X-Check improves Clarks

output through high-tech know-how!

Clark’s Shoes based in Street, Somerset can hold up to three million pairs of shoes in their UK Distribution Centre (DC) in Street.

They handle around 80,000 pairs of shoes, both in and out of their UK warehouse daily, with stock arriving from manufacturing plants in Europe, the Far East and Brazil and their own plants in the UK.

Their busiest period, annually, is during the “back to school” sales peak during August and September.

The successful tracking of around 10,000 packs per day at despatch was becoming an issue due to the age of the existing hardware. They sought advice on how best to improve their situation by the provision of a system that was 100% reliable.

They approached X-Check Systems Limited, the ‘Auto ID Specialists’ for both guidance and to recommend a solution to their problem.

The main requirements for Clarks were to replace the old obsolete scanning equipment, to reduce the number of ‘no-reads’ and to increase the output levels through their despatch section.

X-Check's brief was two-fold and included the supply of a cost effective bar code system to replace an existing installation, which has been in operation for some nineteen years.

Clark’s distribution centre has four despatch conveyors each requiring upgrading. The project replaced all the original bar code readers with LS6100 fixed Position Bar Code Readers connected to DP1100 decoder units.

X-Check worked along side Clark’s technical team during all of the installation to ensure exact reading accuracy. The bar codes are actually read through shrink-wrap packaging at the point of despatch.

The project also included the development of a PC based Despatch Control and tracking system to enable successful monitoring of the despatch of around 80,000 pairs of shoes each day.

The X-Check team set to work with the IT department at Clarks and developed a working model of their solution to Clark’s requirements. 

The system had to interface both with the LS6100 Bar Code readers and Clarks own ‘Data General’ Server, handling all of Clarks processing and despatched orders from the Street site, in addition to controlling the four despatch conveyors.

In addition the new system had to be easy to use, MS Windows based and very visual to the operators.

The new screen layout now has a whole new range of options for the operator including load Information, product counts, bar code details, start and stop times for the loads.

The system allows loads to be transferred from one conveyor to another. This makes use of Clarks Ethernet LAN network linking each of the four despatch lane PCs to the X-Check Despatch server. The server manages the data between each of the despatch conveyors and the Clarks ‘Data General’ host system.

The software also incorporates full redundancy capability. If network connections are lost the ‘X-Check Despatch System’ will automatically run locally to each conveyor, and then fully back up to the ‘Data General’ once the connection has been restored.

The overall Clarks distribution centre process begins with receipt of intake units (normally cartons containing a number of individual shoeboxes) being placed on one of four conveyor belts within their ‘goods-in’ section. Cartons are scanned using LS6100 Datalogic scanners and then directed to the appropriate storage area within the DC. The data information collected is then sent to the ‘Data General’ host via a PC.

To improve order-picking efficiency Clarks utilise a “bulk-pick system”. Individual shoe boxes are picked and subsequently directed to the box sortation area. The boxes are fed initially in to a 20 lane sorter which uses a single LS6100 scanner to read the box-end barcodes. At this point no reads, mis-sorts and incorrectly picked boxes are automatically sorted, taken out of the process and corrected where appropriate.

Once the initial sort is complete boxes are fed on to a conveyor that takes them to a two-layered automated box sorter system which sorts the boxes down to individual customer requirements across 100 chutes.

Throughout the whole process ‘moving floats’ are directed around the DC on a single track. Floats are automatically guided to their destination whether this is for storage or to the box sortation area.

Once the box sortation process is complete individual shoe boxes making up customer orders are directed to the shrink-wrapping area. It is at this point where the despatch label with barcode is affixed to the inside of the pack. Shrink – wrapped packs are then automatically sorted to the appropriate despatch conveyor where they are controlled by the new X-Check Despatch System.

Mr Peter Manley, Clarks IT Project Manager at Clark’s commented,” We have found the new scanners to be more tolerant than the old ones with a higher good read rate”.

“Together with the X-Check team we have transformed our Despatch area, with little interference to our operation. The new system is easier to use for our despatch teams. It provides easy access to key details about vehicle load data at despatch and packs rejected. The new system was delivered within the agreed budget.”

X-Check Systems are well known to Clark’s as their managing director, Mr. Paul Mason, had formerly personally installed many of the original bar-code systems several years ago.

Mr. Paul Mason, Managing Director of X-Check Systems Limited commented, “I feel our ‘Plan-Do-Evaluate’ methodology greatly assisted the smooth installation of this project.

“It was a great honour to be asked back to Clark’s to offer advice and in turn implement our system.

“I am very pleased with the success of the installation, mainly due to the great interaction between our respective teams.”

X-Check hold the status of Quality Partner with Datalogic, are one of a handful of Accredited Repair Centres for Datalogic, and in addition, are the exclusive distributor for EMS (Escort Memory Systems) RFID tags and readers within the UK.
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