Multi-purpose high speed sortation to enable book return processing and efficient despatch of outbound goods to retail premises.


WHSmith needed to manage higher volumes of book returns alongside a high-volume despatch operation to their retail stores, all from the same warehouse.

Warehouse automation was identified as being able to resolve very high labour requirements, address lack of visibility across the operation, enable increasing daily volumes and reduce error rates.



A high speed sortation system configured with 120 exit chutes is optimised by Breathe’s Orquestr8 software platform.  Orquestr8 integrates a variety of automated modules to ensure high throughput, minimal errors and real time updates to WHSmith’s host systems providing transparency of all processes.

The sorter has a dual purpose enabling WHSmith to receive, batch, track and despatch book returns as well as manage packing and sorting of outbound goods to their retail stores.


The automated system reduced reliance on manual labour, reduced error rates and speeded up both operations with a throughput of 14,400 trays per hour.

Returns operation

Orquestr8 manages the entire book returns process consolidating data from scanning, weighing and volumetric devices ensuring that the returns products are segmented into single, mixed or destruction packing groups.

Despatch operation

  • Picked products are added to conveyors, scanned and verified against the original order and sorted by individual store destination.
  • Handheld scanners at the pack station verify the order and pallet details
  • Orquestr8 creates an EDI manifest reporting the data back to the host system in real time
  • Dynamic chute allocation through Orquestr8’s “drag and drop” graphic interface allows supervisors to optimise the despatch floor layout for each despatch wave.