WHSmith Client Case Study

Established 1792 WH Smith is a well-known high street name with numerous outlets for book and stationary products.


  • High Speed Sorting for despatch and returns
  • Intelligent Software
  • Automation and hardware
whsmith logo
Key Facts
  • A receive and sort system that has transformed WH Smiths ability to receive, batch, track and despatch book returns. A further 2 systems to improve product traceability on despatch.
  • 3 bespoke solutions developed in close partnership with the client.
  • 3 scalable solutions – Interface Manager is a comprehensive warehouse software suite.  Its modular design allows WH Smith to purchase additional modules as they need them.
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Volumetric data capture
The Challenge

Efficient processing of book returns from all outlets. Returns are sent back to the supplier or destroyed. High speed sorting of outbound products for despatch to individual stores.


  •  To reconcile goods returns data with management information from the stores and report any discrepancies.
  • To sort the product into single SKU format or mixed pallet loads by supplier and batches for destruction.
  • To reconcile store orders with picked products and sort them for the correct stores.
  • To reduce reliance on manual systems and sorting.
  • To provide audit data for despatches.
Our Approach

An audit was undertaken of all existing processes to establish what could be improved and how to integrate current and new systems.  Time was spent with the team to fully understand how they worked and what their needs were.  The installation was planned so that it would be ready in time for the peak post-Christmas period with no disruption to existing services.  Time for testing, training and follow on support was allowed in the project planning.

The Solution
  • Intelligent warehouse software suite
  • High speed sorting system with split tray technology
  • 14,400 trays per hour
  • Configured with 120 exit chutes
  • Automatic induction to the sorter with synchronous belt conveyors ensuring the product is dropped in the centre of the tray.


Conveyor Networks designed an intelligent automated solution incorporating hardware design and procurement and their Interface Manager software suite.  Interface Manager is a suite of warehouse software modules able to seamlessly integrate with 3rd party systems.  Managed via a single user interface (mobile or desktop) it is easy to use, requiring minimal training.  With its multiple function modules it can be designed to meet any customer requirements.


For returns Interface Manager drives a high speed sorting system using split tray technology configured with over 100 exit chutes.  The chutes are individual conveyors that present the sorted product to the pack operator.  Improved letter order identification has been introduced via bar code labelling for each parcel.


The system now sorts returns products into packing groups – single, mixed or destruction and moves these batches of products to the packing point with all details of the customer order information retained by Interface Manager.


The pack area is equipped with handheld scanners so the operator scans the chute and the barcode to match address details for later auto application.  The induct point is also configured with scanners, roller conveyors and colour touch screen monitors that the operators use to access the information held by Interface Manager.  Returns orders are collated within plastic skips and the operator scans the contents of each skip.  Weighing and volumetric software means the correct amount of books for each returns/destruction batch are packed.


Each product is scanned to the system and reconciled as “received”, the books are then synchronised with the sorting system and sorted to their destination chutes.


For despatch Interface Manager also controls a high speed sorting system.  Products are picked and added to the conveyors.  In this case the system takes the original store orders and uses barcode scanners to verify the product against the order.  The system sorts the products by individual store destination orientating them to different sides of the conveyor so they are sent to the correct chute.  The product is taken by the chute and presented to the pack operator who uses a handheld scanner to verify the order and adds it to a pallet for store delivery.  Interface Manager creates an EDI manifest for product traceability and management reporting.


Dynamic chute allocation through the Interface Manager “drag and drop” graphic interface allows supervisors to optimise the despatch floor layout for each despatch wave.

The end results
  • Efficiency savings as multiple product categories are sorted to appropriate exit routes.
  • Single SKU returns can be efficiently packed and labelled.
  • Real time, customer specific KPI data available from Interface Manager.
  • Outbound product traceability on despatches, with EDI manifest.
  • Drag and drop chute allocation.
  • Multiple data input methods.
  • Continued 24/7 support from Conveyor Networks.
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