Tech solutions crucial to Waitrose's northern push

Supermarket group Waitrose has said that the technology solutions it has implemented at its new regional distribution centre (RDC) are fundamental to the company's plans for growing its presence in the north of England and in Scotland.

The upmarket grocer confirmed last week that its new £35 million hub will officially open on 4 September 2013, and the company has already begun a phased roll-out of the facility which has been designed with the latest in supply chain technology.

RedPrairie, which was recently acquired by JDA, is providing a fully integrated solution that covers all aspects of the distribution centre operation in Leyland, Lancashire, while Voiteq is working in partnership with RedPrairie to offer a voice-picking solution.

"The system provides a voice-picking solution in both fresh and ambient chambers of the operation; it supports vehicle loading, and visibility of stock movements across our network," explained a spokesperson for the Bracknell-based retailer.

"The system offers a platform which gives distribution a modern strategic platform and is a foundation for our future growth plans."

Located on the Matrix business park in Buckshaw village, the new RDC comprises a 360,000 sq ft warehouse, 50,000 sq ft of office space and a vehicle maintenance unit. It will initially employ 300 people, and by the end of the year will be serving 44 stores in the north of England and Scotland.

At full capacity, the RDC will employ a total of 600 employees and service up to around 100 branches, as Waitrose significantly expands its portfolio of stores away from its southern heartlands.

Up until eight years ago Waitrose did not have any stores north of Newark in Nottinghamshire, but it now has ten stores in the north-west of England, four in the north-east, seven in Yorkshire and has recently secured planning consent for its seventh shop in Scotland.

The new RDC in Leyland has earned the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method 'Excellent' rating through a host of sustainable features, including smart, automatically activated LED lighting and various other energy efficient solutions.

Waitrose Supply Chain Director David Jones commented: "We've made a significant investment in Lancashire and are here for the long term. Waitrose has a target to open up to ten little Waitrose convenience shops and up to ten supermarkets each year and this RDC will play a key role in achieving that."