Former spinning mill becomes a distribution centre of superlatives
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Former spinning mill becomes a distribution centre of superlatives


Swiss company Ferag AG has installed highly flexible Skyfall conveyor technology at the new distribution centre of the Mayoral Group in Malaga, Spain. Here the Swiss are implementing the largest and most powerful Skyfall system yet for goods distribution, with a mix of hanging pockets and garment hangers totalling more than 58,000 Skyfall hangers and a throughput of up to 12,000 units per hour. Also part of the deal are newly developed stations for fully automatic unloading of pockets filled with folded goods.

The family-owned company Mayoral is one of the European market leaders for children’s clothing – not to mention the number one in the branch on the Iberian Peninsula. Thanks to the constant expansion of multichannel marketing – with the company now active in more than ten countries via its online shop – turnover has increased constantly in recent years. In order to grow further, it was only a matter of time before an additional distribution centre was needed. This was found in the shape of a former spinning mill on the outskirts of Malaga, which was purchased in 2013. From 2018, the buildings here were carefully stripped and repurposed for logistics and sales. State-of-the-art technology was installed here for the fully automatic identification of goods for each order, before picking and packaging these goods in line with customer requirements. At the forefront is the highly efficient overhead conveyor system from the Skyfall product range, which was specially developed by Ferag as a tailored solution in the field of goods distribution. “Mayoral made very high demands on the conveyor technology for deployment at the new logistics centre. We scored mostly with the great flexibility and high efficiency of our overhead Skyfall technology,” explains David Frei, who is responsible for e-commerce and retail at Ferag.

A colourful mixture of pockets and garment hangers

However, the high throughput of up to 12,000 units per hour was not the only important factor for Mayoral. Indeed, the Ferag engineers were faced with a much more significant challenge elsewhere, namely in sorting and sequencing carriers and hangers fitted with a random mix of pockets and garment hangers, and readying them for batch processing. The system developed for Mayoral is thus the first from the material handling specialist from Switzerland’s Zürcher Oberland to implement a concept of this kind with an integrated system for folded and hanging goods. Fashion sales are subject to specific conditions associated with the seasonal nature of the textile branch. Regular changes in collections require warehouses to be cleared and refilled within a very short time. As in the case at hand, GOH (garments on hanger) and pouch sorters filled with items of clothing or accessories often play key roles in the material flow system. One of the major plus points for order fulfilment at Mayoral is that every pocket can simultaneously accept several items belonging to one order. This significantly increases the overall throughput of the system while also reducing the workload on the conveyor technology. The only condition is that the total weight of the pocket does not exceed three kilograms. The same also applies to the Skyfall carriers, which are equipped with a garment hanger for carrying the items.

Semi-automatic loading and fully automatic unloading

Loading of the Skyfall pockets is carried out semi-automatically at ten workstations spread out across several locations in the large hall. Each of these is designed for a throughput of 2000 units per hour. The transfer of the garment hangers with their items on the Skyfall load carrier is fully automatic. The pressing station has a capacity of 10,000 units per hour. While the garments that have been delivered automatically to the packing station and picked are removed from hangers manually, the reliable pocket unloading process is completely automatic and uses a technology recently developed by Ferag – a plate chain conveyor rotating in parallel with the pouch sorter hanger. The pocket contents slide out smoothly onto the plate surfaces of the packing tables, which are equipped with safety stoppers. From there, each order goes fully packed to the shipping area. Mayoral has a total of eight stations for the automatic unloading of pockets and packaging of items, each of which can process up to 2000 pockets per hour.

Buffering, sorting, sequencing – Skyfall as a highly flexible conveyor system

Overall, the Skyfall system designed and planned for Mayoral comprises a highly branched conveyor system distributed over various height levels at the property, which dates from the 1950s and is also home to some listed buildings. At the core of the system – which was designed for both B2C and B2B and return business – are five gravity-driven dynamic buffers with a capacity for 58,000 Skyfall hangers, of which 50,000 are used for pockets and 8000 for hangers. The Swiss specialists also delivered three matrix sorters for sequencing the goods. Supplementing them are a number of circulation conveyors that act as connecting lines between those elements. The length of these lines alone stretches over 2.2 kilometres.

A space-saving system that is ideal for existing buildings

With the distribution centre located in a very cramped historical building, the solution offered by Ferag can fully show off its strength in terms of layout planning. Skyfall technology not only saves space at floor level that can be used for other purposes, but also integrates perfectly with existing buildings thanks to its compact design and the ease with which it can achieve tight curve radii. What’s more, the system design – which was adjusted seamlessly to the individual processes at Mayoral – still offers a great deal of scope for further expansion of the system depending on the long-term needs of the customer.

Market leaders in children’s fashion on the Iberian Peninsula

Headquartered in Malaga, the Spanish Mayoral Group is a European market leader in children’s fashion. Founded in 1941, the family-owned business comprises several separate companies dedicated to designing, producing and marketing children’s clothing across a spectrum ranging from newborns to 16-year-old juniors. The lion’s share is sold through 230 Mayoral stores and franchise shops, as well as more than 10,000 sales outlets in department stores and specialist retailers. These are found in over 100 countries where the up-and-coming company is present. With over 1500 employees worldwide – and 400 in Malaga alone – the Group achieved a turnover of 365 million euros in 2019, equivalent to selling over 30 million items of clothing.