See why a chemical giant automates warehousing and distribution. Logistics 4.0 in practice.
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The new warehouse of the chemical company AlzChem, located in Trostberg, will be equipped with an automated Shuttle Pallet system. The 25 m high facility will accommodate over 5,000 pallets in total, and the coordination of the entire logistics process will be provided by Easy WMS software.
The decision to automate the AlzChem warehouse and distribution centre was prompted on one hand by the need to speed up production supply processes and on the other by the desire to improve the picking and preparation of goods for shipment.
On both sides of the only warehouse aisle, two blocks of racks will be installed with 10 and 11 m long channels for 7 and 8 pallets respectively, which will be operated by a stacker crane and a Pallet Shuttle. The warehouse will be connected to the production plant by two conveyors: one will transport raw materials and the other will transport finished products.
Night work without operators
The warehouse management system will be responsible for coordinating the receipt and release of goods and determining the storage locations of each pallet. To ensure proper efficiency of the logistics centre, the WMS software will be permanently connected with the ERP system used by AlzChem. This will enable their two-way communication (data exchange).
“With this solution, we will be able to work 24/7 without the need for operators on the night shift,’ explains Andreas Hensel, raw material management specialist at AlzChem.
The semi-automatic accumulative storage system for loading and unloading pallets uses Pallet Shuttle carts. In fact, they replace the typical warehouse trucks, reducing handling time and allowing articles to be grouped by channel instead of by full aisle.
An operator uses a tablet to give commands to a Pallet Shuttle, which are transmitted over a Wi-Fi network. The shuttle places the picked load in the first free space, maximising the density of the stored pallets. The minimum distance between storage levels allows a high density of stored goods. Pallet Shuttles are equipped with sensors that control the placement of loads, eliminating free space in the rack. This means that the actual capacity (taking into account the flow of incoming and outgoing goods) is practically the same as the physical capacity of the warehouse.
Faster loading and unloading
Saving time is another advantage. Shorter loading and unloading times are achieved by eliminating the need for the operator to work inside the channel. The cart travels at 90 m/min without load and 45 m/min with load. Lifting time is only 2 seconds. With one command, the cart can empty or fill the entire channel.
With the Pallet Shuttle, a different unit can be stored in each channel, allowing for greater product differentiation in the warehouse. The general goods-to-operator principle is applied (the load moves in the direction of the operator, the operator does not have to walk around the facility). While the Pallet Shuttle performs one requested operation, the operator selects another pallet to ensure continuity of the cycle. Depending on the temperature and load, the cart can operate continuously for up to 10 hours. The system practically eliminates possible errors, and the user also appreciates the inventory function (namely, the cart counts pallets stored in a given channel).
The versatility of the system applications is also impressive. The cart has built-in sensors that detect and handle different types of pallets. For example, model 1012 supports 800 or 1000 mm EUR-pallets, while model 1212 works with 800, 1000 or 1200 mm EUR-pallets.
All carts can be operated in LIFO (last in-first out) or FIFO (first in-first out) mode. The operator selects the appropriate mode using a tablet. The platform of the Space Shuttle is designed to handle pallets with a maximum permissible deflection of up to 25 mm. The permissible load is 1.5 t per pallet. The system is easy to expand when more capacity is required, it is enough to increase the number of carts.