Weisser saves space and increases flexibility with shuttle technology from viastore
More cartons per cubic meter for the shipping area
Weisser Spulenkörper is a leading manufacturer of bobbins, boxes and insulation parts for sensors, magnets, transformers, relays and motors. At the headquarters in Neresheim, Württemberg (Southern Germany), the company employs around 200 people. “Our goal is to offer our customers flexible, economical and efficient solutions,” says Managing Director Manfred Starnecker. In his view, the automation of processes is an essential factor in this regard. “This applies to both production and logistics,” he says. Therefore viastore SYSTEMS implemented a new shipping warehouse for the company which provides a high degree of flexibility, energy efficiency and availability thanks to the use of modern shuttle technology.
Customers have high demands on delivery quality
Weisser was founded back in 1922. In the 1980s, the company relocated its operations step by step to a new site in Neresheim. Today this site features a high-tech production including manufacturing, tool shop and automation technology. When the shipping warehouse moved to the site recently, Weisser used this as an opportunity to convert an old, manual person-to-goods concept into a modern automatic storage system. “Our approximately 1,000 customers have extremely high demands in terms of delivery reliability and on-time supply,” says Markus Trinkl, Director Aftersales at Weisser Spulenkörper. “Many of them have fixed delivery dates, which means that the goods must be completely ready for shipping or pickup on a certain day of the week.” The automation of our intralogistics processes was expected to further enhance the quality of deliveries. “We took an in-depth look at the various automation concepts for warehouses and eventually opted for shuttle-based technology,” says Manfred Starnecker. viastore was entrusted with implementing the warehouse. The international supplier of turnkey intralogistics systems and software provides automatic storage systems based on automated storage/retrieval machines (AS/RS) and the viaflex shuttle system. “We compared various shuttle providers,” says Manfred Starnecker. “The technology offered by viastore turned out to be the most suitable system for us.”
Maximum flexibility and high storage density
In shuttle technology, the goods are transported to the storage location or the transfer location for order picking via individually driven, self-powered vehicles. The shuttles run on rails that are attached to each row of racks and are elevated to the appropriate rack levels by means of lifts. With the viastore solution, the viaflex³ shuttles are able to independently move from one aisle to another – without requiring aisle transfer cars or similar equipment. Wheels that are rotatable by up to 90 degrees allow the shuttle cars to drive into the next aisle, for example via switches and passages in the racks. This makes them well-suited for storage solutions where the racks accommodate architectural features such as corners or columns. As a result, every single square and cubic meter can be optimally used. High storage density was especially important for Weisser, as Manfred Starnecker explains: “The new warehouse was to be connected as closely as possible to the existing production. There, however, only limited space was available. With the shuttle system, we can accommodate more cartons in the existing space than with any other storage type.”
Cartons of various sizes as well as plastic containers in mixed operation
Weisser packs its items into different cartons with maximum dimensions of 600 x 400 x 460 millimeters or 400 x 300 x 460 millimeters. “Today we offer customized products in addition to a broad catalog range with around 4,500 different articles,” says Manfred Starnecker. The spectrum ranges from small, lightweight parts of merely 0.01 grams to items weighing up to 450 grams. “We plan our packaging units in advance in such a way that we can send full cartons to the customer whenever possible,” explains Markus Trinkl. Here, too, the viaflex shuttles demonstrate their high level of flexibility: They take up the cartons by running under them, so that the carton size is inconsequential – as long as certain parameters are not exceeded. Moreover, viaflex can also transport plastic containers: “In addition to cartons we also use these boxes sized 600 x 400 millimeters,” explains Markus Trinkl. “These are partly provided by customers.”
“Low energy consumption is another advantage associated with shuttle technology,” adds Manfred Starnecker. Thanks to the low moving mass, viaflex³ is very efficient and this leads to reductions in operating costs. System availability was another aspect that Manfred Starnecker’s team had in mind when opting for the shuttle solution. As all shuttles operate independently, if one of them breaks down, the others can continue to work without interruption. If a shuttle vehicle detects a malfunction, it moves to a service station. Recharging the shuttle does not interfere with operation either, as Rainer Gschwendtner, IT Director at Weisser, reports: “The viaflex shuttle system has two energy stores – a classic battery and a capacitor. The capacitor is recharged within a matter of seconds every time the shuttle is in the lift.”
System extending over three levels
Weisser’s new shipping warehouse extends over three levels: The ground floor accommodates the input lane and six pick stations that are interconnected via a conveyor loop. The conveyor system transfers the cartons and plastic containers to the nine shuttle vehicles which transport them to the racks on the two upper floors via three lifts. “The racking system was installed on two separate upper floors for fire protection reasons, thus avoiding the need for a sprinkler system,” explains Ludger Schmitz, the viastore project manager. The first and second floors each accommodate a 55-meter long and 15-meter wide built-in rack with eleven levels. The racks offer space for 36,960 cartons with single-deep storage – smaller cartons are stored double-deep.
Standard warehouse management software
viastore was not only the general contractor for the warehousing and conveyor systems, but it also implemented the warehouse management and control software. “The fact that viastore offers the matching warehouse management software in addition to the hardware was another reason why we opted for the company,” explains Starnecker. With its viadat standard software, viastore offers a solution for the management and control of both conventional and automated warehouses. The warehouse software is just as suitable for small systems with low turnover as for huge distribution centers with several thousands of orderlines a day. “We mapped the warehouse functions at Weisser with the standard functions in viadat,” explains Ludger Schmitz. Manfred Starnecker adds: “We found out that one or another adaptation to our processes was required. Here viadat offers many configuration options, so that it was possible to accommodate these customizations using the standard product.”
The shuttle system has been in operation since the summer and Manfred Starnecker is very pleased with the course of the project: “The cooperation with viastore has always been fair, cordial and concerted.”