Leading children’s clothing brand, Mayoral Group, has moved fashion logistics to new heights with the installation of a single automated solution for advanced multi-channel fulfillment.
Spain’s Mayoral Group is one of Europe’s leading brands in children’s fashion. Founded in 1941, the family-owned business comprises several companies dedicated to designing, producing and marketing children’s clothing for newborns to 16-year old juniors. Now, with an annual turnover in the region of 325 million Euros, the company sells over 30 million items of clothing a year through 269 Mayoral stores and franchised shops, as well as more than 10,000 sales outlets worldwide and a growing ecommerce channel serving ten countries.
To keep pace with the growth of the business and to provide capacity for rapidly increasing order volumes, in 2017 the company decided to take a bold, innovative approach to boosting order picking performance. Working with Ferag, a global leader in advanced conveying and sortation solutions, Mayoral Group commissioned an automated warehouse system at a new site in Malaga based on Ferag’s revolutionary Skyfall overhead pouch sorter technology. The investment would provide Mayoral with a single system capable of performing the four separate mechanised processes carried out at its existing distribution centre, Mayoral 1.
The new highly automated Skyfall system would be able to transport, buffer and sort both hanging garments as well as folded or boxed items, using pouch and goods-on-hanger (GoH) technology. The result was one system that could do all this and process orders for both B2B and B2C channels at a rate of 12,000 units per hour, giving Mayoral a single, highly flexible solution for store replenishment and online order fulfillment – all pulling from a single pool of inventory.
The new Skyfall system was installed in a repurposed spinning mill on the outskirts of Malaga and was designated Mayoral 2. It went live in July 2019 and was handed over in February 2020.
In total some 58,000 Skyfall shuttles are in use throughout the system – 50,000 carrying pouches and 8000 used for GoH – which together with over two kilometers of circulation conveyors, a fully automatic loading station for hanging garments, 10 semi-automatic loading stations for pouch induction and 12 fully automatic unloading stations, makes Mayoral 2 Ferag’s largest and most advanced Skyfall application to date.
The success of the project is reflected in a tripling of productivity at Mayoral 2 compared to Mayoral 1, a key factor in delivering a fast return on investment (ROI).
Salvador García De-Lucchi, Technical Director at Mayoral Group, said: “We needed to upscale our fulfillment operations to keep pace with the growth of the business. Customer service is everything to us, so ensuring product availability in our stores and fast delivery of online orders is of critical importance to the success of our business. The simplicity of the Ferag solution in offering a single flexible process for the preparation of all types of orders brings significant benefits in the form of efficient inventory management, smooth and reliable logistics flows, and increased operational performance.”
An important factor influencing Mayoral’s decision to choose Ferag was the company’s long-established reputation for well-engineered, high-speed conveyor systems, and their ability to respond quickly to modifications requested by Mayoral. A major challenge for the Ferag engineers was to develop an integrated system for sorting and sequencing thousands of carriers and hangers with a random mix of pockets and garments, processing orders in batches and actively sorting them in a dynamic buffering solution that offers the flexibility to fulfil both store replenishment and online orders. The same system also had to efficiently handle returns.
An important requirement was for the fast and efficient loading of product to the system. Ferag developed an advanced semi-automated induction process where pouches automatically open at an induction station, the operator scans a product, passes it down a chute and it drops into the awaiting pouch. A total of 10 semi-automated loading stations, each with a capacity to offer the operator up to 2,000 open pockets/hour – which enables induction capacities of up to 1,500 units/hour per operator – were installed at Mayoral 2.
Similarly, Ferag also developed and introduced auto-unloading technology, providing Mayoral with eight fully automatic pouch-unloading stations, where each has the capacity to automatically unload 2000 pouches per hour for manual packing, in case of Mayoral 2.
The loading of hanging garments onto the Skyfall system is fully automatic.
Overall, the Skyfall system at Mayoral 2 comprises a complex branched conveyor system that takes full advantage of the available space above floor level. At the core of the system, which was designed for B2C, B2B and returns processing, are five gravity-driven dynamic buffers with a capacity for 58,000 Skyfall hangers – carrying pouches and hanging garments. Three Ferag matrix sorters sequence goods, supplemented by a number of circulation conveyors that act as connecting lines between various elements of the operation – in total these lines alone stretch for over 2.2 kilometres.
A major challenge for Ferag was the building itself. Being an old spinning mill, the historic structure was cramped and awkward. However, it was a challenge that played to the strengths of Skyfall’s inherently flexible design. The overhead conveying technology not only saves space at floor level, leaving it available for other uses, but it also fits well within the confines of the building, thanks to its compact design and tight curve radii. What’s more, the inherent flexibility of the engineering and design offers huge scope for future expansion of the system, helping to support the growth of the business for many years to come.