Boosting efficiency with Central European logistics

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The pen and pencil producer STAEDTLER has centralized its distribution logistics and has begun supplying its European-wide network of customers direct from the newly created logistics centre in Nuremberg in mid 2007. Detours via the national interim warehouse will be a thing of the past after all twelve European country companies are integrated step-by-step in the newly created Euro logistics structure. The company in Nuremberg, Germany, has set its sights on the two network system solutions OPS and MPS from Witron Logistik + Informatik GmbH from the Oberpfalz in order to be able to fulfill the STAEDTLER requirements for an efficient and economic warehouse and commissioning logistics linked with the centralization requirements.

Colored pencils and pencils, ballpoint pens, markers and rubbers are generally considered to be classic C articles that often have only rudimentary differences to those from the competition. STAEDTLER Mars GmbH & Co. KG however, follows strategically quite different paths in two significant respects. On the one hand the company is renowned for its innovative and high quality products. An example: its ink technology with the Dry Safe property. Pens such as the STAEDTLER Lumocolor are equipped with Dry Safe ink, which means the pens can be left around open without their caps for days without the tips drying out. The Nuremberg pens and pencils manufacturer also produces colored leads with the innovative A-B-S (Anti-Break-System). The high-quality lead is encased with an innovative white-colored protective cover and is so hard and resistant that the lead has up to 50 percent more stability and increasing resistance to breakages by 30 percent compared to other pencil leads. These are only two innovations among the many that are developed in the company laboratories in Nuremberg. The company produces two thirds of its entire range in Germany the great majority of this at its headquarters in Nuremberg in order to maintain the high standard of quality. But innovation and quality alone are not enough for this company with its outstanding awareness of tradition. For the goods distribution process, the pen and pencils producer has put its trust in the automated logistics systems of the Parkstein system provider Witron with a major efficiency thrust that began in mid 2007. In a fiercely contested industry the new automated logistics centre linked with the convincingly high product quality represents a unique selling position for this company characterized by its market leadership.

Integrating twelve European countries
STAEDTLER will control the entire fine distribution of its products from Nuremberg as a classic direct delivery set up for the future and this Europe-wide. Each year, we will close one of the twelve country distribution sites and will integrate it in the centralized delivery from Nuremberg. By this means we shall ensure that a delivery on time and at any time to each of our European customers is fully guaranteed Ernst Bader, logistics manager commented the new Euro Logistics strategy. Most of the European companies have an own warehousing facility. The replenishment happens by customer orders that are sent from each of the country companies to the Nuremberg headquarter. After delivery the goods are received by the relevant country company and delivered from the own storage facility to customers such as the specialized trade or major consumer markets. This is from a general perspective a very complex and inefficient logistics structure with a significant optimization potential and it will all now be replaced step-by-step with the new Euro Logistics concept.

Reducing stocks and costs
The STAEDTLER plan is to swat a swarm of pestering flies in a single go. By closing the logistics in the country companies and reducing stocks, capital commitment is reduced significantly. Furthermore the centralized logistics means we will be in a position to introduce changes in the range much more swiftly, which is a very useful capability, in particular for rapidly changing trends, or for wet writing pens that have minimum use-by dates, Bader said, explaining the advantages of the centralized Euro logistics. The easier master data handling and more efficient use of transport capacities were also points in favor of a single European-wide storage facility. Furthermore the warehousing technology in use in Nuremberg was beginning to show its age. Spare parts were becoming difficult to obtain. The system was hitting its performance limits and represented a significant risk. Since future growth in our industry will also be determined by the East European countries and also as a result of the good infrastructure, Nuremberg was an obvious choice for the central logistics location Bader said, justifying the decision for a new  building in the Franconia metropolis.

Witron presents an optimal solution
The first construction work for the highly automated Euro Logistics Centre began in April 2006 and was officially opened on 13 July 2007. STAEDTLER will now profit from a very powerful logistics system that has been planned and realized by Witron Logistik + Informatik GmbH in Parkstein who has also implemented this logistics project as general contractor. We are under a significant costing pressure due to the interchangeability of the products. The new facility should thus have the effect of bringing down these costs. Apart from this we wanted to achieve more efficiency, flexibility, functionality and data transparency Bader added. These are requirements that will be optimally fulfilled by the solution concept presented by Witron based on its OPS (Order Picking System) and MPS (Module Picking System) system modules. Cost-effectiveness and operating efficiency comparisons with alternative system concepts and with outsourcing offers from various service providers have confirmed that the line devised by Witron represents the optimal solution for European-wide direct delivery. A further factor in favor of Witron was that a cooperation on a basis of trust has already been in existence for more than twenty years and Witron has both high planning competence plus a reputation for being able to get to grips effectively with the toughest of tasks Bader said.

Efficient logistics on a compact area
The first plans for a centralized Euro logistics were already on the table at STAEDTLER in 2002. In the course of the years that followed we were constantly available as partner and moved into an advanced working phase in the planning of the Euro logistics project Witron authorized signatory Ulrich Schlosser commented. In this move Witron bore the entire risk of a non-implementation decision. It was furthermore a really interesting planning task for us to be able to deal with the problem of such a highly automated facility in such a narrow space, Schlosser added. The automation specialist thus concentrated thoroughly from the start on aligning all the design considerations to optimal use of the available space and to achieving flexibility. While still in the last planning phase Witron was able to achieve a massive increase in the system performance of the small parts warehouse facility while using precisely the same available space as the result of a completely re-worked technical concept, Bader said. As a result we have gained more air upwards, since we have no opportunities for an extension in the classic manner due to our constructional limitations. We have, however, been able to link in twice the number of workstations than those that were previously available.

The cost benefit effect is decisive
Witron has been able to bring about an optimal achievement of the STAEDTLER requirement for an economic warehouse and commissioning logistics system on an available space at the company headquarters of only 5,600 square meters. The decisive point for us was the cost-benefit effect of the Witron system and the value achieved here was equally as convincing as the times that had been calculated in advance according to Bader. The Parkstein solution provider integrated two of its standard warehouse and commissioning system modules into the Euro Logistics Centre, which had been tailored to meet the special requirements of the pen and pencil manufacturer. On the one hand STAEDTLER serves the specialized trade and thus delivers in small quantities, a task for which the Witron OPS module (Order Picking System) comes fully into its own. On the other hand complete cartons are also being commissioned for the major customers such as the consumer chains. From this standpoint we combined the OPS with the Witron MPS solution (Module Picking System) for the storage and commissioning of large volume trading units, Schlosser said, explaining the basic constellation of the two networked systems in the Euro Logistics Centre. Both system modules receive the goods either when they come in direct from production connected by means of an electronic overhead rail transport system on the first floor or via eight loading gates on the ground floor of the Euro Logistic Centre. The SAP system introduced by STAEDTLER this year provides goods arrivals instruction either by pallet or in summary using the Witron warehouse management system (WMS). Deliveries from production or via the ramp are in both cases largely on Euro pallets. The possibility also exists for recording and storing the totes directly, however, in order to stay flexible and with an eye on potential future requirements.

MPS: picking performance paired with high ergonomics
The goods are recorded on a sorted-by-article basis at the I-points. The pallet document is scanned and the delivery is checked including for example, the applicable use-by dates on the wet pens. Finally the goods are physically stored via the linked conveyor system in the 82 meter long pallet high bay warehouse (HBW). In addition to the STAEDTLER products some 11,000 EBERHARD FABER brand products are stored here on two rack levels in largely double-depth storage positions, representing around 10 percent of the total volume. On the IT side the four-aisle HBW is a component of the MPS solution that includes a picking aisle using the goods-to-man principle. Five multi-functional workstations are integrated in this aisle permitting picking of carton goods in large quantities from warehouse to customer pallets. The Witron material flow processor controls all the pallet movements that are required for this and provides a signal to the employees on the quantities to be picked using pick-by-light displays. For reasons of space and optimal ergonomics all the pallets are located on a single side of the picking aisle. The tote conveyor system has been built on the other side of the aisle in order to generate a part of the supply flow for the OPS module. The WMS ensures that only those pallets are ready on the unloading surfaces that are actually needed in the picking process and this is achieved by means of the two double transfer cars, which move parallel on a rail. The aisle is very short because of the highly dynamic process, and the walking distances the employees must cover in the course of their work are cut down to an absolute minimum as a result. The effect of this innovation seen over the period of a full working day is a higher output per head plus ergonomic working, Witron authorized signatory Ulrich Schlosser said, commenting on the advantages of the dense MPS picking zone.

STAEDTLER offers its customers a wide range of value-creation advantages that Witron has mapped out and reflected in its multi-facetted IT processes. For example the customized design with specific labels in the customers country language. In addition it is also possible to use industrial pallets that are not suitable for transport systems use as dispatch pallets. In future multiple tote occupancy in the WMS will also be possible through segmentation for example for the sample articles that only occupy a small storage area.

OPS: Pick & Pack at the stationary workstations
A proportion of the replenishment for the tray and tote based OPS module is also formed in the MPS. The employee is provided with a visualization of the replenishment order via PC dialogs. Goods can be re-packed from the storage pallets to totes or the employee can place a complete carton on an empty tray. In the latter case the entire re-packing procedure is done away with. Further advantage: The dispatch carton can be used again for picking later at the OPS picking locations.

The OPS also receives replenishment from a special tote re-packing station. This is because specific groups of articles are delivered from production in totes but stacked, however, on pallets via the electrically powered mono rail . The employee takes up the tote from the pallet and places it on the conveyor system with the aid of a handling device. The tote is scanned automatically as soon as a replenishment order has been confirmed, a plausibility check is made of its weight and it is transported onwards in the direction of the small parts warehouse. Witron constructed the small parts warehouse in a twin storey version to make better use of the limited space available and to improve performance. A total of 62,000 double depth storage positions for trays and totes are provided in the total of ten warehouse aisles with five aisles per level. The small parts warehouse is linked to five workstations via a conveyor system loop. Witron has provided an upstream volume calculation for the picking since STAEDTLER delivers the customer orders in cartons. The WMS specifies the optimal carton size for the current order in process and the appropriate carton is placed manually on an empty tray. Stacked empty trays are available in sufficient numbers directly at the picking position on their own conveyor system line. The WMS ensures that the stored goods are brought to the commissioning positions for picking by density category and in the correct sequence. This is done either in totes as the goods arrive direct from the production area or re-packed at the MPS, or on trays that have been set up in the MPS, too. This preparation procedure in a correct sequence ensures that the heavy articles do not damage the lighter ones, since they are picked first and are placed at a lower level in the shipping carton. Analogous to the MPS the server controls this entire procedure via screen masks. Two packing workstations are linked to each OPS picking location that are manned according to the workload for the day. When the order load is low the pick & pack handling can be dealt with by a single employee. The tray is scanned at the packing location. The packing dialog is fully aware of the contents of the customer carton on the tray and makes a weight plausibility check of the picked goods. Finally the carton is completely packed, a lid is placed on it and the gross weight is established. The WMS then takes care of the automatic printing of the delivery note and the label that is required for this order. By this means each transport service provider is issued with an own label. Where necessary a hazardous goods risk label is also provided for each carton. The completed customer carton is then allocated to a dispatch pallet that is waiting at the packing location and has been arranged in an optimal formation for the routing plan. When a dispatch pallet is full, it is closed in the system, placed on a lift and depending on the exact time of dispatch it is either transported onwards to the outbound area or is buffered in the HBW. The preparation procedure for completed order pallets from the MPS is also done according to the same method with the result that all the goods are available simultaneously in the dispatch area on a route basis. The Witron computer passes on all the delivery documents with an index file for archiving in the STAEDTLER system landscape, providing permanent transparency for all delivery procedures. A further IT highlight: The route planning is also taken on by the Witron system. An optimal carrier is suggested on the basis of specific rules and a check is made as to whether the commissioning can be performed for this, ensuring consolidation for the goods dispatch. Witron provides dispatch notification via an EDI to the appropriate transport carrier and simultaneously the dispatch advice data record goes out to specific STAEDTLER customers so they can book their goods arrivals.
 
Ensuring protection of investment
All the ideas that have been implemented in this plant are thoroughly plain and logical Bader said expressing his conviction about the value of the system. STAEDTLER has made use of its opportunity to examine in total detail all the functions of the Witron system solution in the run-up phase and carried out tests with its own products and employees in the Witron Technology Center. But a further point that convinced the logistics manager was the extension possibilities of the modular complete solution. What this means is that necessary system performance can grow despite the lack of available space. We can expand the OPS commissioning zone by a further seven positions and operate the entire line in three shift operation instead of the two shift operation that was planned Bader explained. The entire system was planned by Witron with this intention in mind, thus ensuring that the investment will be a complete economic and business success. The number of order lines is expected to double to around two million per year by the final construction phase in 2009 according to Bader and this despite significantly lower manning in the European country companies. The centralized distribution logistics means that we are getting a much higher level of transparency plus a continuous update on sales and turnover figures. We can control our international sales in an optimal manner as a result and improve our service with shorter delivery times, a substantially improved delivery capability plus delivery precision the STAEDTLER logistics boss commented. Our supply chain is going to be entirely different in character in the future. And we have been completely on target with our strategy up to now Bader said in a first positive conclusion on the results. We have already included our locations in Austria, France and Belgium and the integration of STAEDTLER logistics in Italy will follow before the end of the year.

 
STAEDTLER:
STAEDTLER Mars GmbH & Co. KG, Nuremberg, Germany, is the biggest manufacturer of pencils, colored pencils and rubbers in Europe. The group employs about 2,500 people worldwide, over half of them in Germany. The Group has an annual turnover in excess of about 240 million euros two thirds of all its products are manufactured in Germany. The company was established in 1835 and has a presence in over 150 countries worldwide today with 8 production plans, 3 of these in Germany, plus 24 sales - branches. All shares in the STAEDTLER Group are held by the foundation the STAEDTLER STIFTUNG.

Witron Logistik & Informatik GmbH
Witron Logistik + Informatik GmbH was founded in 1971, with its headquarters in Parkstein, Bavaria, Germany. With over 35 years of experience and 2,000 projects under its belt, Witron ranks among the industry leaders in the design and implementation of automated logistic systems. In addition to providing design and systems integration, Witron acts as general contractor, with overall responsibility for project cost, timeline, and functionality during all project phases through installation and ramp-up. Witron also offers extensive customer support programs that provide service over the complete system life cycle. Witron employed 850 people worldwide with an annual turnover of approximately 200 million Euros as of the 2006 financial year. Witron has subsidiary locations for business development and customer support in the USA, the UK, the Netherlands and Spain

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