Automated storage drives ODU’s manufacturing process

The mini-load manages up to 40,000 work-in-process parts, ensuring that production has what it needs, when it needs it.

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ODU GmbH & Co. KG; Mühldorf am Inn, Germany
Size: 215,280 square feet
Products: Electrical connection systems
SKUs: 75,000
Throughput: 40,000 work-in-process parts in storage
Employees: 900 in Germany, 1,500 worldwide
Shifts per day/days per week: 3 shifts per day, 7 days per week

At its vertically integrated manufacturing facility near Munich, ODU relies on a mini-load automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) to track and deliver work-in-process assemblies to the right assembly station at the right time. At the same time, a manual, forklift-operated warehouse manages the storage and delivery of raw materials and parts used in manufacturing processes.

Receiving (manual warehouse): Incoming raw materials and product that will be used to create work-in-process arrives on Euro pallets in the receiving area (1). Associates in this area unload the pallets and verify the received material against the delivery receipt. Once the delivery has been confirmed, the incoming product is scanned into the warehouse management system (WMS). If the product is already in stock, the WMS chooses a putaway location in a narrow-aisle, forklift-operated, raw materials warehouse (2) served by turret trucks. This is also referred to as the manual warehouse. ODU uses a first-in/first-out (FiFo) system to determine a storage location near other like products. The WMS creates a storage location for product that is new to the system.

Putaway (manual warehouse): Once a storage location has been chosen, a lift truck operator delivers the pallet to the manual warehouse (2). The operator scans the bar code label on the pallet and the location label to confirm the putaway in the WMS. The material is now available for production.

Picking (manual warehouse): Product stored in the manual warehouse (2) is used at assembly stations (5) located through the assembly area. Although ODU has the capability in its WMS to send order instructions directly to a lift truck operator, the process is still paper-based. To initiate a pick, an operator scans a bar code label on the pick list. That identifies the location and number of items to be picked. Operators may pick an entire pallet or a select number of cartons from a pallet. Once the pick is confirmed, the operator delivers the product to a designated component drop-off station (6) in the assembly area.

Receiving (mini-load AS/RS): Work-in-process is stored in one of two places. The fastest moving product is stored in a supermarket (not shown). These are small storage areas located near the various assembly stations (5). Slower-moving items are stored in plastic totes in the mini-load AS/RS (3). The containers are delivered to the AS/RS with a trolley (4). This is a manual cart system used to shuttle parts back and forth between the assembly area (5) and the mini-load AS/RS (3). Containers going into storage are inducted into the mini-load AS/RS (3) with a conveyor. After an automatic scan, the warehouse control system (WCS) determines a location for the putaway in the system.

Picking and delivery (mini-load AS/RS): Picking from the mini-load AS/RS is initiated when an order drops from the ERP into the WMS. A team leader at one of the assembly stations (5) begins to prepare for production by scanning a bar code label on the order. The team leader will retrieve any materials or work-in-process stored in one of the supermarket locations. At the same time, the mini-load AS/RS (3) will retrieve and deliver product to one of three light-directed picking stations. The operator removes the required number of parts and places them in a tote. Since some parts are too small to count, the system is connected to a scale that confirms the order by weight. Once all of the items for that box have been picked, it is placed on a trolley cart (4). Eight boxes fit on a trolley.

Although delivery instructions are still paper-based, the trolley operator scans a bar code label on the cart to signify that the material is on the way. The operator follows the trolley delivery route (4) and delivers the product to one of the component drop-off locations (6). The drop-off location is scanned to notify team leaders that their parts are available.

Once all of the work-in-process has been delivered, the trolley operator picks up finished goods from the various finished goods pick-up stations (7) in the assembly area (5). Those are delivered to shipping (8). Finally, the trolley operator picks up any material ready for storage and delivers the cart to the mini-load AS/RS (3). The operator then picks up the next trolley cart ready for delivery. In all, one round of the facility takes a trolley operator about 45 minutes.

System suppliers
AS/RS modernization, WMS and WCS: viastore
Mobile computing and scanning: Honeywell
Tugger system: Developed in-house by ODU
AS/RS racking: SSI Schaefer
Lift trucks: Still


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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