Transport and logistics in the furniture industry, or how to carry and store furniture
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Not all furniture and its components are easy to store and transport. Their manufacturers and distributors know this. Rationalization of furniture logistics may improve the efficiency of operations, hence the abundance of dedicated solutions.
Furniture can be transported by the box or curtain semi-trailers, preferably in the Jumbo version (used to transport the largest, but usually relatively light loads). In the case of the Jumbo version, a large capacity is achieved thanks to special, step-like floor design. Thus, the wheels of the semi-trailer are slightly smaller than those of conventional semi-trailers. Jumbo trailers are usually available in a three-axle version, but also – although less frequently – as 2-axle trailers. The difference in height in the most typical 3-axle trailers is usually several dozen centimetres. The volume of cargo space in closed semi-trailers in some cases considerably exceeds 100 cubic meters.
In addition to the increased volume of the load compartment, the main advantages of Jumbo trailers include the convenient handling of the load compartment. In the case of a curtain-type semi-trailer, the goods can be loaded from above, from the side and from behind, which speeds up the loading and unloading process. There are pros, but there are also cons. Step-like design can make it a bit difficult to transport particularly long objects, and the floor height of a semi-trailer is usually well below the level of a standard ramp.
In many cases, these are universal semi-trailers. One example is Wielton Dry Master. Apart from the fact that it is used for transporting valuable and courier shipments, it also transports… furniture. The rigid truck body effectively limits access to the transported cargo to unauthorized persons and protects it from damage and destruction. Similar solutions are offered by virtually all major semi-trailer suppliers. Loading can be carried out e.g. with a forklift truck.
Logistics in the furniture industry, i.e. large surfaces and non-standard sizes of products
How to store furniture? One example is the Ikea logistics centre with nearly 10,000 articles. In order to accommodate a wide range of products under one roof, large storage and logistics areas are required. Goods travel considerable distances inside the warehouse, which in turn translates into the longer duration of individual processes.
In his statement for Biznesmeblowy.pl, Piotr Romański, operational support manager at Ikea Regional Distribution Center in Jarosty, informed that Ikea currently uses three methods of storage. The first method is the use of the automated warehouse “Silo”, where 185,000 pallet spaces are available. The system manages pallets on its own from the moment they are placed on the feeder to the moment the pallets are received from the feeder. The condition of the goods is monitored both during the reception at the warehouse and just before shipment to an Ikea store or directly to the customer.
The second method uses a conventional racking system in which 120,000 pallet spaces are available and the goods are placed on wooden pallets. This traditional solution, in the case of Ikea, allows storing three types of pallets: Ikea, Euro and Half. There is also a second conventional racking system equipped with profiles, thanks to which goods are stored directly on paper pallets – this is the third method. It contains 2,500 pallet spaces, which allows minimizing the need to use wooden pallets in the internal circulation.
See how Ikea magazine in Jarosty works
In Greenteam, in cooperation with Nypan (a manufacturer of kitchen worktops), a cantilever rack system has been developed for storage. It consists of seven racking rows and can store more than 140 types of worktops on ten levels. Drive and control technology make it possible to reach stored items faster by using mobile trolleys controlled remotely from a forklift truck. The lowest storage level is located on the legs of the rack. The outer rows are one-sided and fixed to the floor, the rest of the rows are mounted on trolleys moving on rails laid in the floor. If you need goods from a particular rack, the trolleys move apart to provide the desired access path.
In the case of Ikea, picking means packing furniture in so-called flat packs (maximum use of the loading area, which in turn translates into transport optimization). At the stage of preparation for transport, flat packs are collected on pallets. Their number on one pallet is strictly defined (depending on the size of a pack) and constitutes one load.
Software to speed up the picking of shipments
IT tools are also helpful in logistics for the furniture sector. Computer-aided warehouse management systems allow for faster preparation and picking of orders for dispatch. They can be used to provide a full range of logistics services, such as:
– storage and warehousing of goods,
– reporting on stocks, in particular, information on the quality and quantity of goods in stock,
– palletizing goods,
– transhipment of goods,
– picking, etc.
Consafe Logistics implemented such a solution in, for example, the office furniture manufacturer AJ Produkty. It covered not only the warehouse itself but also the connection with the factory located 100 m away from the warehouse. The implementation was carried out in full integration with the company’s ERP and TMS systems.
Multidirectional trucks are useful in warehouses
Among the means of internal transport that can be useful for logistics specialists in the furniture sector are not only front loaders but also side loaders, also in a multidirectional version. The latter is used when the dimensions of stored goods significantly exceed the dimensions of standard pallets. Their key advantage is that it is easy to change the setting of synchronously controlled wheels. This, in turn, allows the machine to be manoeuvred freely in any direction.
Side loaders are constructed in a different way than the typical front forklift trucks (their masts and forks are located on the side). The storage of goods starts with taking over the load by means of a fork and then placing it on a platform (the so-called “table”). On it, the cargo remains securely stable during all transport to its destination. The use of such a truck eliminates the need for additional manoeuvres in order to properly position the goods.
The multidirectional version of the side loaders allows movement in any direction, regardless of the initial position of the vehicle. They can be driven forwards, backwards, sideways and crosswise without the need for any turning. The change of direction takes place practically on the spot, without the need for driving on a curve, which reduces the space needed for turning. The most popular brands on the market are Baumann, Combilift and Hubtex. The Irion, Jumbo and Lancer brands have also been known for years and for some time now they have been concentrated in one group – Bulmor.