Complete renewal of the Büroring central warehouse in Haan

Büroring - Kommisionierung

Capacity and performance reserves developed in a limited space.

The Büroring group of companies has invested almost four million euros in the reorganization of intralogistics at Haan. With the new multistory carton conveyor system integrated into an existing building, the order throughput times could be significantly reduced with increased process reliability. At the same time, the general contractor BSS Bohnenberg managed to multiply the available usable space by introducing additional picking areas during the rebuild.

The Büroring group of companies is a cooperative nationwide leading association of more than 500 medium-sized office specialist dealers. In this B2B sector, the strengths of the “Büroring family” are further strengthened by Büroring eG and Büro Forum AG. Central approaches are market-oriented bundling of the purchasing volume, joint services, and joint logistics. In Haan in the Rhineland, around 100 employees are currently driving the success model represented by membership turnover of around 800 million euros. The linchpin for the distribution of the goods is the central warehouse, which is also located there. Around 12,000 different items are permanently stocked and will be delivered within 24 hours of receipt of the order. These are primarily commercial office supplies, but also office and property furnishings.

Success creates a need for action

In view of the steadily growing range and impending capacity bottlenecks, the decision was mutually made in 2016 to completely realign key intralogistics sub-areas. In order to be able to map the growth rates efficiently in the long term, the focus was especially on shortened process times, increased flexibility, and improved response alternatives to seasonal fluctuations. “The big dilemma was that no further space was available for the restructuring,” reports Büroring board member Jörg Schaefers. “The order picking system to be newly integrated had to be implemented in a limited space without sacrificing the required throughput and process quality.”

The concept developed by the general contractor BSS Bohnenberg GmbH in Solingen planned for an extensive, multistory carton conveyor system, divided into the areas of “order start”, “picking”, “inspection” and “packaging/shipping”. The system solution also includes a shelving racks system with a length of 1,000 m, several hundred general cargo channels, labelers, and a fully automatic carton strapping machine. At the same time, Büroring commissioned the intralogistics specialist, who is also responsible for the construction management and trade coordination, to link the automation level to the existing SAP system. Since day-to-day business was to be maintained during the construction phase, the picking activities including the necessary shelving racks were temporarily moved to another hall. This created space to install customized conveyor technology lines and a new, four-meter-high stage on a shelf area of around 2,200 m² in the existing logistics property.

Clever processes for improved performance

Since commissioning at the end of 2017, the order throughput times have been successively reduced. The provided and picking-by-voice-assisted picking service has a decisive part in this. “With the help of the new system solution, we have today been able to significantly increase the picking performance to around 1,500 picks per hour,” emphasizes Jörg Schaefers. “Even only after a short period of time, the packaging performance could, meanwhile, be significantly increased to over 2,000 parcels a day.” A cleverly arranged system layout also made it possible to make optimal use of the usable space.

Cartons in six different dimensions and with a maximum weight of 30 kg are moved on the new conveyor system in two shifts five days a week. If necessary, plastic containers and trays weighing up to 50 kg also run through the line. In the course of individual item picking, the packaging units are successively transferred to the customer cartons according to “Pick & Pack”. This is done through a total of eleven picking stations. Stations 1 to 6 are reserved for fast-moving items. Here the picking process starts as soon as the order box arrives. Stations 7 to 11, however, are designed on the principle of multi-stage picking. Items that are already laid out ready in a collecting compartment and are only intended for an order are transferred to the supplied boxes. “This principle reduces the length of time the order box stays in this area, which is characterized by a high volume of items, to a minimum,” emphasizes BSS project manager Hans Kemmerling. “As a result, noticeably shorter throughput times were achieved.”

Picking system with a handover system

The basis for a consistently assured process quality, however, is already laid at the start of the order. So a sales order is assigned to individual shipping boxes after volume entry in SAP ERP using volume calculation. Taking into account priorities determined in parallel, the individual shipping boxes are placed in an execution queue. At the start of the job, the calculated carton type is then visualized on a screen, erected, and pushed onto the conveyor line. This is followed by a contour check and the application of a barcode label. This is scanned and “married” to the next order for the identified carton type. Smaller, possibly ineligible boxes can be manually labeled and placed on a tray.

After order start, each box moves to the stations where items have to be picked or are already available for collection. For this purpose, SAP transmits a target chain to the PLC system, so that the stations are approached in chronological order to avoid unnecessary circulation on the conveyor system. After removing an item and inserting it into the box, the worker acknowledges the process. Once all the picks have been processed, SAP generates a corresponding telegram and transmits it to the PLC. The box is pushed onto the main line and transported to the next station defined within the target chain. If a station to be started is occupied, it can be started again thanks to the gyro options within the system.

Reliable supply replenishment and dispatch

After acknowledgment of the last open station in the target chain, the box is fed from the stage to packaging via a spiral conveyor Here it passes a reporting point via which the SAP system triggers the creation of print files for the delivery note and the invoice on an ad hoc basis. Incoming cardboard boxes are hauled to a free space by the employees, scanned, and loaded with shipping papers and, if necessary, advertising. This is followed by putting on a snap-on lid and attaching the shipping label created from the already prepared spool files. The latter also lists the package weight, which is determined using a shipping scale embedded in the table surface. Customer boxes intended for regular parcel shipping pass through the automatic strapping machine and are discharged to one of the three end points. They can be conveyed to the truck trailer via driven scissor roller conveyors, where they can be removed and stacked.

The replenishment of supplies for the eleven picking stations is organized via the narrow aisle warehouse. In the area of the train stations further away, this is done on foot or by hand pallet truck via a freight elevator. The six fast-moving stations installed below the stage can be operated directly via forklifts. As a result, the total of 1,300 flow channels or shelving racks can be supplied via replenishment aisles without collisions with one of the workers working within the system. Pallet goods required on the stage are fed from the ground floor via a handrail lock using a forklift. Provision is also made for the proverbial “worst-case scenario”: If, for example, barcode reading errors occur in the system, the cartons in question are sent to a NIO space. After checking and leaving the checkpoint, they either enter the special packing area or are reintroduced into the system. 

In addition, the possibility was created to quickly summarize backlogged but now available items in a subsequent delivery. In such a case, picking takes place in a plastic container. In the special packing zone, these items can then be repacked into small mailing bags. Hans Kemmerling on this: “This procedure has the advantage that the conveyor load of the system is reduced and blockages or a segment-by-segment shutdown due to overfilling can be avoided.”

Well prepared for further growth

The rebuild was divided into a total of seven project phases, spread over a time window of almost two years. In doing so, the maxim was always unrestricted: Security against implementation speed. “In close cooperation with the intralogistics general contractor BSS, we have succeeded in integrating a new system solution here in Haan, which has not only led to short-term efficiency gains, but also to permanent added value,” summarized Büroring board member Jörg Schaefers. The cooperative is now in a position to also be able to map and handle future expansion of the range. Special items, for example in the context of a project and tendering business, can also be brought in easily and seasonal curves could be intercepted flexibly. The demand for shortened process times was also met in order to be able to guarantee prompt delivery of member orders.

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