Case study

A dual-function solution produces operational excellence for 400,000sqft distribution warehouse

Providing bespoke logistical solutions with numerous supply chain services, our client serves businesses operating within multiple sectors and markets including automotive, aerospace, health and technology.

In serving the health sector alone, the logistical specialist operates from over 1,070,000 square feet of distributional warehouse space across nine regions and is responsible for over 11,500 different medical product lines and fulfilling over 4.5million orders annually. This vast and complex sector has not gone without its challenges since the Covid19 outbreak in 2020 and as it continues to battle with rapid evolvement, our client has acted to ensure that altering conditions can be accommodated long into the future.

With a need to enhance network capacity and proficiency to support future demand and uphold resilience, a new 400,000sqft site in the Borough of Halton had much more appeal to it than signing a lease renewal at the current site. With a footprint equal to that of six professional football pitches put together, this immense blank canvas presented a new opportunity to design a new future supply chain operation for which a successful warehouse plan was needed.

pallet racking

The solution

Only with a detailed understanding of the vast lines of medical consumables, equipment and appliances together with extensive knowledge of the operational processes, could the most optimal solution be developed. This is why WSL’s highly experienced Design Technician spent time with the client on site, assessing the space and gathering information focussed on operational processes and inventory requirements. Having designed countless solutions on a similar scale over the last four decades, our Design Technician produced a space saving solution consisting of multiple systems, an optimal layout and one which meets both current and anticipated needs. The plan incorporates the following:

  • A Large Mezzanine Floor spanning across 3795 square metres.
  • 2 no. pallet gates.
  • tower staircase.
  • 60,267 no. pallet locations provided by an arrangement of VNA racking and standard wide aisle racking.
  • 1,488 no. shelving locations fitted with wired mesh decks.
  • 335 no. Pick and Deposit Stations (P&Ds).
  • 27,033 no. wide aisle racking labels.
  • 33,234 no. VNA racking labels.
  • 5,952 no. Pick face labels.
  • 3,872 no. upright location labels.

Mezzanine floor under construction

The 3795 sqm storage mezzanine floor was designed and manufactured by WSL which ensured the perfect fit and ideal weight load capacity. The two pallet gates, also custom designed and fabricated by WSL were installed to enable the safe transportation of fully loaded pallets onto the upper level. With two pallet gates in place, a bottleneck situation can be avoided and the operation remains streamlined, even during busier times. Three tower staircases were also installed to enable access without long travel distances and to ensure a fast route in the event of an emergency evacuation. The mezzanine edges were made safe using steel rails and mesh panels which allows enhanced visibility whilst preventing people and items from falling over the edge.

VNA racking with P&Ds adjecent to the mezzanine

With the ground floor free to accommodate over 60,000 pallets, a wide aisle racking system would be installed to accommodate 27,033 of those pallets whilst incorporating 1,488 shelving units with wired mesh to enhance visibility and prevent dust accumulation around the specialist products. In addition, the tall configuration of the VNA racking system which is structured using much narrower aisles would accommodate a further 33,234 pallets. This was made possible by the tall ceiling height and exceptionally smooth floor which meant the safe operation of high reaching trucks without the risk of collision by a leaning structure caused by an uneven floor. In addition, WSL designed and manufactured a total of 335 pick and deposit stations (P&Ds) and these were fitted to the end of the VNA racks. The purpose of the P&Ds is to enhance operational speed by allowing both VNA trucks and counterbalance trucks to work together. Whilst highly efficient within the narrow aisles, the VNA trucks can lose their efficiency when operating beyond the racks. The P&Ds allow the VNA trucks to remain where they are most efficient by enabling the counterbalance truck to transport the pallets beyond the racks, with both trucks using the P&Ds to exchange the handling of the pallet.

VNA racking with a view of P&D bays under construction

VNA racking with a view of P&D bays under construction

Picking labels were then placed to assist stock control and the entire system was made safe using barriers, rails and protectors. Specific pallet racking accessories were placed in the most vulnerable areas on and around the racks where a FLT collision is a possibility. Whilst the steel racking structures are extremely robust, in a busy operation such as this, repetitive knocks and bumps is a risk and over time these can weaken the structures. The protection ancillaries form a barrier to guard the structure and take the impact of any collision rather than the structure itself.

shelves with wired mesh decks and picking labels

The Build

Given the numerous other contractors on site consisting of various trades which were following behind the WSL team, ensuring that every deadline was met and eliminating the risk of delays to the entirety of the project was crucial. With a team if 14-22 WSL installers on site at any one time, this called for a coordinated task schedule which the WSL Project Manager was able to develop during the pre-installation planning stage.  With no room for error the WSL team was able to meet every deadline by following the very meticulously set out programme.

Early stages of racking installation

Today the Distribution Centre is fully operational and incorporates the flexibility, consistency and standards required to meet the varying demands within the industry. Demonstrating a quick response to changeable consumer expectations, the warehouse serves its clients to the very highest levels of efficiency and competency.

VNA racking for 40000sqft warehouse

The WSL team is very proud to have played a significant role in ensuring our client could achieve their operational goals through this future proof design where numerous solutions were manufactured by our own engineers in our on-site factory. This allowed us the flexibility to ensure that the project was not faced with constraints as a result of our limited capabilities. As a Full SEMA Member with UKCA accreditation, this solution designed and implemented by WSL guarantees the very highest standards in terms of safety and quality.

Do you have a project in mind? However large or small, you’ll receive the same attentive service, so why not give is a call on 0113 2045350 or email

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