Case Study: Bricolux adopts fulfillment robots

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

A school and educational materials wholesaler since 1973, Bricolux is a household name in the education and childhood sectors in French-speaking Belgium and Luxembourg.

Because it serves the back-to-school market, the company was experiencing huge surges in demand that were taxing its order fulfillment capabilities. With an increase in turnover more than doubling from €3m to €7m ($4,580,000 to $10,687,270), Bricolux’s management realized they needed to step up their game.

“Logistics are key to accelerating our growth. As a school and educational materials wholesaler, over 70 percent of our sales are made over a three-month period, with the September back-to-school window serving as our deadline,” said CEO Alain Collard.

The help meet that demand Bricolux chose a robotics solution from Scallog.

The solution allows the company to spread its logistics over the summer period “to ensure we’re up to the task of delivering to over 2,000 French-speaking schools in Belgium and Luxembourg from 16 August on, and no later than 1 September,” Collard added.

Scope of the challenge

From April to June, 80 percent of all orders are placed online. They are then fufilled for delivery before September 1. This entails more than 15,000 orders.

Other peak periods include Christmas, and Saint Nicholas Day, which accounts for 10 percent of Bricolux’s turnover, as sales of educational games rocket. The wholesaler also wanted to guarantee B2B customers next-day delivery throughout the year for their replenishment orders.

Alongside this, Bricolux also set a goal of improving online store logistics to attract more B2C customers. The latter account for two to three percent of all orders.

Warehouse at capacity

In light of labour shortages that restricted their ability to hire temp staff, Bricolux saw its 13,000 square foot warehouse reach capacity. In autumn 2019 the company embarked on a search for the best technological compromise that would solve its logistics issues.

“We saw Scallog’s robotic Goods-to-Man solution as being the most effective, efficient, and pragmatic way of upgrading our logistics and continuing to grow,” Collard said.

“Small and medium-sized businesses often wrongly assume that robots are inaccessible, because they are expensive and complex to roll out. Our work in this area proves the opposite is true.”

Order pickers can simultaneously pick 48 orders.

Proof of concept

What stood out for Bricolux was the ability to test the solution “in the field” in order to get to grips with the technology, win employees over, and demonstrate the solution’s benefits in real life. In November 2019 Bricolux opted for the Scallog Starter Kit, which includes an automated order preparation workstation featuring 20 mobile shelf units, and three Boby robots to transport the units to the operators.

Setting up the Scallog robotic zone within the Bricolux warehouse triggered an overhaul in picking and packing processes. It meant setting up new practices and a new packing zone in the warehouse to streamline flows, bolster operators’ productivity, and reduce their travel.

Merchandise is now transported to the operators by robots. This solution has optimized the order preparation process, rendering it faster and more seamless from start to finish.

Operators select products directly from the mobile shelf units moved around by the Boby robots. This allows them to simultaneously prepare 48 order boxes. This picking process lends Bricolux greater responsiveness and an efficient order preparation process, notably during peak periods.

Operator travel has been reduced to five kilometres per day instead of the 14 or 16 km previously required. Errors in orders also dropped from four percent to 0.5 percent in just a few weeks.

Impressed by these initial results, in the coming months Belgian distributor Bricolux has decided to triple its Scallog warehouse zone in size and potentially bring in extra Boby robots during peak periods.

“Incorporating and expanding the Goods-to-Man robotic solution within our SME should allow us to bolster turnover without making staff cuts,” Collard concluded.