The city of Milton Keynes, well-known for its abundance of publicly displayed artworks, is also home to Wonder, a global celebrations group with big aspirations. Wonder is the market-leading international designer, manufacturer, distributor and omnichannel retailer of party products and supplies.
Its retail brands include Party Delights, the UK’s largest online party store, Ginger Ray and several other brands across 15 countries. Wonder employs around 2,500 people worldwide, with 350 based in the UK.
Formerly Amscan International, the company recently rebranded after a management buyout supported by Leeds-based private equity firm Endless. Following the buyout, the omnichannel moved all its logistics to its distribution centre (DC) in Milton Keynes.
With an annual turnover of £300m, Wonder has set its sights on becoming a £500m turnover business by 2026. But to meet this ambitious turnover target as part of its international growth strategy, Wonder had to drastically improve the capacity of the DC to handle a larger number of customer orders.
A scalable robotic solution
To support its national and international growth strategy, Wonder invested £8m in a state-of-the-art AutoStore automated warehouse robotic system installed by Element Logic. It also reconfigured the distribution centre by adding a 13,500 sq ft mezzanine floor to provide facilities for the company’s value-added services. This supports the significant growth demands for customised and personalised products.
The AutoStore system is a three-dimensional cube-based storage system made up of aluminium grid structure for robots to travel and transport bins upon whilst containing with self-supporting tote bins which sit directly on the floor and stack on top of each other. The system is 145 ft wide and 100 ft deep and holds 39,500 totes bins in total. Independently operating robots transfer the bins to pick stations to provide swift and accurate movement of orders.
AutoStore is the fastest order fulfilment system per square metre on the market, offering the highest storage density of any automate storage and retrieval system (ASRS). The flexible and modular robotics solution can easily be adapted to an existing building and expanded when a company outgrows its current system.
“At Element Logic, we believe that genuine trust and partnership with our clients is key to delivering successful projects. Our close collaboration with the team at Wonder enabled us to design and implement a system that simplifies their existing processes and achieves the most efficient material flow of goods throughout their warehouse, supporting their growth aspirations.
“From start to finish, our UK team managed and delivered the project, including the outbound conveyor system. We are proud to have provided Wonder with our eManager software to control the feed of orders from their ERP to the AutoStore, streamlining their operations and enabling their team to focus on what they do best. This was our first implementation in the UK focused on party supplies, so it’s fitting that we’ve achieved results worth celebrating.” says Gavin Harrison, UK Sales Director at Element Logic.
Faster order processing in a carbon-friendly way
Wonder has placed over 35,000 SKUs in the automated system and acquired new conveyors to enhance the DC’s efficiencies further. An additional 2,500 oversized or fast-moving SKUs are being picked and packed separately. The robots can automatically pick from any of these 35,000+ SKUs in the smartest available routes on the grid to complete any combination of ordered goods for customers orders, and they can also work 24/7 due to their ability to take opportunity charging when the system is not at maximum capacity.
Being in one central location, the investment will enable increased stock availability, faster order turnaround time for all customer channels, and extended next-day delivery cut-off to 9pm for B2C customers. The Milton Keynes facility will distribute all brands within the Wonder family and all B2B and B2C sales channels by the middle of 2023.
The AutoStore investment and associated DC consolidation will also enable Wonder to reduce the annual road usage by its logistics vehicles of 200,000 miles per year as it removes the need to transport stock between warehouses in the UK. As part of the overall investment, the business has installed sensor-based LED lights in the DC to save energy costs and reduce its carbon footprint.
The reduced road usage and lighting initiatives both link directly to the delivery of Wonder’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy.
“World-class customer service and experience is one of our key objectives, and this investment will increase both our efficiency and speed of service to customers. Element Logic and our distribution and logistics team have been outstanding in scoping and managing the AutoStore investment”, said Wonder’s chief executive, Joe Hennigan.
“It was a complex project and forms an essential element of our ongoing business transformation. We look forward to further evolving our use of the system as we continue to implement our plans to achieve our 2026 target.”
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