Behind closed doors at Nisa’s 628,000 square foot warehouse in Scunthorpe, a sophisticated operation occurs with around 800 workers precisely stocking and picking products using a voice activated system, in order to optimise distribution.
The ambient warehouse at Normanby Enterprise Park was created in 2005 after amalgamating Nisa’s two former warehouses in the area. It can hold up to 47,000 pallets of stock which covers the entire grocery range found in both supermarkets and convenience stores. The 10,500 different lines of products are distributed nationally and internationally, through Nisa member Ramsden International -from your local corner shop to China and Australia.
Nisa also has warehouses located in Harlow, Stoke, and a recent addition in Livingston. Altogether the business operates almost a million square feet of warehousing moving 118 million cases per annum.
DHL is Nisa’s distribution partner and working under Nisa’s management, DHL manages the ambient, frozen and chilled products through all four warehouses, improving the flow of product across the supply chain network.
Shift manager at Scunthorpe warehouse, Mark Griffin, said: “We use a hi-tech WMS voice activated system and have invested in 340 voice units that work across the 24 hour operation at each of the warehouses.
“Each picker gets their own headset and when the customer order number comes in, they are told by voice where to go, how many to pick, the location and a description sequence so they pack heavy to light to minimise any risk of product damage in transit.”
Before being allowed to work unaccompanied, the staff have to go through a five day training course to drive the electric order pickers, and complete a practical test at the end. All staff in the warehouse are trained to assemble store orders as quickly and efficiently as possible, but in a manner that ensures optimum care and handling of each and every box.
In line with the very best standards, the facilities at the warehouse include a self-learning centre and canteen – as well as access to a fully-equipped gym.
Mark added: “We look after all of our staff and you can tell because the majority of them have been with us for many years.
“There is always the chance for career progression too, as my career has now progressed to managing the warehouse for specific shifts.
“Staff always do an accurate job and we are all pleased to be part of such a sophisticated and technology led job.”
The warehouse, which is the size of 8.5 football pitches, receives regular stock from lorries backing up to one of the 30 goods in bays. From here product then makes its way across the warehouse via specially allocated pick sites to be dispatched to members’ stores from the goods out operation at the opposite side of the warehouse.
Nisa also offers its member stores many added value activities, one of which is collecting cardboard and plastic packaging from the stores, an initiative that has seen 9,000 tonnes of cardboard being recycled every year when it previously went to landfill.
Mr Griffin, who has worked there for nine years, added: “We are proud of the fact that we look after the environment because it is vitally important to do our part.
“We use a compactor to compress the packaging and a lorry load is taken to the recycling plant around three days a week.”
The products are all stored in the correct environment in the warehouse. Aerosols for example are kept in a secure cage within the warehouse. This means if a fire occurs, doors automatically lock the highly flammable product away to prevent explosions and the fire spreading. Medicines are also kept in a special temperature controlled environment so it doesn’t reach over 25 degrees C.