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Roberts Bakery uses CLASS Technology to Reduce Risk of Warehouse Extension Project

July 8, 2010


Roberts Bakery, one of the UK’s oldest family run bakeries, has recently used the CLASS warehouse layout and simulation tool to ensure that its customer service levels remain as high as ever, despite the disruption of a forthcoming warehouse extension. A first time user of CLASS, Roberts Bakery is so convinced by the results of the exercise, that it is now planning to use the software again to investigate other impacts of change to its warehouse operation.

Exceptional sales growth over recent years, led to the decision to extend the finished goods hall and provide additional capacity, both inside the warehouse and outside in the associated loading bays. However, as Roberts Bakery recognised, the build period carried with it a risk to ongoing service and management wanted to identify exactly where, and why, problems would arise and how, in light of these findings, the warehouse team should be reorganised and supported through the transition.

The warehouse operation is fast moving. Roberts Bakery produces over two million loaves, bread rolls and bakery treats each week, which are distributed via a van fleet to both supermarkets and convenience stores across the local North West region, North Wales and the Midlands, as well as to wholesalers and sandwich makers nationwide. The ovens bake bread 24/7, and most products have a short shelf life and must be delivered to tight delivery timescales. All products are stacked in the finished goods hall ready for picking; from here, the fastest moving goods are loaded directly onto lorries while slower moving lines are taken to the dispatch area before onward transportation.

The development plan fell into two phases. During phase one, half of the new hall would be constructed and 14 new loading bays built, but the process would necessitate the closure of five of the old bays. Once in phase two, there would no longer be any access to the old bays, so the day-to-day running of the bakery would be dependent on the newly completed bays, until a further 10 new bays were ready for use.

Given their inexperience with CLASS, the Frank Roberts team worked closely with the creators of the technology, Cirrus Logistics, and, having built the layout model itself, asked Cirrus to run simulations using this base case model, a project that involved Cirrus in the customisation of some of the model logic to reflect the different flow-through of fast moving and slower moving lines. In total, five simulations were undertaken in a series of ‘What if?’ exercises replicating different stages of the development. Several issues have already been identified, including the impact of increased distances of travel and congestion within the warehouse at certain periods during the development, suggesting a need for additional staff on each shift during the build phase.

For Mark Emery, Planning Manager at Roberts Bakery, CLASS has proven to be an invaluable planning tool. “The CLASS software has enabled us to process a lot of complex data and replicate a number of different layout configurations for the warehouse quickly and accurately, without having to disrupt the day-to-day running of the dispatch hall in a trial and error exercise,” he explains.