In spring 2020 alone, we have completed a majority of our building operations in Fichtenberg. Within just a few years, from the initial plans to the first cut of the spade at the beginning of 2017, our area grew 45,000 square meters. We also made a huge step towards progress in April 2020 by commissioning our automation processes.
Anyone who is familiar with our product diversity, as well as our “built-to-order” philosophy, and our flexible manufacturing structure, knows that this was no easy undertaking. “In the end, Fritz Gebhardt was the only supplier willing to tackle our particular and ambitious goals,” explains Klaus Wohlfarth.
The receipt of goods is still a manual process. After the goods have been received and the items have been prioritized, they are supplied to various automatic storage systems.
At our company, the entire chain of logistics processes and warehousing is divided into an automatic small parts warehouse (AKL) for production supply, an automatic high-bay warehouse (APL), a multi-level shuttle warehouse (MLS) which serves as a supply depot, and an automatic small parts warehouse for shipping, including a connecting conveyor technique and corresponding working places, which was previously announced in another blog post.
The automatic small parts warehouse is primarily used to supply the assembly. It is designed as a shuttle warehouse and has a total capacity of 19,760 storage containers. It consists of three alleys with 23 storage levels each. Five shuttles are used per alley.
The system can transport and store goods weighing between two and a maximum of 30 kilograms. 630 storage and removal operations can be carried out per hour.
Components that arrive at the automatic small parts warehouse for production supply are manually transported to one of the four picking stations. There, the goods are separately transported via the conveyor technique in the direction of the loop, and they are stored in the automatic small parts warehouse via the container lifters.
The removal takes place accordingly and is delivered to the three picking stations via the respective lanes.
In the automatic small parts warehouse, we store wire mesh boxes and pallets. On the one hand, the warehouse supplies the powder coating with springs for ST customization, and on the other hand, the goods are transferred in large quantities to the containers, which are then stored in the automatic small parts warehouse. Each side of the alley has shelves with 35 columns. Five levels are reserved for storing low pallets and two levels are reserved for storing high pallets.
The shelves are 9-way storable in depth. The total number of storage places is 4,266. 28 storage and removal operations are possible per hour. The Gebhardt software pre-sorts the wire mesh boxes and boards, which are reorganized and transferred overnight. The software is used to define the sequence of the orders and then, the pre-sorted items can be delivered to the picking station.
For consignment in the automatic small parts warehouse, the system distinguishes between five order target groups. Since the warehouse is primarily used to supply the assembly, there are order target groups that are assigned only to production. In order to avoid delays, they are assigned to a maximum number of orders via the customized Gebhardt software solution.
The individual groups can log in and out for consignment. If they log out, the containers are not picked any longer. The consignment can also be blocked and unblocked by a superior unit.
If the supply depots of a group are exhausted, no new orders are scheduled for this group until the resources are free again.
When the initial container arrives, the removal quantity, the article number, and the target location where the picker should place and mark up the material is shown to the picker via the pick-to-light function.
Inefficiencies in production are thus avoided and workstations are continuously supplied with material.
Long distances for employees are eliminated and the various prefabricated and pre-picked components only have to be installed at the assembly stations. This reduces the assembly times drastically.
The assembled struts, coil springs, height adjustments and other parts run via the containers and the conveyor technique into the so-called multi-level shuttle warehouse.
In this multi-level shuttle warehouse, the suspensions we have in stock are temporarily stored axle by axle. It has space for 589 transport containers, and these are led to the packing station once all the components have arrived.
The colleagues pack the front-axle struts, rear-axle dampers and co. with the two-component packaging, which is typical standard for KW automotive, into the cardboard boxes and send your order on its journey to the new logistics center.
In spring 2021, our new logistics and shipping center went into operation. The core of the modern center is a fully automated shipping warehouse that transports the order-related suspensions in our factory to our colleagues at the shipping terminal.
From now on, the shipping warehouse in the modernized hall 3 will replace all intermediate warehouses in our international branches. Up to now, we have operated so-called intermediate warehouses in various markets, for instance, KW Japan and KW North America.
As a result, for example, when a KW coilover was ordered in the USA for a Tesla Model 3, the suspension was available immediately. However, if an end user from Australia ordered a Tesla coilover, the suspension first made a detour via North America and Europe to Down Under (Australia) for logistical reasons.
These detours have now come to an end. The new shipping warehouse has been realized as a multi-alley automated warehouse and offers 13,848 storage spaces. High and low cartons are 1-way or 2-way storable in depth.
Since the end of February 2021, every day, all produced suspension products of our brands ap, KW and ST are centrally shipped directly from Fichtenberg, via our logistics partners, to our customers worldwide. In addition, thanks to the introduced automation processes, paired with the new central intermediate warehouse, we are much more flexible and faster than before when fulfilling high numbers of orders.
The speed of the conveyor technique developed together with Gebhardt Fördertechnik from Sinsheim is very impressive. The logistics and shipping center consists of meter-long alleys. In each alley, 84 storage and removal operations can be carried out per hour.
The cartons arrive at one of the four shipping workstations via the conveyor technique, where they are checked, labeled, and strapped. Completed cartons are packed onto pallets and loaded onto trucks. Due to our investments in the modern conveyor technique, the new logistics center, and the central shipping warehouse, we can now fulfill customer orders much faster.
This has significantly shortened the entire process from incoming orders, to production and shipping. Without a doubt, this is a sustainable investment for the future.