Completed WMS projects


Go-live of the highly automated distribution centre at John Lewis Partnership, one of the leading department store chains in the UK


John Lewis Partnership




Great Britain


  • Wholesale industry
  • Mail order industry


Task description

John Lewis Partnership, one of the leading department store chains in the UK, is setting new standards for high-efficiency order processing in a multi-channel environment with the Go-live of its new highly automated Magna Park distribution centre near Milton Keynes.

Up to 15,000 container movements achieved at peak hours in this logistics system are optimally managed and controlled by KNAPP’s high-performance software package. In addition, the integration of more than 130 system-guided work stations and some 50 mobile RF terminals into the standard cross-system user interface (GUI Application Framework) guarantees the highest-possible user-friendliness as well as great efficiency in accessing the required information.

The distribution centre

The warehouse is operated in a 24/7 three-shift model – incoming goods can be received throughout the entire operating period. The goods (more than 80,000 SKUs in total) are delivered on pallets of mixed and one-type only products as well as in cases and cartons in freight containers. Once the goods have been logged onto the KNAPP system in a paperless process, one of the following storage locations is allocated to each of the products: pallet storage area for overstock or automated container storage and goods-to-man picking system with a total capacity of 230,072 storage containers.

All products accommodated in the automatic container storage or in picking locations are transferred from their original packaging to containers. The barcode of each container is then linked with the features of the product and saved in a relational database. These storage containers are automatically transported to the container storage area, made up of a 13-line KNAPP stacker crane system and a 7-line KNAPP OSR32, and then placed in storage.

This step is performed at a total of 46 system-guided goods-in work stations. These goods-in work stations are fitted with elevating platforms for the delivered pallets, have superior ergonomic design to ensure that work in this area is performed with the highest possible efficiency.

To avoid any form of double handling throughout the warehouse, at the 46 work stations the entire content of a pallet is transferred to storage containers at a single location. Any overstock items for which there is no space in the automatic container storage area is stacked automatically on pallets and placed into storage in the pallet overstock area. The pallets are then retrieved as required, the containers de-stacked automatically and supplied to the AS/RS.

As another special feature in this area the goods-in stations also have a picking function. If, at the time of detrashing, dispatch orders are present for which a certain SKU fills one or more containers completely (or to a defined fill level), the detrashing process becomes a display-guided picking process and resulting dispatch containers are supplied directly to goods-out.

Every goods-in for a new product previously unknown to the system is directed to a special goods-in work station by the WMS to undergo product identification and electronic scanning of product dimensions. The product master data is then updated automatically, and the standard detrashing process can be carried out.

Order picking
The majority of picking activities within the warehouse is carried out in a goods-to-man process: containers from the so-called Miniload (13-line Smart-Storage-System and 7-line OSR32) are supplied to a total of 30 goods-to-man picking stations.

The ingenuity of this solution lies in the combination of different storage systems, making it possible to fulfil, in an ideal form, the speed requirements of storage and retrieval processes (OSR32) as well as storage density requirements (Smart-Storage-System). Based on highly dynamic control algorithms, the KNAPP system calculates the ideal storage position for each product. Relocation of stock between the systems is fully automatic, thus ensuring that any fluctuations, e.g. in throughput for special offers on certain SKUs, can be responded to immediately.

The picking process itself is carried out at highly-ergonomic goods-to-man stations using Pick-to-Light technology. To ensure maximum efficiency throughout the warehouse, 12 dispatch orders (containers) are processed simultaneously in every station. Order processing is controlled to comply with all demands of shop friendly picking. The result: products are combined into dispatch containers in such a way to facilitate optimal handling in each shop. The algorithms are dynamically adapted to the shop layouts.

This core part of the system achieves 8,150 container movements per hour and a picking performance of 20,000 items/h in peak times. The system is conceived so that individual stations can be deactivated as required during off-peak hours and allows the shift model to be adapted flexibly to seasonal fluctuations.

Direct-to-Customer area
A separate picking zone, fully integrated into the control system and other warehouse areas is designed to meet the growing demands of online business. This picking area consists of a separate 4-line picking system OSR32 for slow-moving and medium-moving products from this area as well as two conveyor loops with a total of 18 picking stations including flow racks conducted with RF-directed picking. All Direct-to-Customer orders are transported to a separate packing area in which the goods are transferred to cartons or shipping envelopes, provided with the relevant documents and labels, and then forwarded to the dispatch station.

Dispatch sorting
All store orders are automatically supplied to a dispatch buffer. This dispatch buffer, realized with a 7-line OSR32 system for a total of 9,464 storage locations, places containers in temporary storage and retrieves them in the required sequence. In this sequence, the orders of the various stores are not only sorted onto dispatch dollies, various sorting criteria for each dolly are also observed in order to make in-store handling easier.

The entire logistics system has a modular design – if increased throughput is required it is easily possible to expand the system without having to interrupt operation in important system areas for an extended period of time. In close cooperation with John Lewis Partnership, KNAPP succeeded in creating a solution combining the modules of its main areas of expertise in storage, picking and sorting technology to an innovative and highly flexible system.

KNAPP was able to fully meet the customer’s requirements in terms of efficiency and ergonomics in all processes within the warehouse, reduction of workforce, uniting various business models within one warehouse, flexibility to react to seasonal fluctuations, modularity and expandability of the solution, shop friendly delivery and payback of invested capital.

Key data:
Sector: Department stores
Location: Milton Keynes, UK
Total floor space: 62.000 m²
Number of articles (SKUs)
shop: 67.000
D2C: 10.000
Order lines/day
shop: 170.000 
D2C: 45.000
shop: 457.000
D2C: 72.000
shop: 890
D2C: 24.000

Project volume

40 Million Euro

Contact person

Heimo Robosch

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