The installation of a £600k extension to Alpha’s existing STOPA automated storage system got underway this week. Groundworkers are on site preparing to lay foundations over the Christmas break.

Over the next two weeks, 80 cubic meters (160 tonnes) of concrete will be poured ready for the machine construction to begin in January, with an expected completion date of 30th March

The extension will see a further 10 bays added to the existing 6, increasing storage capacity from 67 pallet spaces to 207. Once complete, the entire system will run 62 meters down the centre of the factory and will be able to house in excess of 600 tonnes of raw material and WIP. Dedicated automated picking carts, strategically located in line with the overall logistics vision for the factory, will allow operators to call on any stored materials and have it delivered to them at the touch of a button. The system will also be integrated into all punch and laser/ punch combination machines, allowing raw sheet metal and part processed items to be delivered via input/ output carts. Once that process is complete, parts will be automatically put back into storage ready for the next process, without any manual handling.

This latest outlay concludes Alpha’s strategic 5-year investment plan, set out in 2015 and is the final step on the journey towards factory automation. The original STOPA system was installed back in 2016 and dramatically improved efficiency through better stock handling and easier inventory management, whilst reducing manual handling and movement of WIP around the shop floor. Since then, 4 automated Kardex shuttle vertical storage systems have also been installed around the factory to further reduce the amount of WIP on the shop floor. The new extension to the STOPA will completely eradicate this with all raw material and parts stored in an automated system. Unlike the original STOPA, which could only store flat sheet metal, the new installation is also capable of storing folded parts.

Managing Director Paul Clews, who has overseen the investment plan since 2015, is delighted with the progress made:

“We’ve achieved everything we set out to do and more, investing close to £4 million in the right technology and this final investment will take us to where we aimed to be in terms of automation and efficiency. We’re not unique in buying the best machinery, a lot of companies also have high spec technology. Where we aim differentiate ourselves is in our operations, through the highest levels of efficiency and productivity. What this system gives us is the ability to Identify, locate and deliver any piece of sheet steel, punched/laser part or folded sub assembly to any given location by the touch of a button. In doing this we will dramatically reduce the amount of waste from our current processes in terms of both movement of people and transportation of parts.”

Once completed in early 2020, Alphas key objective is to achieve total stock/material handling automation. Coupled with the recent introduction of our new group MRP system Sage Enterprise, Alpha aims is to also automate the replenishment of various types of stock, removing the requirement for the manual ordering process on certain lines of stock.

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