Western Power Distribution Warehouse Management System

At the heart of operations...

The Autostore warehouse management system (WMS) sits at the heart of WPD's engineering services supply chain and includes the Church Village storage site in south Wales, acquired by the company following its purchase of Welsh multi-utility Hyder plc. The system is run from two servers in Exeter, linking both sites over WPD's corporate wide area network (WAN).

Autostore maximises the performance of a warehouse by improving both the quality of information and the inbound/outbound flow of materials, simplifying everyday warehouse management tasks while improving scheduling and planning decisions. It communicates with different computer systems, mechanical handling equipment (for example automated guided vehicles, cranes and conveyors) and integrates seamlessly with existing corporate logistics systems to give users full visibility and control over all current stock in real-time.

WPD's Sowton and Church Village engineering centres serve 13 remote engineering depots across the company's catchment area - 11 unmanned stores around south west England and a further two manned centres in south Wales. At Sowton alone, WPD runs four automated cranes, four man-riding cranes and three conveyor systems with pickpoints. The range of components and materials is wide: many are odd-shaped and cannot easily be palletised or boxed - from cable guards and cantilever racking to massive cable drums, poles and miscellaneous electrical components. Both centres run the Autostore warehouse management system, creating a self-contained supply chain system to support WPD's engineering teams with whatever components and tools they need - wherever they need them.

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Introducing micro-warehousing...

For field operations teams, a micro-warehousing capability is vital as it enables a company to operate a number of small supply warehouses (more normally called remote stores) at distributed locations, all supplied from a central supply depot. This means that field teams always have access to replenished supplies where - and when - they need them.

Using Autostore has enabled WPD to create a micro-warehousing environment for its engineers. Each remote store is replenished and supplied as required from the Sowton and Church Village centres - eliminating a great deal of paperwork. It delivers a very precise, real-time view of all engineering stock held, including a full audit trail of how and where it has been used, in what quantity and by whom - plus where it's due next. Autostore warehouse management system has also removed all the hassles of manually managing goods or components in and out for the field engineering teams as well as cutting the typical level of standing stock required.

With Autostore, WPD can control, track, move and manage all engineering supplies at both sites - and their movement around the 13 remote stores - from a single point and in real time - from eight ton cable drums down to insulators, transformers and even nuts and bolts. Between Sowton and Church Village there are 39 Autostore users on 25 licences. As replenishment orders come through from each of the remote stores, Autostore selects and picks the correct component tool or component, palletises it and sends it through to despatch.

Operational and business benefits...

A WPD spokesman says the capabilities of Autostore have delivered a whole raft of important business benefits above and beyond simple technical ones: "First and foremost, Autostore is easy-to-use and that the fact that it's a proven commercial product with very high tolerance levels has meant that integrating it into our wider technology infrastructure has been a straight forward exercise. Plus we needed a system that could handle a very broad portfolio of items - from palm-of-your-hand small to several tons large."