Inside Logistics

World's largest e-commerce DC announced

Dutch company plans giant automated warehouse


Wehkamp.nl plans to open an automated DC to handle online orders. (Source: wehkamp.nl)

November 7, 2013
by MM&D staff

ZWOLLE, The Netherlands—Dutch department store and online retailer, wehkamp.nl says it is building the largest automated distribution centre in the world for online order fulfillment.

The DC is expected to cost over 100 million Euros. Construction will begin in the Hessenpoort area of Zwolle, The Netherlands this fall, and the company expects to be in the new building by summer 2015.

Four-hundred and sixty-eight automated shuttles will retrieve items from nearly 480,000 pick locations. Maximum pick capacity will be 196,000 items per day, or 61 million items per year. According to Jurrie Jan Bruins, director of operations, finance and IT, the system will be able to handle approximately 12,350 picks per hour—which is twice as fast as the operations at the company’s existing DC in Dedemsvaart, The Netherlands—leading to 30 minute turn-arounds between the time a customer places an order and when the package is ready to be shipped.

In addition to the pick locations, the DC will have 2.5km of scaffolds and 8,000 pallet locations.

The retailer is working with developer WDP Netherlands NV. KNAPP will provide the automated warehouse system.

Between 70 and 80 million Euros will be spent on the interior of the 35,000-sqm building and the automated materials handling system. Approximately 25 to 35 million Euros will go into buying and developing the land and building the facility, which will be constructed to be ecologically friendly and earn a Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) score (similar to LEED certification).

The retailer says 200 employees currently working at the Dedemsvaart DC will be offered positions at the new facility. The new warehouse will be located close enough to the existing facility that wehkamp.nl employees aren’t expected to have to commute too much further than they currently do. The move to automated systems, however, means the nature of their jobs is likely to change a great deal. Employees who make manual picks and travel through the Dedemsvaart DC on bicycles will have to get used to interacting with robots and computerized systems.