Engel GmbH has implemented a warehouse management system (WMS) in its 4,600m warehouse in Weingarten, Germany, as the first stage of its storage reorganisation.
With over 100,000 items, the medium-sized family wholesaler provides a full range of connection technologies. More than 14,000 tonnes of standard parts and customised solutions are shipped from the Weingarten warehouse to industrial and retail customers each year. In addition to its broad product range, Engel offers its customers tailor-made and fully integrated logistics solutions such as e-Kanban for parts management using RFID, barcode scanners or mobile networks.
“By aligning the Kanban system solely to the actual consumption of materials, unnecessary inventories can be reduced, production losses prevented and greater flexibility in changing need quantities can be achieved – reducing the capital commitment,” says Ulrich Kuhnle, head of purchasing at Verbindungselemente Engel GmbH. “In order to achieve distinctive process and efficiency improvements, we will continue modernising our warehouse logistics until 2020.”
Labelling the basis for the new WMS
In the second phase of the storage reorganisation, the warehouse is to be expanded in 2017 and in the third phase, an automatic small parts warehouse will be installed. As part of the WMS implementation, the 30,000 item inventory is currently being reorganised. An essential prerequisite for this is the identification of 8,100 storage spaces with thousands of barcoded labels, signs and pallet clips. The warehouse labelling is the basis for the new WMS and was created with the 128 B barcode type.
Engel commissioned the Cologne-based ONK GmbH with the production and installation of the labelling solutions. “We were already familiar with ONK from a previous project and decided to use this partner based on that good experience.
ONK has once again met our expectations in every way. The production and installation of tens of thousands of labels, signs and pallet clips were not only completed with high-quality but also in the time frame specified by us,” emphasises Mr Kuhnle.
Palette clips as variable information media
60 aisle signs made from PVC foam, which consecutively number the individual rows of shelves, provide the basic structure of the shelf storage area. Nearly 12,000 film labels then identify the different storage spaces in the high rack, shelving and pallet racks. The shelf labelling can each be 2printed either with a directional arrow and barcode 128 B, as well as a ten digit storage space coordinate in plain text.
A special challenge was the identification of the stored goods in the cantilever racks, because the necessary space for sticking the labels is missing on this shelf type. Therefore ONK attached the labels with barcodes and storage space coordinates on spring-mounted shelf labels made of sheet steel, which are then fastened to the protruding cantilevers by means of thumb screws.
To identify its Euro pallets, 8,000 pallet clips are used as an information medium, which can easily be inserted into the transverse or longitudinal blocks. ONK also prefabricated the pallet clips with barcoded and laminated film labels on two different sides. The barcodes can be read at any time regardless of whether the palette is set down longitudinally, transversely, to the front or back.
“The pallet clips can be just as easily inserted into the blocks as they can again be removed and are thus ideal for a variable identification. They are also made of a weather resistant and cold crack resistant injection profile with reinforced-edge, rigid PVC and can easily withstand the threading of fork arms or the rolling in of lift trucks. They are also equally suitable for indoor and outdoor use,” comments Mehmet Akdas, sales manager at ONK GmbH.
Leaner processes in Kanban processing
The block storage area was completely reorganised in the course of the changeover to a WMS. Above each of more than a hundred storage places, ONK has suspended barcoded labels on adjustable chains from the ceiling. The signs, which are tilted at a 90 degree angle, are rounded for better scanning of the barcodes with greater hall heights. They do not hang vertically to the picker on the floor but are tilted so that they can be identified and scanned from a distance.
In addition the readability of barcodes is increased from great distances through the retro reflective film of the signs, which amplifies the light signal of the scanner. In addition to labels, signs and pallet clips for the labelling of shelf and block storage, ONK delivered more than 10,000 custom printed labels for containers, cardboard boxes, long goods and shelf trolleys.
“The new WMS, and the labelling required for it, have already lead to leaner processes in Kanban processing. In the next three or four years, after the final expansion stage, the effects will be even more apparent. Compared to the previous system, order processing times have been significantly shortened, processes are more transparent and error rates lower. All in all – an optimisation of our service while reducing our costs,” concludes Mr Kuhnle.
Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 12 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector - interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe.
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