Automated Small Parts Storage System

The automatic small parts storage system has been in operation for several months at the BUHLMANN GROUP’s Duisburg site. The aim is to store the products to save space and to make the shipping process more efficient. Project management has revealed to us the current project status and what benefits are already noticeable.

“We have already noted that order picking is much faster because robots automatically bring the goods to the employees and they don’t need to collect the product themselves. So up to 125 removals per hour can be implemented, which is significantly more
efficient compared to conventional storage systems”, explained Michael Thölken, Head of Warehouse, drawing an initial conclusion. Together with Marco Niebur, Head of IT, he is responsible for project management in the automatic small parts storage system. “The system is self-optimising and constantly prepares the following orders by having the robots on the surface pre-sort the required material”, explainsMarco Niebur. This allows employees to retrieve it quickly for order picking.

“During initial filling, articles which the analysis revealed to have a high turnover rate were sorted into the warehouse. The entire process of initial filling will be completed at the end of May”, Michael Thölken explains the current situation. The fact that the warehousing process takes a lot of time is not surprising given the 50,000 boxes in which several products in a product group can be stored. In addition, every item to be warehouse dundergoes comprehensive quality control. “We will constantly analyse the system in order to unceasingly optimise the inventory in the automatic small parts storage system to meet the needs of our customers”, says Marco Niebur.

Rapid shipping
Following order picking, internal processing (markings, sealing face protection and more), packaging and shipping take place directly at the automatic small parts storage system. “Direct shipment via a parcel service provider is supported technically by the system and enables online tracking”, explains Marco Niebur. “In the future, the goods should be ready for shipment three hours after receiving the order”, Michael Thölken explains the further objectives. “And if the order is available to us by a given time, the goods are with our German customers within 24 hours and with our European customers within 48 hours. This would be a milestone, not only for us”, he adds.

However, the road to the automatic small parts storage system was a long one. “Incorporation of the new system into the existing one and the adaptation of processes presented us with an enormous challenge”, says Michael Thölken. Marco Niebur adds: “We collaborated very well with our external partners, but 95 percent of the work was completed by our own personnel. They invested around two-thirds of their entire working time in this project.”The project team was broadbased: together, representatives from the IT, Logistics, Job Preparation, Quality Assurance and Warehouse departments worked on successful implementation. “In retrospect, it can already be said that the entire project team has done a fantastic job”, Michael Thölken and Marco Niebur summarise the work done in recent months.