Parfois is a women’s accessories brand founded in 1994. The founder had a vision of making irresistible fashion accessories affordable to everyone. Today they have over 1000 stores in over 70 countries. The fashion company is doing well.
Francisco Cano Rueda, Logistics director at Parfois says: ”With an average annual growth of 24% we have set out to expand, optimize and improve our logistics processes and facilities. Our facility in Canelas (Portugal) is the heart of our logistic process and carries out the reception, storage, preparation of orders, and dispatch of goods to all stores and franchises.”
This location has now seen an immense upgrade with the installation of a slide tray sorter, shipping sorter, leftover storage solution, and a conveyor installation with related labeling, strapping, and dimensioning equipment. Equinox delivered the slide tray sorter with the corresponding warehouse control system. This sorter exceeded the required capacity and will be used to sort a wide range of fashion items. In close collaboration with TGW Iberica as the integrator, this project was accomplished successfully.
Francisco continues: “There were three important pillars where our sorter concept rested on. First, there was limited available space for the sorter and its 204 stations. Secondly, the sorter needed to allow two sorting modes. Sorting in batches for our e-commerce orders and retail stores and sort the returns to our stock or outlets. Last but certainly not least, the sorter needs to have a high level of ergonomics for operators. Every point of user-machine interaction should be reviewed and tested to find an ergonomic solution that works well and unburdens operators as much as possible. In Equinox we found a partner that was able to deliver a solution that ticked all the boxes.”
Small footprint, double chutes, high throughput
Parfois designs and delivers a wide range of fashion accessories, ranging from watches and sunglasses to handbags and apparel. João M. Cunha, Head of technical management explains: “All items should be handled delicately, which made it a perfect match for the slide tray sorter. The products ranged from very small to quite large items, which justified the choice for a double tray. The XL double trays used on this sorter are split into two functioning tray halves. The sensors will detect if one large item or two small items are inserted. With a large item that covers the entire tray, the tray will act as a single tray and open both halves simultaneously. If the tray contains one or two small items, the tray halves are seen as separate trays and each one opens at its own destination.
With the limited amount of space available for the sorter, this sorter provided a clear benefit for the sort destinations: double chutes. These chutes are designed to double the number of exits in a given footprint. The footprint is therefore small, but the capacity is not affected. With 4.800 trays per hour (9.600 tray halves per hour) this system still provides high throughput. This chute consists of two wooden chutes on top of each other. Switching between the top or bottom chute is done by a flipper plate at the top of the chute. For ergonomic purposes, we have altered the design for Parfois to include a transparent window in the plate separating the two levels that allow operators to look in the bottom chute as well.
“All items should be handled delicately, which made it a perfect match for the slide tray sorter.”
João M. Cunha, Head of technical management
Control software for replenishment and returns
The sorter will be used for both replenishment and return sortation. In replenishment mode, it will be used to sort batches of products that come from stock or the leftovers storage. Items will be sorted to specific stores. As Parfois has over 1000 stores, the 200 stations of the sorter need to be allocated dynamically.
When starting the batch sorting, stations are mapped to the required stores, based on input from the Parfois WMS. This dynamic allocation has ergonomic appeal as well. When allocating the stations, the system starts with allocating the top chutes. These are easier to reach for operators and less actions are required to empty them. Only after all top chutes are allocated, the bottom ones will be allocated as well.
The return mode sorts items that are either pre-processed for returns or that come directly from shops. Items are sorted to stock (category, SKU, or SKU group) or outlets (product category). The stations are also mapped to these demands and categorize products to their destinations.
This sorter is revolving around ergonomics. João explains: “Specific solutions have been designed and tested in thorough collaboration. A sorter has a number of points where the machine interacts with the operators. Most tasks are carried out either at the induction zone or at the packing stations. By reviewing these locations thoroughly, some new changes were made. At the induction zone, the operators are receiving a continuous supply of sortable items in cartons or totes. These have been opened before they arrive at the platform to minimize the handling time on the induction platform. When an incoming container is partially or completely emptied, they push it on the takeaway belt. In the next station, the container is either closed for storage or put on the trash conveyor if it is empty.”
Thijs Huijbers, project manager at Equinox MHE concludes: “I am very happy with Parfois as a customer. They challenged us to get the most out of the design and delivery processes. This enabled us to not only deliver a high-quality system according to the latest regulations but also fully answer the customer needs. The installation was carried out in collaboration with the Parfois project team, LPM, and numerous suppliers. This was a prime example of how I like to work together on projects.
The quality and design of our sorter is a great match with the very high-quality standard of Parfois which is reflected in their own operation. With regular meetings, we were always able to find the best options and solutions in time. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, the “extra time” during the lockdown was used to prepare a smooth commissioning and efficient transition to live production. In a few days’ time, production on our sorting system was started and has been running ever since.”