Large German factor Stahlgruber combines robotics and logistics in hub reboot. CAT contributor Alan Smithee gets the latest.
How about this for a warehouse upgrade? German motor factor Stahlgruber needed to expand and in typical fashion, bosses at the firm put their minds to achieve the most efficient solution possible.
What they came up with was a completely robotic 23,000 sq. ft extension, connected to the existing facility by a 60-metre bridge with a pallet conveyor. Working with warehouse automation firm TGW Logistics, the firm built the new new automatic ‘mini-load’ warehouse and the entire conveyor system for plastuc crates known as ‘totes’, roll containers and pallets, plus the storage and retrieval machines. TGW was responsible for the design and installation of the pallet conveyor and storage and retrieval equipment in the receiving area.
The new 26-metre-high automatic mini-load warehouse consists of two storage levels with nine aisles each, and two separate storage and retrieval levels serviced by machines. ‘Twister’ load handling devices transport the goods to and from 165,800 storage locations at rates of up to 118 movements per hour, with each unit identified by barcode and tracked on Stahlgruber’s computer system.
As part of the new facility, TGW built a new receiving terminal that makes the best of the received goods’ travel through the logistics centre. Modifications to the existing pallet handling system means suppliers now deliver all pallets pre-labelled with a barcode indicating the shipping unit.
On receipt in pallets or grid- boxes, items are routed either directly to the existing pallet warehouse over the bridge via conveyor; to eight picking stations for direct picking from pallet; or to 44 decanting workstations connected to the tote conveyor system for unpacking the pallet into the tote crates. A display at each decanting station informs the employees about the required number of items to put into a provided empty tote, which is then transported to the automatic mini-load storage warehouse.
The existing warehouse has also been redesigned with ‘ergonomic’ workstations for receiving, repacking, picking and shipping areas, with everything to hand and technology measuring weights etc in order to provide the best possible conditions for the employees. There is little need for employees to walk very far at all in fact, as the facility has four kilometers of conveyors whizzing totes and pallets wherever they need to go. Bosses reckon on employees picking 210 totes per hour. The same picking stations also pick from full pallet loads delivered directly from the receiving area via TGW pallet lifts and a double transfer car.
TGW also added a new shipping line to the shipping area and expanded the dispatch sorters. The changes to the twenty-year-old conveyor system in the shipping area increased performance significantly and dramatically reduced the noise emissions. The logistics centre now holds over 155,000 SKUs, with up to 100,000 orders leaving each day in a two-shift operation that provides customers with fast, accurate deliveries.
Even more surprising is that the upgrade, was completed in a year without having to shut the warehouse. “Work in this area was carried out at weekends, to avoid affecting the facility’s performance during the reconstruction phase,” explained TGW Project Manager Josef Eibel. “The coordination was challenging at times, but the team worked together perfectly and the high-tech upgrade for factor shipping area’s performance was doubled. The new system provides Stahlgruber with a supply chain that provides operational efficiencies as well as enhancing its high levels of customer service.”
Is this an exciting future, or are robots threatening the way we work? Why not email CAT and let us know your views.
‘Mini-Load’ systems, so-called because they use small crates called ‘totes’ in conjunction with a tall and fast robotic picking known as Automated Storage and Retrieval. When used with other systems mentioned, they can increase space utilisation by 90 percent, productivity by 90 percent and throughput up to 750 lines per hour. Who wouldn’t want that?