Superdry is an iconic, global fashion brand operating through 768 store locations in 65 countries. As an omni-channel retailer competing in the fast-moving fashion sector, maintaining high product availability, efficient fulfilment and the rapid processing of returns is essential for ensuring the best possible customer experience across multiple channels – retail, wholesale and ecommerce.
To support future growth and deliver fast, accurate and efficient picking of products from across its extensive range of over 60,000 SKUs, Hikrobot together with their European partner Invar – a UK based warehouse solutions provider, deployed mobile robot system for Superdry in the UK and Belgium site.
In the UK, Superdry’s ecommerce returns rate is around 25%, however, in Germany and other EU member states, that figure is far higher. There is a need to speed-up the processing of ecommerce returns. Moreover, keeping pace with demand during peak periods can place a heavy burden on manual picking processes, especially when labor resources are tight – a challenge many businesses in retail face.
A pilot goods-to-person project for handling ecommerce returns was conducted in 2018, involving six autonomous Hikrobot mobile robots. The robots were trialed under the most testing conditions, beneath an 8,000 sq. ft. mezzanine area of the warehouse. Following the success of the project, this spring, the Burton-upon-Trent site sees the installation of 40 more Hikrobot robots in an expansion of the existing goods-to-person system. The enlarged operation will handle the entire picking and put-away of womenswear for retail, ecommerce and wholesale.
Over 80,000 sq. ft. of the warehouse is being set out with 1,000 transportable pick-wall modules and twelve pick-to-light stations to facilitate the adoption of the robots. The site is also being prepared for the robot fleet by positioning 2D codes on the floor for the robots to follow.
Significantly improved work efficiency and reduced labor cost
At the Burton-upon-Trent facility, put-away of returns have risen from under 100 units per hour to 300 – 350 per hour.
Picking volume reaches 180 units per hour, doubles that of previous manual operation.
Higher inventory utilization for returns
Some 99% of returns can now be processed and re-dispatched within 24 hours, with many being re-dispatched within an hour.
Under the guidance of pick-to-light technology, items are manually selected scanned and placed for maximum speed and accuracy.
Walk-time is eliminated, giving a design capability to offer up to 600 picks per hour, with 99.9% accuracy.
Enhanced flexibility and scalability with no major infrastructure changes
Compared to other solutions which require a commitment to heavy equipment being bolted to the floor, Hikrobot’s solution is much more flexible and scalable.
The simplicity of the robot guidance system allows for fast and flexible layout changes and easy expansion.
Gordon Knox, director of logistics at Superdry, said:
“The adoption of robotics has come about through a requirement to cut operating costs and to reduce our reliance on labor. The headcount we needed to attract during peak periods was resulting in us having to adjust our pay structure beyond what we ideally wanted to pay.
It has been a real partnership experience working with Invar and Hikrobot, and we’ve certainly benefited from learning about the full capabilities of the robots and the flexibility of the system.”