supply chain across the key areas of medicine, raw materials and agriculture, the findings of which were released this week. While the COVID-19 health crisis had a deleterious effect on the nation’s supply chain, the published assessment of findings says the root cause runs much deeper. The review concludes that “decades of underinvestment”, alongside public policy choices that favour quarterly results and short-term solutions, have left the system “fragile”.
In response, the administration aims to address four key issues head on, strengthening its position in health and medicine, sustainable and alternative energy, critical mineral mining and processing, and computer chips.
Support domestic production of critical medicines
- A syndicate of public and private entities will jointly work towards manufacturing and onshoring of essential medical suppliers, beginning with a list of 50-100 “critical drugs” defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The consortium will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will commit an initial $60m towards the development of a “novel platform technologies to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for API”.
- The aim is to increase domestic production and reduce the reliance upon global supply chains, particularly with regards to medications in short supply.
Secure an end-to-end domestic supply chain for advanced batteries
- The Department of Energy will publish a ‘National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries’, beginning a 10 year plan to "develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America”.
- The effort will leverage billions in funding “to finance key strategic areas of development and fill deficits in the domestic supply chain capacity”.
Invest in sustainable domestic and international production and processing of critical minerals
- An interdepartmental group will be established by the Department of Interior to identify sites where critical minerals can be produced and processed within US borders. It will collaborate with businesses, states, tribal nations and stockholders to “expand sustainable, responsible critical minerals production and processing in the United States”.
- The group will also identify where regulations may need to be updated to ensure new mining and processing “meets strong standards”.
Partner with industry, allies, and partners to address semiconductor shortages
- The Department of Commerce will increase its partnership with industry to support further investment in R&D and production of semiconductor chips. The White House says its aim will be to “facilitate information flow between semiconductor producers and suppliers and end-users”, improving transparency and data sharing.
- Enhanced relationships with foreign allies, including Japan and South Korea will also be strengthened with the express proposed of increasing chip output, promoting further investment in the sector and “to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations”.