Solving complex supply chain problems
A Dexion case study

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Page 5: Wilkinson's warehouse

Dexion 2 Image 1The Wilkinson Group of Companies is a privately-owned family business which was established in the 1930s. It is a retail organisation selling a wide variety of product lines for use in the home and garden, comprising 122 stores with the furthest north at Stockton-on-Tees and the furthest south at Southend-on-Sea and employs 8,200 people.

Managing 122 large stores and ensuring that products are readily available to meet the differing consumer requirements of each one is not an easy task. It is further compounded by the nature of Wilkinson’s business, which involves thousands of different items of inventory ranging from screws, nails and tacks to ladders and dustbins, manufactured in almost every country of the world. At the same time, product sales are variable in terms of volume moved, from, for example toilet rolls in high volume to low volume sales of full-size ladders.

It would be impossible for each and every store to buy its own stock and co-ordinate its own supply sources. By carrying out its own wholesaling activities with a central warehouse supplying the stores, the Wilkinson business can buy ahead of season, develop expertise in the buying process, understand the local needs for each and every store and carry out physical distribution activities at low cost, allowing each of the stores to specialise in what they do best, which is serving customer needs.

The aim of the project

Wilkinson’s aim through Project 2160 is to have 200 stores throughout England by the year 2000. It required a logistics development to facilitate this expansion, one which would allow more than 500 suppliers to deliver each week. They opted to build a new near Worksop in Nottinghamshire,a development which would become the largest of its kind in the UK. Wilkinson’s expansion programme represented a widespread move into new regional trading areas for the Group, building upon its traditional bases in the Midlands and the north of England.

One hundred acres of land were purchased and work began on the site in the autumn of 1993. Dexion was appointed by the main contractor Ballast Nedam Construction Ltd to supply and, where necessary, install the bulk of the advanced racking, storage, picking and materials handling equipment required. For this, the company was closely involved in the design and specification from the beginning. The aim was that the centre should be able to provide Wilkinson stores with ‘the right goods, in the right place, at the right time and in the right quantity’ - a goal which was achieved within three weeks of operation. The £2 million Dexion contribution included:

  • over £1 million of Glidestock, the twin-track live pallet storage system moving by gravity was developed by Dexion to maximise space utilisation and occupancy rates;
  • some £800,000 of Selecta-Flo carton live storage for picking of hand-loaded cartons, bins and packages;
  • 18 case picking lines;
  • over 20,000 pallet spaces in the bulk store.

With Dexion’s help, the Wilkinson Distribution Centre represents a solution to a major logistics development, designed to serve highly specified needs. The warehouse is 2.5 times as large as the Cadbury facility and a truly enormous project by any global standard, with the Distribution Centre itself covering one million ft2 – enough for 12 football pitches or 20 jumbo jets.


  • There are seven miles of conveyer belt in the new Distribution Centre.
  • The Centre has 2,500 miles of electrical wiring - that’s enough wiring to stretch all the way from London to Baghdad!
  • Half a million cubic metres of earth were moved to cut and fill the site prior to the Centre being built. That would be enough soil to fill both the largest and the smallest halls of the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.
  • Over 2,000 tonnes of steel and 34,000 tonnes of reinforced concrete were used in the construction.
  • The 100 acre Manton Wood development would be big enough to accommodate the grounds of Buckingham Palace, add the Louvre in Paris and still have a room for a site double the size of Wilkinson’s present headquarters.

Given all of these statistics, the key element in the development of the Distribution Centre is its ability to serve the needs of Wilkinson’s customers. Together all of the investment in the site from the building itself to the components involved in picking from a pallet, help to provide the fast turnaround needed to meet daily orders as well as larger, less urgent and/or regular calls from stock.

Dexion | Solving complex supply chain problems