Less than a decade has passed since the two longstanding successful family businesses Derendinger AG and Métraux Services SA joined forces: The two leading suppliers of automotive spare parts in Switzerland merged their businesses to form Swiss Automotive Group AG. The existing brands, their independent branding and the branch network were retained. Reason enough to expand its logistics capacities, whereupon the Swiss warehouse was relocated from Oensingen to Niederbipp.
On the operational level, it quickly became clear that the new, national Niederbipp warehouse should also use proven solutions. Thus SAG continues its long-standing collaboration with the logistics software specialist inconso by using the warehouse management system inconsoWMS. Not only did SAG move locations within three months, but it also completely maintained operations during the move in order to ensure the availability of all products.
inconso provide competent support during the process design.
How did it succeed? The goods to be moved were transported by shuttle from the previous warehouse to the new location – a total of 160,000 items on 12,000 pallets. Availability could be guaranteed during the move due to precise preparations by SAG and the adaptability of inconsoWMS. Without any problems all master data was also available at the mobile workstations (caddies), so that all merchandise could be relocated quickly.
In addition, optimization measures were carried out at the new national warehouse. The areas were designed to meet the requirements of the various product lines, ranging from bulk goods (automotive glass, chassis parts) to tires and small parts. SAG manages a total of approximately 250,000 products in the new national warehouse with inconsoWMS. In goods receiving and goods issue, processes are mainly supported via mobile devices. The integrated dashboard provides the necessary transparency to optimally use the resources in the warehouse. However, the focus is on the provision of goods at 28 ramps, which are controlled and automatically distributed via the logic of the warehouse management system.
Mobility in the warehouse
These things are immediately apparent when taking a first look at the new national warehouse: SAG places great importance on mobility. Industrial handhelds with 2-D scanners and large displays are available in all warehouse areas. The mobile solution of inconsoWMS ensures efficient distribution and picking of goods, which, in combination with finger scanners, considerably reduces errors during picking.
However, that was not all. The caddies mentioned above are also used in the goods receiving area. Equipped with touch screens and label printers, SAG has established a high level of flexibility in goods receiving with these mobile workstations – including direct quality assurance measures.
A special innovation in the new national warehouse is the automatic storage and retrieval system AutoStore®. In the fast moving small parts area for vehicle parts, the central supply concept with nationwide delivery capability places high expectations on fast and efficient picking. 168,000 stacked containers are handled by about 80 robots that transport the containers to the goods receiving and goods issue ports on a grid. This is how SAG has significantly reduced classic shelf structures in the new national warehouse.
The employees at the AutoStore® ports can communicate with it via WMS functions. The AutoStore® system provides the containers for picking via the port. The warehouse
management system determines the sequence of activities. The ports themselves have Pick-by-Light or Put-to-Light systems with PickTerm displays. The Pick-by-Light and Put-to-Light processes are supported by light points that mark the compartments of the AutoStore® containers for the removal and storage of products. With the PickTerm display at goods issue, the employee is shown one of up to 16 target containers for storage after the product has been removed from the AutoStore® container. When an order is completed or the target container is full, the system sends a visual signal to move the container onto the conveyor system. The target container is transported fully automatically in front of the ramps for staging using the conveyor system controlled by inconsoWMS. Sourceconta ners are returned to the AutoStore®.
Fortunately, the relocation of the national warehouse has already payed off. Orders can also be processed fast in the course of automation. The availability of the products has increased to over 98% through the centralization of goods flows. The new logistics complex in Niederbipp is the heart of the logistics network, which comprises 56 region and store warehouses in Switzerland. The productsfrom Niederbipp are optimally allocated to storage locations via a sophisticated product range control system. Efficient IT processes ensure that brakes, clutches, etc. of any car
brand can be delivered on time.
Interview: Peter Rusterholz, Head of Processes & Quality Assurance, SAG Schweiz AG
inconso: Mr. Rusterholz, why did SAG decide to use inconsoWMS in the new national warehouse, too?
Peter Rusterholz: Due to our positive experience with the implementation of inconsoWMS in the regional warehouses of SAG Switzerland, it was obvious to implement a similar concept in the new national warehouse in Niederbipp. inconsoWMS allows for the easy inclusion of additional locations. Something new, however, was the integration of the AutoStore®. Based on our experience from other projects, inconso proved to us that it was able to implement automated warehouse solutions that met all requirements in the required time. Both sides could benefit from the knowledge gained through this project. In the end, this was a clear win-win situation.
inconso: The go-live of the new complex necessitated a lot of organization. What special challenges did you have to overcome?
Peter Rusterholz: We had to solve three problems at the same time: The move, new processes in an automated, paperless warehouse and the change of the entire logistics concept. In order to make the many changes as simple and understandable as possible for the employees, the training for the MDE dialogs, screen interfaces and processes took place in the new national warehouse. This necessitated a functioning test and training environment at the location. The employees were periodically informed about the project’s progress. A year before the move the company also began measuring and weighing all products so they could be assigned to the various storage areas.
inconso: What processes changed the most and were optimized the most?
Peter Rusterholz: We achieved the greatest optimization through the seamless integration of the AutoStore®, picking stations and conveyor technology. They function as a complete system. Due to the switch to MDEs, it was necessary to expand the entire product master data and to include suppliers even more clearly in the process. After the realization of the new logistics concept, the order load was shifted to the national warehouse, making order processing more efficient.
With inconso, we are confident about the future.
inconso: What do you think about working with inconso?
Peter Rusterholz: inconso provided competent support during the process design and the team also flexibly and quickly made any changes that became necessary during implementation, be it to the design of the control panels or to processes. inconso also proved to be a trustworthy partner during the go-live. Any errors that occurred in the production system were solved as fast as possible. We are very satisfied with the competent business support in regard to operational support and further updates to inconsoWMS. With inconso, we are confident about the future.