ICF, a screw and fastener distributor, has modernised its distribution centre in Varese, Italy, with an ‘all in one’ logistics solution from Mecalux, which includes a mini-load system, conveyors and the EasyWMS Warehouse Management Software.
Founded in 1990, ICF specialises in the manufacture and sale of screws and fasteners produced by three different methods – cold forging, hot forging and mechanical processing. The issue facing the company was the difficulty of managing over 1,500 stock items, all with different sizes and turnovers. Therefore, the distributor ultimately turned to Mecalux S.A for an effective logistics operation.
“When we decided to install the automated storage system, our main logistics needs were to speed up order picking and shipping, as well as to expand our warehousing space,” explains Andrea Boeri, IT manager at ICF.
Prior to the Mecalux solution, the company stored its finished products on pallet racking. As the business expanded, and the production rate became more intense, this storage system was no longer effective and it became impossible to continue managing all the goods manually. Now, in addition to optimising ICF’s warehousing capacity, this new storage system enables the business to group all the operations necessary for managing small goods, such as receiving, order picking, and shipping, in the same zone.
“We chose a mini-load system because it’s the perfect solution for maximising productivity in a limited space and dispatching orders more quickly and without errors. We use the mini-load AS/RS to store finished and semi-finished products, standard and special screws, and small parts packed in boxes or bags. Thanks to this solution, we have ramped up operational throughput. We’re now dispatching up to 300 boxes a day flawlessly,” mentions Andrea.
In addition to the AS/RS and conveyors for boxes, ICF implemented Mecalux’s EasyWMS Warehouse Management Software. Through direct, two way communication with ICF’s enterprise resource planning system, the program monitors stock and provides total traceability of all products in the mini-load system. “EasyWMS optimises our box storage and retrieval operations while streamlining order picking,” adds Andrea.
Behind the automated operations
A particular feature of this mini-load system that ICF relies on, is its ability to leverage the available surface area to accommodate a larger number of goods. In ICF’s case, nearly 4,000 boxes are stored in just over 130m².
With a height of 7.5 meters, the AS/RS consists of a single 36.5m long aisle with double-deep racking, which is served by a stacker crane for boxes. Equipped with telescopic forks, the stacker crane can simultaneously transport up to two 50kg boxes, dispatching a total of 300 boxes a day. Mecalux’s EasyWMS software orchestrates operations and the movement of boxes in the mini-load AS/RS. Product inflows and outflows are organised and the system also controls order picking.
This picking is performed in-line with the goods-to-person method. For this purpose, the front of the warehouse was outfitted with a pick station. Operators remain there as products are brought to them automatically. EasyWMS sends orders to the stacker cranes and conveyors, which execute the relevant movements to transfer the materials to the pick stations.
Behind the mini-load system, Mecalux installed a 25m long two way box conveyor to connect the manual storage zone with the AS/RS. This area also includes a pick station with computers and RF scanners to help operators sort products and fulfil orders. EasyWMS directs this operation to enable workers to process a larger number of orders in the shortest possible time. The software tells them which and how many items they require to put together each order.
The EasyWMS Warehouse Management Software strictly controls all goods, thanks to its permanent two way connection with ICF’s ERP system. For every product that arrives at the mini-load AS/RS, the Mecalux software receives an advance shipping notice from the ERP system. Based on this message, EasyWMS uses a set of rules and algorithms to assign the items a location according to their characteristics and turnover. The SKUs stored in the mini-load system are fully traceable, meaning ICF knows the location of all its products in ‘real time’ and can precisely track all goods movements through EasyWMS.
“We incorporated a mini-load system in our centre to maximise the use of the available space, applying the goods-to-person concept. We also wanted to eliminate mistakes due to manual management to enhance the quality of our customer service,” concludes Gianfranco Mudaro, president at ICF.
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