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Central consolidation

12 December 2012

Swisslog helps company consolidate eight spare parts warehouses into one global distribution centre Wärtsilä, a provider of power solutions for marine and energy industries, needed to improve the productivity of its

Swisslog helps company consolidate eight spare parts warehouses into one global distribution centre

Wärtsilä, a provider of power solutions for marine and energy industries, needed to improve the productivity of its spare parts supply chain. It operated eight spare parts warehouses but recognised that major efficiencies could be achieved through centralising the products into one global distribution centre.

Wärtsilä identified Kampen in the Netherlands, with excellent road and water transport links, and a good availability of reliable, experienced employees as the prime location for its new Central Distribution Centre (CDC).

Due to the nature of Wärtsilä's business, orders can be very complex and range from one single-unit order to orders of spare parts for entire overhauls. The new facility needed to handle both inbound and outbound logistics, order consolidation, technical quality control and heavy goods storage as well as provide automated miniload and pallet highbay storage. It would include automated picking systems and a warehouse management system to integrate seamlessly with Wärtsilä's own SAP system.

Most importantly, the CDC needed to improve efficiency, reliability and speed of delivery - and of course reduce costs.

Swisslog started to work with Wärtsilä well before the project was even confirmed. Initially Swisslog's focus was on the material handling equipment, but its expertise in total warehouse operations and in civil engineering soon led Wärtsilä to entrust Swisslog with overall construction and project management responsibilities.

Construction work commenced in August 2009. Wärtsilä entrusted Swisslog with a very broad scope, giving its team the primary role of project manager for the complete site. Swisslog completed the project successfully - on time and within budget - even when severe weather conditions threatened to derail the schedule completely.

Spares from suppliers are delivered to the site by road, although the CDC is also equipped with facilities for inbound and outbound goods to be transported by ship. Manual forklifts offload palletised products from trucks to the goods-in area. A random selection of products are sent to Quality Inspection (QI) and placed into 'temporary quarantine' so that quality and quantity can be checked.

Remaining pallets are scanned and identified by Swisslog's WarehouseControl system which registers the product size, to determine whether items will be stored as a pallet load or within totes.

Pallet storage Products to be stored by pallet load are transferred by conveyor to a pick station where the load is taken off the pallet used to deliver it. The load is then transferred onto Wärtsilä's own pallets, before continuing on the pallet conveyor system and stored into the highbay warehouse, served by eight Vectura pallet cranes. The CDC uses captive Euro pallets to reduce potential errors in the material handling system caused by damaged or faulty pallets.

Smaller products are stored in totes.

Pallet loads are transported from the goods-in area to replenishment desks where operators transfer the product into captive totes (which also don't leave the warehouse). Depending on the load fill of existing totes holding that product, an existing tote may be delivered to the operator for replenishment, or a new tote will be delivered. Totes are then stored in the miniload warehouse, serviced by ten Tornado miniload cranes.

Seven variants of totes are used, all the same base size but with various combinations of compartments and heights. A 'put-to-light' system is used whereby a light shines into the particular compartment where the product should be stored. The tote then automatically returns to the miniload highbay for storage until a product is required for a particular order.

New orders are generated from Wärtsilä's own SAP system and passed on to Swisslog's WarehouseControl system to manage the order consolidation process. The picking area consists of two types of picking stations, either equipped for picking from pallets or picking from totes.

Both single- and multiple-unit orders from totes are picked by operators at goods-to-person picking stations. Picked items are taken straight to packing benches for shipping or consolidation with other larger items within the same order.

For orders which include items stored in pallets within the highbay, the operator executes the picking tasks, picking from a number of different pallets (one pallet per product) and placing them into an order pallet which will hold all products for one customer order.

These order pallets are then transferred to the packing lanes by forklift for complete order consolidation before shipping.

The goods-to-person pallet picking stations are ergonomically designed and equipped with lift functionality to lower pallets in order to reduce stretching.

Operators have control of the lifts and can adjust them in line with their individual requirements. Each pick station is also equipped with a pillar crane which eliminates lifting of the heavier items.

Orders are consolidated in the buffer area before being packed and shipped.

The CDC also has a dedicated ground storage area for very large items (up to 50 tonnes). These large items are offloaded from vehicles and placed into the ground storage area using overhead cranes, where they remain until they are required for a specific order.
 
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