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ETRA Oy Adds a Success Factor to its Warehouse with SuPCIS-L8!


Higher, faster, further? Customer requirements on the Finnish technology company ETRA Oy (ETRA), which offers its customers a wide range of industrial products and services as a wholesaler and retailer, are constantly increasing and require the highest level of quality and reliability at all times.

With a view to the future, ETRA has therefore deliberately opted for automation when expanding its warehouse logistics at the Hämeenlinna (Finland) central warehouse location.

With the expansion of the logistics centre and the implementation of the warehouse management software SuPCIS-L8, ETRA has already taken decisive steps into the digital age. The WMS SuPCIS-L8 maps and supports all processes and components in the automated warehouse areas – from goods receipt to picking with integrated pick-to-light system, consolidation and packaging. Due to the seamless interaction of the WMS and MFC with the system controls of GEBHARDT Fördertechnik GmbH, ETRA benefits from a customised and efficient material flow.

The new, double-deep, 4-aisle automatic small parts warehouse offers extensive floor space and around 50,000 storage locations for ETRA's wide range of products. Incoming goods from the central goods receiving area or replenishment from the manual storage areas are automatically repacked, depending on the quantity and configuration in the avalanche article master, into the containers provided by the avalanche control system in the quantity suggested by the avalanche control system. There are two different types of containers available for this purpose. If required, they can also be subdivided for storing several articles per container. This segmentation is also graphically visualised in the processes. However, before the goods can be stored, they are subjected to a weight and height check – in this context the specified maximum weight of 50 kg may not be exceeded and it is ensured that no material or packaging material protrudes from the containers.

In case of an error, the containers are re-turned directly to the operator with an indi-cation of the error. There are several repacking stations that can be used to fill small quantities into existing storage con-tainers which will arrive on request.

Two of the four existing aisles of the automatic small parts warehouse are operated by storage and retrieval machines from GEBHARDT Fördertechnik GmbH and serve as a zone for non fast-moving goods with a large stock. In the other two aisles totes with fast moving articles are stored. There are 5 Multi-Level-Shuttles (MLS), which are positioned one above the other. All of them are supplied and discharged via a lift. This parallelization significantly increases the storage performance. Each individual vehicle, as well as the 3 controllers of the conveyor system areas, are directly connected with the SuPCIS-L8 MFC.

In order to also increase performance during storage, both the storage and retrieval machine as well as MLS have the possibility to transport 2 containers at the same time. The selection of the storage locations is optimised by the WMS in such a way that both the current occupancy of the buffers before the levels and the storage location occupancy within the aisles as well as the pair formation for double-deep storage are taken into account.

Fast and transparent logistics processes

The WMS manages both, the new miniload and the previously installed picking and storage area with 32 Kardex storage towers and upstream Gebhardt conveyor technology. Here, the avalanche transceiver has integrated itself into the interface originally existing between the Kardex control system and the host as well as between Kardex and the existing conveyor system control system. The new functionality could thus be achieved without interfering with the existing systems.

If goods from both areas are required within an order, the goods are first picked in the Kardex area and temporarily stored in the consolidation buffer, which is also automated by a multi-level shuttle. Only then the avalanche transceiver starts to remove the order parts from the miniload.

The individual source containers are then transported via the conveyor system to the six picking workstations („goods-to-person“ principle), each with 4 target locations for extra-large containers, which are only used for transport between picking station and packing station. These totes are provided automatically and married to the target location. Here, the WMS plans large orders for individual containers and single position orders to reduce traffic on the conveyor system between the picking and packing area to collect containers. The employee is shown the product image and removes the quantity of goods specified by the warehouse management system. The attached Pick-to-Light system makes the subsequent distribution process even easier for the employees, as the display above the container guides the employee where to put which quantity. Afterwards, the distribution has to be confirmed via the acknowledgement button.

Counting scales which are fully integrated into SuPCIS-L8 dialogues are used to identify large quantities of small articles. It does not only ease the process of actual counting but is also much more economic approach by visualizing the results of the weighing process. Time-consuming counting is no longer necessary and the integrated dialogue in the avalanche transceiver means that the scales do not have to be operated additionally.

Once a job has been completed, it is indicated to the employee in plain text via the Pick-to-Light system and the employee triggers the removal of the target container via the display, as well as the removal of the source container when it is no longer required. At a time where the employee returns to the picking station, the next picking container has already been prepared. Depending on the requirements, the source container either moves to another picking location or is returned to the miniload, even after a zero crossing.

Order totes that contain a complete order, like the collection totes for single item orders, arrive at one of the 6 packing stations via a loop directly after the picking process. If, on the other hand, an order consists of several totes, which may originate from both automated storage areas, intermediate buffering is carried out until the last totes arrive in the consolidation buffer. Now the warehouse management system initiates the retrieval of all totes belonging to an order to one of the five packing stations directly controlled from the consolidation buffer in a priority that can be controlled by the operator. This is very important, as both direct deliveries to customers' construction sites as well as replenishment orders to the decentralised warehouses and ETRA sales points throughout Finland are made from the central warehouse with different departure times. ETRA's high quality of service requires all orders to be delivered on the same day. Parcel deliveries are packed at the packing station and prepared for dispatch. Deliveries to ETRA's sales outlets are made in an environmentally friendly manner using a closed-loop system with reusable containers, which the packer transfers back to the conveyor system and which are fully automatically discharged via a shipping sorter to the supply lines assigned to the branches.

Complete overview of the warehouse conditions

In order to increase efficiency, productivity and transparency in ETRA's warehouse in the best possible way and to avoid errors, the photo studio in SUPCIS-L8 and the Warehouse Viewer are also being used. With the photo studio in SUPCIS-L8, the articles or packaging units which previously had no image in the web shop can also be recorded via the MDEs camera. Whilst using the integrated image processing, special features can also be marked, displayed and permanently stored in the warehouse management system.

In addition, the Warehouse Viewer provides a graphic overview of the storage areas at any time as well as a visualisation of the movements and status of the automation components used in the warehouse. It is also possible to view possible faults in the warehouse or scanner statistics quickly and easily at any workstation of the WMS.

The SuPCIS-L8 cockpit with its collection of dashboards constantly displays current data on the number of pending and closed orders, information on the current fill level of the aisles, storage and retrieval, as well as the status of picking.

Efficient logistics strategy as the linchpin of the future

The smooth interaction between the WMS SuPCIS-L8 and the conveyor technology of the GEBHARDT Fördertechnik GmbH represent a successful overall solution for ETRA. Due to the flexibility, customizability and available interfaces of the warehouse management software, ETRA also has the possibility to further expand its warehouse logistics in the future. »Through the expansion of our warehouse logistics and the successful implementation of SuPCIS-L8, we will also be able to meet the requirements of our customers in the best possible way in the future. The structured warehouse and work processes as well as increased efficiency, transparency and flexibility in our warehouse allow us to look positively into the future.«, says Pekka Pöntiö, Director of Logistics at ETRA.

»We are pleased about the trust placed in us by ETRA and Gebhardt and we still remember this joint team effort, which of course was celebrated on site in the sauna in typical Finnish manner.«, says Horst Reichert, Managing Director at S&P Computersysteme GmbH.

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