Small parts storage and improved picking

by Inside Logistics Online Staff
Wipotec has two rows of vertical shuttles, each with four units.

Wipotec has concentrated its storage capacity and restructured its processes with intelligent picking methods in order to gain flexibility in supplying its production line. The Germany-based manufacturer of weighing and positioning systems has improved the organization, quality and monitoring of these components with automated storage systems.

Every gram counts for Wipotec customers, because only products that have been weighed precisely will end up on retail shelves. The medium-sized company’s core business is the development, production, and integration of ultrafast precision weigh-cells and high-tech weighing and inspection solutions for high-speed applications. Wipotec makes checkweighers, X-ray inspection equipment, track and trace systems, and catchweighers.

Last year, thanks to increased demand due to e-commerce, the company increased its production area by 108,000 square feet to around 377,000 square feet. Wipotec uses automated storage systems to store components and spare parts. Small parts are stored in a total of 22 Kardex Remstar Shuttle XP Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) up to 39 feet high. They hold 55,000 components and spare parts, ranging from tiny electrical components, engines and sheet metal to chains and long bars.

Storage capacity expanded

Wipotec has now concentrated and expanded its storage capacity to cope with future challenges. They joined two of the existing VLMs together to form one central storage system for small parts, and added six new Shuttle XP 500 units. There are now two rows of storage systems, each with four units.

A conveyor belt situated in the aisle in between them transports the order boxes in which the picked assembly sets or spare part orders are placed.

Picking options

To speed up picking, the company introduced both batch and multi-user picking. Up to 17 orders can be combined using batch picking. In so doing, the same articles for different orders can be retrieved with one single pick and then distributed across the various order boxes.

In addition, Wipotec uses a batch put-away strategy, where the items are combined in the system and put away together, saving time and resources. These operations are powered by Kardex Remstar’s inventory management software.

Several orders can also be picked in parallel, with up to three staff employing multi-user picking. Here every operator is assigned a colour that shows them how many parts they have to pick and which box to put them in. The conveyor belt with the order boxes and the pick-to-light systems can be operated from both sides. Picking aids, picking strategies, the use of barcode scanners, and flexible software links to the company’s own ERP ensure high accuracy.

Jörg Dandl, head of purchasing and logistics, noticed an improvement in quality following the reorganization of the warehouse: “Now the entire process is more structured and can be better scheduled. We have reduced the ad hoc orders from production by about 80 percent and achieved almost 100 percent picking accuracy.”

For this logistics manager, inventory monitoring and cost savings due to the use of fewer resources are further arguments speaking in favour of the automated storage solution.