NEXT relies on Consoveyo for its new Automated Warehouse

Consoveyo has delivered a fully automated furniture distribution center for the Home & Garden division of NEXT.



The new distribution center has been built in Doncaster (UK). In order to meet the stringent demands (requiring the handling of 2-person lift furniture – load today for next day delivery to the customer’s home) the warehouse was equipped with state of the art pallet handling equipment, racking system with stacker cranes and Rail Guided Vehicles (RGV’s) for product transportation in combination with a three-tier mezzanine floor system for warehouse operations.

UK retailer NEXT is today running more than 500 stores in the UK and Eire. NEXT has operated a dedicated furniture warehouse since 2005. It now needs additional capacity to handle its growing furniture business. To cope with this success, NEXT decided to build a second warehouse in Doncaster next door to the existing facility.

The new facility is designed to handle a daily flow of more than 6.000 parts arriving from suppliers and 6.000 furniture parts being shipped to customers. After a thorough selection process, the order was awarded to Consoveyo. Their proposal excelled for its pallet handling concept, full redundancy of equipment, pick station ergonomics and safety features.

A glance at NEXT project

The automatic warehouse solution comprises a 20 meter high racking system with 18 aisles and capacity for up to 54.000 single pallets (1.100x1.000mm) or 27.000 double pallets (1.100x2.100mm). All the automated equipment was designed specifically to handle these units. The smaller pallets are stored in a double deep configuration; the larger pallets are stored in a single deep configuration. To ensure 100% access to all pallets in case of any equipment stoppage/failure, all the 18 stacker cranes are capable of switching from one aisle to another. In addition, each crane can travel to a dedicated maintenance bay for fast, easy and safe access to all stacker crane elements.

Transportation with an RGV system

One of the challenges within the main project, was the necessity to create a connection between all the operational areas on the different floor levels, as well as, to link them to the existing furniture warehouse across the road. A 120-metre long double deck bridge was designed to enable exchange of stock. A special conveyor system was then needed to connect locations with up to 500-metres between them. Here, the in-house developed Rail Guided Vehicle (RGV) System from Consoveyo provided the most cost-effective, flexible and resilient solution for the material handling system. The System includes 76 RGVs with a 1.8km loop and approximately 800 peripheral equipment sets.

The floor levels

On the ground floor, the goods are received and palletized. Conveyors and lifts are used to transport the goods into the automatic system. A dedicated infeed for new furniture production lines also exists. On the first floor, Consoveyo designed an innovative set-up, based on several RGV loops linking the receiving area, the automatic warehouse and custom made picking stations. The latter provide an ergonomic and safe workplace for the employees, who will need to handle items of various sizes, varying from small boxes up to a large sofa. From the picking stations the goods are transported directly to the nearby delivery trucks. The second floor is similar to the first-floor layout with connections to receiving areas, the new automated warehouse and additional similar picking stations. On this floor, the RGV system connects to the existing NEXT warehouse through the newly built bridge. At the existing warehouse, a new receiving bay for four unloading docks has been implemented. The RGV system also connects directly with the existing Consoveyo Sofa Automatic Warehouse, which was built by Consoveyo in 2011 and to two manual picking areas. Finally, a conveyor solution has been implemented for exchanging all types of pallets from the Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) forklift manual warehouse with the new system, using automatic pallet slaving solutions.

The new distribution center is already fully operational.