Stihl France: Capacity extension for the distribution logistics

The Stihl Group develops, manufactures and sells power tools globally for forestry and agriculture as well as landscape gardening, the construction industry and discerning private customers. The family company operates numerous production facilities and distribution centres worldwide.

stihl france distribution centre torcy

Stihl France, distribution centre Torcy

The challenge

Stihl’s sales branch in France sells the products independently throughout the entire country. A continuous turnover and volume growth was planned for the distribution warehouse in Torcy near Paris. The existing central warehouse could no longer satisfy the increasing requirements for service and quality in the short to medium term.

The task

viaLog Logistik Beratung GmbH had already successfully implemented an extension and optimisation project for Stihl’s German distribution centre in Dieburg. The German consulting company was now commissioned with realising a similar project in France. This included detailed planning for the warehouse expansion, tendering the logistics IT and technology as well as managing the implementation.

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Phoenix Contact: Concept and realisation of a distribution centre in Harrisburg, USA

High logistics standards as far as the USA

The German company Phoenix Contact GmbH & Co. KG is an internationally leading specialist in automation technology. Phoenix is particularly well known for its terminal blocks. More than 14,000 employees work at the head office in Blomberg and in its numerous branches worldwide. Phoenix Contact operates a subsidiary in Harrisburg, USA. This supplies the domestic market, while also assuming the function of a central warehouse for Canada, Mexico and South America.

phoenix contact harrisburg

Phoenix Contact, Harrisburg

The initial situation

viaLog had developed a concept for Phoenix Contact aimed at optimising and extending the logistics centre at the head office in Blomberg. The logistics consulting company used this basis to formulate a concept for a standard warehouse. This was to serve the subsidiaries of Phoenix as a planning basis for extending the country warehouses worldwide. At the same time, the warehouse of the American subsidiary in Harrisburg had come up against the limits of its capacity. The new standards were to be implemented there as part of the warehouse extension.

The task

Phoenix Contact commissioned viaLog with the optimisation and extension of its logistics centre in Harrisburg. This included

  • drawing up a master plan for the plant development over the next 5 to 10 years,
  • designing the new, automated central warehouse,
  • managing the tender for all logistics work sections (Automated Small Parts Storage, Work Stations and Materials Handling) as well as
  • implementing the new logistics standards.

The solution

Corresponding to the standard warehouse concept, the warehouse in Harrisburg received a 4-aisle automated small parts store with approx. 20,000 container locations. An extension enabling up to six aisles with a total of 30,000 was already envisaged in the planning and prepared structurally. Supplementary to this, manual storage areas were established and an automated depalletising station installed for internal restocking. Order picking was converted from the “man-to-goods” principle to the “goods-to-man” setup.

Besides the structural and technical changes, viaLog also optimised IT support for Phoenix by introducing a warehouse management system.

The highlights

High degree of standardisation

Uniform logistics throughout the world was one of the most important aspects for Phoenix. Based on the standardised warehouse layout, a larger version of the warehouse was realised in Blomberg and smaller version in Harrisburg. Uniform containers also simplify cooperation across national borders.

Ergonomic pick- and pack work station

Ergonomic pick-and-pack workstation

Ergonomic work stations ensure optimal working conditions

viaLog designed pick-and-pack workstations specially tailored to Phoenix. These have, amongst others, height-adjustable standing platforms and an optimal arrangement of the work equipment. Furthermore, storage towers allow the source containers to be sequenced.

The 10 biggest pitfalls in logistics construction

Hardly any topic in logistics is as underestimated as construction. The greatest misconceptions include:

  • Every hall can be used as a warehouse.
  • First you construct a building, then you put a few shelves inside.
  • Logistics buildings are easy to construct.

Actually, it is easy to put a shelf in a room. Accommodating various logistics functions in a building in such a way that all work processes can run smoothly and the space is used optimally is much more difficult. Therefore, for a logistics construction project to be successful, it is important to know the ten biggest pitfalls at least.

1. From the inside out

What would be unthinkable for detached houses is common practice with much more expensive logistics buildings: Only when the shell is standing does the more precise interior design planning begin. However, most of the value creation potential is inside the building. Consequently, the logistical functions – in other words processes, material flows, technology and spaces – must be optimally designed first of all. Only then is it time to plan a tailored building shell. If a logistics building is planned from the outside in, this is often at the expense of functionality and economic efficiency. Undirected material flows, unsuitable shelving, a lack of options for expansion, and suboptimal processes can severely increase investment and operating costs.

2. Thinking ahead instead of reworking

One of the greatest drivers for investment in logistics is unforeseen changes to completed buildings. However, only a few companies can predict their development over the next 10 to 15 years. Therefore, it is important to design logistics buildings so that they can be used flexibly and expanded. Those who already structurally prepare for expansion or conversion at the beginning can significantly reduce investment at a later stage.

3. Master plan with step-by-step approach

Extensive planning with a long-term development concept is the cornerstone of a logistics building that functions in the long run. It is best to lay out the building in a modular fashion, so that each area can be expanded to maximum configuration step-by-step if needed. That is essential particularly with mechanised  storage facilities, because technology cannot be adjusted, or adjustment involves high costs. Before a master plan is developed, the plot must be examined to check its condition and the construction law provisions looked at.

logistics construction masterplan

Master plan enables easy expansion
Using the example of a typically ideal warehouse, it is clear how building expansion can be planned in advance and implemented step-by-step using a master plan. The main advantage is that work areas are enlarged and not completely relocated or split. In this manner, expensive refurbishment or the opening of new sites can be avoided.

4. Dimensions

Logistics buildings are often different in their dimensions to other industrial buildings. As well as space requirements, which vary depending on the logistics technology used and storage capacity required, this particularly affects the building height. For example, a high-bay warehouse is several times higher than a standard building, large forklift vehicles need special clearance height, while the height of the loading gates must be tailored to the vehicle types transporting goods in and out.

5. Arrangement

Inside buildings especially, inadequate arrangement quickly leads to conflicts between architecture, technical building equipment and logistics. This means that support grids prevent optimal logistics organisation, while shelves and forklift technology block important building functions or the building technology is forgotten in the concept for later expansion. Close cooperation with architects, building services and logistics planners during the whole project is therefore absolutely essential.

6. Fire safety

Complex fire safety regulations often drive up investment for logistics buildings and are at the expense of space and functionality. Architects, fire safety managers and logistics planners must therefore develop the building plan in close coordination, in order to keep investment as low as possible. In doing so, all parties will have scope for planning that is important to exploit and tailor to the overall concept. This includes, for example:

  • Architecture: height and width of the cube
  • Fire safety: type of extinguishing system, compensatory measures and much more
  • Logistics: design of fire areas, type of equipment technology and much more
logistics construction three-floor order picking platform

Clever warehouse planning saves high fire safety investment
For wholesaler CA Brill, viaLog planned an all-round fire safety optimised logistics centre. In coordination with fire safety inspectors and VGA, the planning scope was exploited to keep investment as low as possible. The highlight was a three-floor order picking platform. This enabled additional storage space to be gained without extending the floor space. The building thus fell short of the floor space size from which a sprinkler system would have been required. Brill consequently gained storage capacity with less need for investment.

7. Lighting

If the lighting is fitted in a logistics building without taking the equipment and work processes into account, two main problems can occur:

  • Insufficient lighting: Packing and other work areas in particular are often insufficiently lit.
  • Wrong lighting: The most frequent cases are little-frequented work areas that are permanently lit and lights that are hidden by logistics equipment technology.

In order to provide work areas with optimal lighting but save costs, the lighting concept must be tailored precisely to the logistics plan. Work areas can then, for example, be lit in a manner that is friendly to the eye, and little-frequented areas of the building lit by motion sensors as required.

8. Energy

The energy requirements of logistics buildings are often underestimated. Depending on the degree of technology, great amounts of electricity are required to supply work areas, forklift vehicles and other technology. A small automated pallet warehouse alone can therefore consume 1500 kWh per day. In addition, rooms for the infrastructure, such as substations or central and decentralised charging stations, must be fitted. Good logistics planning can offset part of the energy costs with an energy concept. In accordance with the motto “as much as necessary, as little as possible”, battery charging concepts or energy efficiency optimised operation of the logistics technology, for example, can provide noteworthy savings potential.

9. Flooring

The flooring in a logistics building must be extremely durable, as it rarely only supports goods in floor storage. Forklift vehicles are generally involved, which can quickly weigh over 6 tonnes. Extensive forklift technology and platform systems put strain on the floor under the platform supports, often subjecting it to more than 70 tonnes. As well as general load capacity, logistics flooring must satisfy further requirements. For fast and safe internal transport, it must have the following above all for forklift vehicles:

  • Adequate evenness, in order to guarantee level driving
  • Sufficient resistance, to withstand friction from tyres
  • Enough discharge capacity, to discharge the static charge of forklift vehicles
  • Automatic storage facilities require in particular sufficient bending rigidity in their base plates, for trouble-free operations.
logistics construction narrow-aisle warehouse

Problem area: narrow-aisle warehouses
In terms of flooring quality, narrow-aisle warehouses form one of the most sensitive storage areas. Because of the large warehouse height and small distance between the loads and pallets being lifted from the shelves, the evenness of the floor is of particular importance. Any abnormal unevenness can lead to significant fluctuations in the upper part of a vehicle when travelling at full speed. In order to prevent collisions with shelves, companies must significantly reduce driving speed in many cases. This leads to a reduced capacity in the warehouse and higher logistics costs.

10. Facade

The connection between building facades and intralogistics is often underestimated. The most important aspects include:

  • Arrangement: In order to place building openings sensibly and not block them from the inside, architects and logistics planners must coordinate their work in detail.
  • Dimensions: Again and again, logistics-specific dimensions are overlooked. That means subsequent changes (for example to gates) soon result in unexpected costs.
  • Expansion: For later expansion, the necessary openings must be structurally planned straight away.

Conclusion

Logistics buildings are only simple at first glance. From planning to commissioning, companies can end up snared in many obstacles. In order to avoid this, architects, building services and logistics planners must work hand in hand from the very beginning. Only in close coordination can the architectural and logistic requirements be adequately considered and the complete planning scope exhausted for the good of the construction. This enables a building to be created with a shell and core that are tailored to one another.

Warehouse management software: 11 typical problems of the implementation

Every warehouse has a computer aided warehouse management system. Yet, a specialised, extensive warehouse management system (WMS) is still missing from many companies. Often, this software is only used when the warehouse has larger or more complex tasks to fulfil. The most frequent reasons for introducing a WMS are:

  • E-commerce: in order to adhere to online standards such as real time posting, multi-channel logistics, priority control amongst other things, tailor made process control is required.
  • Automation: logistics technology provides a multitude of possibilities. In order to be able to use these effectively, coordinating control elements as well as planning and control strategies are required.
  • Paperless handling: in particular, with high employment of staff, paper managed handling has its limits. Appropriate software and hardware is necessary for the conversion to paperless working.

A WMS can do everything! Really?

A WMS introduction is a complex project, in which numerous difficulties can occur. There is one basic error in particular which causes many problems: many believe that a WMS is a standard program, which is suitable for any logistics. However, the software is comparable to a blank, which is specially adjusted to the individual logistical requirements. 11 further, typical problems of a WMS introduction are described below.

1. Responsibility: logistics or IT?

Already the responsibility for a WMS introduction often brings up questions: does the software belong to the tasks of IT? Or is logistics responsible for the most important instrument in warehouse management? As logistics ultimately uses the program, it is recommended to give them responsibility for the introduction. However, IT is the most important project partner, as it is the master of installation and expert for company DP. Therefore, a WMS introduction will go best if both cooperate.

2. Resources: more time, more staff, less investments

A big difficulty with the WMS introduction is inadequate resources. Often, too little time is allowed for the whole implementation. Too few employees of the relevant departments are available, or not at the same time, for content adjustments. In addition, they often have to manage day-to-day business and projects at the same time, which causes significant strain, particularly during implementing. However, it is necessary to give the WMS introduction your full attention throughout the whole project duration. Because, a considered system selection, comprehensive discussion of function and detailed tests provide a high functionality guarantee, and ensure the investment budget. Unfortunately, a rushed WMS introduction frequently leads to significant additional costs, right up to total failure of the system.

warehouse management introduction discussion details

3. Scope of functions: never buy A WMS, but always YOUR WMS!

In the case of warehouse management software, there are no standards that 100% match all logistics. At the same time, end customers often request special packaging, particular delivery agreements and other individual processes. To satisfy them and handle the logistics efficiently, companies therefore require tailor made warehouse control. Therefore, it should first of all be determined in a detailed requirements specification, which functions the warehouse management requires. It only makes sense to approach WMS providers after this. This procedure enables an internal situation assessment, which is not influenced by the sales interest of the manufacturer.

4. Choosing a provider: systematic and integral is the motto

There are few logistics services, where a detailed service comparison is as necessary as for warehouse management systems. Purchase decisions should not be dependent on individual functions or fashionable buzz words. By proceeding in this way, in our experience, it later turns out that important functions are missing or inadequately integrated. This often leads to additional charges which stretch the budget, and cause conflicts in the business relationship.

Instead, the top priority is to find the warehouse management software, which can be adjusted to your own logistics processes, with the least changes. The warehouse management systems available on the market differ in numerous functions. For this reason, a systematic selection according to scope of services is absolutely necessary. The adjustment services should form an important component of budget planning.

5. Contract: client or contractor friendly?

In contractual negotiations, commercial topics such as price or payment conditions are often a priority. Yet, availabilities and completeness guarantees should also be dealt with. Then the contract not only ensures the delivery, but also the functionality, and therefore the whole investment. Therefore, it is advisable to rely on your own contracts instead of a manufacturer’s contract. Any good logistics consultancy will provide support in these matters, and buyer oriented standard contracts.

6. Coordination of details: now it gets serious

You might think that all questions will be answered in a detailed tender. Yet, after award of contract, interfaces must be coordinated, sequences and processes must be transferred into the selected software, and many other details must be clarified. Once again, your full attention is required: the final important content of the scope of services will be agreed. In our experience, intensive discussions at this point often bring the last aspects to light, which have not been considered before. If you do not take sufficient time here, you will lose the chance for important corrections.

7. Hardware: it is only good if it fits the processes

The introduction of a warehouse management software also requires the selection of the right hardware. Radio data terminals, printers and other components must fit the agreed processes, and the overall concept of technical communication. Does the mobile printer need a peel-off function? Is the roll of labels inside sufficient for a shift or a day? And where does the electricity come from?

8. Testing: too much is just enough

One of the most important phases in the WMS introduction is the test phase. It consists of four sections: supplier tests, in-house tests, integration and individual function tests as well as test operation. The duration and expense of these project phases are often underestimated. In order to carry out tests properly, test plans must be created, the result documented and evaluated. In practice, the elimination of errors is often not carried out consistently enough after the first round of tests. Insufficient test management in this phase is a typical cause of later problems.

warehouse management system testing

Test phases at a glance
Supplier tests: Software testing by the developer and implementing staff of the manufacturer
In-house tests: Introduction of key processes to the supplier
Integration and individual function tests: Coupling the WMS with the host system and all sub systems (e.g. warehouse technology), Testing and acceptance of all individual functions
Pilot operation: Testing the WMS and all neighbouring systems under increasing load, if necessary performance tests

9. Training: intelligent controlling requires intelligent users

Training employees to use new warehouse management system is unfortunately still carried out inadequately in practice. This involves various risks, which are for example:

  • Operating errors can lead to significant disturbances in the operating sequence. So, lack of knowledge in priority controlling sometimes blocks the whole outsourcing.
  • Controlling potential is wasted, if the WMS functions are not used to their full extent.
  • Errors in the process are not noticed because the employees do not know the sequences planned. The logistics lose productivity.

A further problem is that both the training content and the software itself are often insufficiently documented. In this case, no sufficient information is available for new employees or later questions.

warehouse management implementation training

10. Go-live: now you must stay on the ball

In the first few days of go-live, the support of the software manufacturer is urgently required. Buyers and sellers must also take the time to carry out systematic error documentation and analysis, every day in the first few weeks, and agree deadlines to eliminate them. This monitoring must be part of the budget planning.

11. Tuning: no “plug and play” with WMS

Go-live does not mean that a warehouse can automatically perform its full service. This is often only the case a few weeks or months later. In order to exploit the complete potential, the warehouse operation must continue to be observed and optimised. This includes all the aforementioned areas, from the refinement of individual work steps, to employee training, right up to the methodical further training of managers. So, for example, the daily “controlling through key figures” can receive valuable support from a targeted controlling system. Tuning is not self-sustaining, but should be seen as a stand-alone project phase.

Conclusion

The biggest risk in introducing warehouse management software is underestimating the project. However, if a company calculates enough time and other resources, the foundations are laid for a successful implementation. If the project team also has knowledge of the software market, and experience in project management of a WMS introduction, this secures the investment.

Al-Haya Medical Company (AMCO): Planning and implementation of one central and five regional warehouses

New, standardised and flexible

Al-Haya Medical Co. (AMCO) is one of the leading Saudi Arabian re­tailers for pharmaceuticals as well as medical and hy­gienic supplies. About 700 employees are responsible of the delivery of more than 4.000 products to pharmacies and hospitals. From central warehouses in Riyadh as well as regional warehouses in Jeddah, Khobar, Abha, Medina and Qassim AMCO distributes products all over Saudi Arabia.

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frischli: General planning of a distribution warehouse for food logistics

From master plan to realisation

Frischli Milchwerke GmbH in Rehburg- Loccum pro­duces a wide range of fresh dairy products at its site near Hanover. More than 500 employees produce yoghurt, cre­am and pudding amongst other things. Sin­ce the 60s the dairy has grown continuous­ly. With a monthly delivery of 25,000 tonnes and a dispatch of approx. 1,200 pallets per day, the capacity limits of the existing tech­nology have already been reached.

The task Initially, the food producer assigned the advisors from viaLog with the creation of a master plan, to extend the factory in Loc­cum. The targets were to

  • Extend the production site,
  • Integrate the partly temporarily outsourced packaging materials in the Loccum factory,
  • Eliminate the lack of general and com­missioning spaces in the goods-out area and
  • Optimisation and supplementation of the warehouse management system.

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LogiMAT 2015: Meet our logistics consultants and planners

LogiMAT in Stuttgart is one of the most renowned German logistics fairs. From February 10th to 12th, you have the opportunity to meet with our logistics consultants and planners and discuss your logistics. You will find us in hall 1 at booth 1D41.

We are happy to provide you with free tickets. Send an email to marketing@vialog-logistik.com and tell us your address as well as the number of tickets you need.

If it is not possible for you to attend LogiMAT 2015 we are happy to visit you at your office. In order to arrange a meeting, get in touch via email: info@vialog-logistik.com or by phone: 0049 5247 9364-0.