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Increased efficiency with automated multi-level shuttles

10 December 2018

Wholesaler installs Gebhardt ‘StoreBiter’ multi-level-shuttles in its shuttle warehouse and one ‘Cheetah eco’ stacker crane in its container warehouse.

Systeam is one of the leading IT wholesalers of desktop publishing products. Steady growth and continuous expansion of the product range presented challenges for the company’s intralogistics, which are managed efficiently by Gebhardt conveyor systems in their automated multi-level shuttle warehouse.

Growth leads to new requirements

Systeam has expanded their product range gradually over the last several years, and in their second stage of expansion, the automatic small parts warehouse was designed and implemented by Gebhardt Fördertechnik GmbH in Germany. This project allows Systeam to handle their entire range of goods, including container and cardboard box products, from the new logistics centre. “As logistics professionals, we’re always looking ahead and continually investing in new hard- and software for process optimisation. Along with our own warehouse management system, our brand new Cheetah eco crane and two multi-level shuttle (MLS) aisles guarantee for fast picking,” says a Systeam representative in reference to the investment. 

Currently the IT distributor has approximately 14,500 items available in warehouses for their customers, with 30,000 more items on a short-term basis. The modern logistics allow for fast delivery: orders received before 4 pm are shipped on that same day. This efficiency was made possible by numerous automated processes in the warehouse as well as the intelligent control of material flow. 

Flow of goods in the logistics centre

The warehouse has nine repacking stations in the incoming goods area. Goods from different manufacturers and with different sizes and packaging are repacked into warehouse containers here as a first step. After they have been recorded electronically in the warehouse management system (WMS), the goods are stored in either a multi-level shuttle area or an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) crane area. A total of ten multi-level-shuttles are used in the shuttle warehouse and one ASRS crane in the container warehouse. The shuttle system has the capacity for 20,640 containers measuring 600 x 400 mm. The storage capacity in the ASRS crane holds 5,624 containers measuring 800 x 600 mm.

“With the ‘Cheetah eco’ stacker crane and the ‘StoreBiter MLS’ shuttles, Systeam has chosen state-of-the-art warehouse technology that leaves nothing to be desired in terms of flow rate and also conserves energy, thanks to the exceptionally rigorous implemented lightweight design. This order is another confirmation for Gebhardt that they relied on the right concepts in product development,” explains Marco Gebhardt, managing director. 

The StoreBiter MLS is a highly dynamic shuttle system for serving multiple warehouse levels. The system is based on the rail-bound MLS shuttles, the shelving system with lifters, rails and the control system. The shuttle system offers much greater storage and retrieval capacity compared with classic ASPW solutions, especially if five shuttles per aisle are used - as they are in this plant. There are currently four picking stations where containers from the shuttle warehouse are brought for picking. These are supplied via a separate conveyor line in parallel with empty picking containers, or so-called tubs. Because an order can contain goods from multiple MLS containers, these need to be sent to the picking stations in the right order. This task is done by four sequencers, which were also implemented by Gebhardt Fördertechnik along with the conveyor systems and IT connection.

Some of the order tubs are still filled with other products that are either in a Gebhardt single-aisle automated small parts warehouse (ASPW) or in the pallet warehouse. In both shelving areas the order tubs run on conveyor systems for further picking. After the order tub has passed the third picking area, it is likewise transported by conveyor to one of fourteen packing stations in the packing area. Here, the goods are repacked from the tubs into dispatch boxes, given delivery notes and invoices and then labelled and regrouped for transportation to the dispatch area. The packages are transported along two telescopic belt conveyors (Gebhardt ConBooms) to the loading containers at six different loading ramps. The emptied tubs in the packing area are sent back to the picking stations via an accumulating conveyor section. There is another sending station for large cardboard boxes in the pallet area, which are fed in by the two ConBooms and loaded into containers. 

Interconnection with real-time data exchange 

The entire plant is managed and controlled by the warehouse management software and material flow system (WMS/MFS) Gebhardt StoreWare. Gebhardt StoreWare has an interface to Systeam’s host/ERP system as well as to the secondary PLC controls for the conveyor systems and stacker crane so that data can be exchanged in real time. This allows the orders to be sent from the host system directly to the responsible plant components without a time lag and customer orders to be processed immediately. Along with the interconnected system, Gebhardt StoreWare provides user interfaces for managing, diagnosing, monitoring and controlling the warehouse.

“An essential part of the criteria for investing in the new logistics centre is supplying Systeam’s customers right on schedule and without problems. The overall plant availability required to do this is guaranteed by regular preventative maintenance and quick intervention by the Gebhardt hotline in the event of disruptions. Smaller disruptions are covered by Systeam’s repair staff, who are trained by Gebhardt,” explains Emil Zwick, Branch office head for Gebhardt in Pimasens.

With a floor area of over 11,000 m², a pallet shelf with over 13,000 spaces and the new ASPW, Systeam is set for further growth. “Therefore a potential expansion of the plant was already considered and contemplated in the planning phase with the customer. The plant’s storage and throughput capacity is virtually doubled directly adding on to the existing system,” says Emil Zwick of Gebhardt. “This means that Systeam has created plenty of space for the future.”

Systeam GmbH predominantly handles full size computers, Notebooks and tablets in addition to motherboards, memory cards and other components with its main focus on the printer sector. Their product range also covers a multitude of accessories and consumable supplies.