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f+h Intralogistics 2/2015

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f+h Intralogistics 2/2015


MATERIAL FLOW Beumer makes sortation system more energy saving Following the opening of its first store in Mascot, New South Wales/ Australia, on 27 May 1965, clothing and household linen retailer Best & Less Sydney/Australia grew steadily for the next 30 years, with outlets appearing in every area of the country. Expansion increased following the 1998 acquisition of the company by Pepkor, and there are now almost 200 stores in the portfolio. For several years Best & Less had been operating its distribution from two centers, in Sydney and Brisbane. Because of its recent and anticipated future expansion and in addition to the fact that its leases on these two centers were coming to an end, the company decided to consolidate operations into a single building. At 36,000 m 2 Best & Less provides more than twice the floor area of the previous two buildings combined. This move neatly provided the opportunity for Best & Less to review its operations and implement the optimization and automation that it had wanted for some years but had been unable to realize due to the lack of suitably large and permanent premises. The new distribution center was specifically designed with this in mind. Paul Viljoen, general manager of Best & Less, explains how the new automation system was selected: “We started off planning the move to automated operations around three years ago. We realized that we first needed to get a better premises and that there was no one really in the company that had much experience in automation. In fact even having a distribution center was fairly new to us, as it wasn’t so long ago that we outsourced all our cross-docking.” The system has to be robust and flexible Viljoen says: “Our basic requirements for the system were, that we should have been able to get at least ten years of use out of it. So it had to be robust, expandable and able to handle variation in what part of our product comes in directly and what part from suppliers. In addition we had certain specifications about cartons, volumes, sizes, peak days etc. With this information we went to the market to see, what options there are from a design point of view”. In total there were five companies that bid for the construction and installation. Viljoen remains “We had many options and looked not only at various layouts for the sortation system, but also at different technologies. We considered mechanical sorters, shoe sorters and tilt trays, but we finally decided on the Crisplant cross-belt sorter. Following our earlier talks with other suppliers we believed that we knew what we wanted in terms of the layout and concept, but Crisplant helped us enormously to the 32 f+h Intralogistics 2/2015

MATERIAL FLOW point where we actually changed the whole arrangement of the chutes, which was a major improvement.” In its two previous distribution centers, Best & Less’s warehousing and cross-docking was a purely manual operation. Viljoen explains how the system is operating: “We have two sources for the product. One is from the warehouse racking and comprises about 35 percent of our stock, which we directly import by ourselves. The rest of the stock is imported by local suppliers, most of them have their own facilities. Everything we take out of the racking for delivery to our stores, we are labeling within the distribution center, and everything we receive from our suppliers will have been already labelled by them. For manual cross-docking each store has a permanent location on the floor and we received mixed carton sizes. We send stock to stores on full pallet loads built up 1.7 m high. When stock comes from the warehouse or is delivered from local suppliers, the pallets are broken down, the workers check the labels for the store number and take the box to the appropriate floor area using a hand trolley.” Equipped with special slides The move from the old buildings to the new distribution center was arranged to give an overlap of around six months in case there were any problems. Operations were shifted from the Sydney center to the new building over a period of two to three weeks in April 2011 and the actual building of the sortation system commenced soon after. The new center wasn’t racked out completely and about 7,000 m 2 of space was left so that manual operations could be continued while construction progressed. The Brisbane center closed down in July, construction of the sortation system was concluded on time and the automated operations started on November 11. Viljoen explains the new system: “In the new system, when we receive stock, we put it directly onto the loop sorter at one of two induction points. The barcoded labels are scanned automatically, which acts as a receipt and tells the system which destination chute to deliver the box to. When the box reaches the correct chute, the Crisplant cross-belt sorter ejects it from the conveyor and it slides down to join the boxes that have already been delivered to that location”. Viljoen continues: “This is what makes the system so effective and different from other sortation systems I’ve seen. With Crisplant we designed the chutes so that About Beumer The Beumer Group is an international leader in the manufacture of intralogistics systems for conveying, loading, palletizing, packaging, sortation and distribution technology. Together with Crisplant a/s and Enexco Teknologies India Limited, the Beumer Group employs about 3,200 people and achieves an annual turnover of about €500 million. With its subsidiaries and sales agencies, the Beumer Group is present in many industries the world over. they would hold more or less a whole pallet of boxes. Most sortation systems operate more or less on a ‘first in, first out’ basis and the worker building the pallet has to use them in the order in which they come down the line. This can be difficult and inefficient as there is a wide variety of shapes and sizes that has to be fitted onto the pallet as neatly as possible. In our new system, however, the chutes can hold sufficient cartons to make up an entire pallet, and the chutes are fairly wide, so the worker has a choice of 15 to 20 cartons from which to make up the pallet with as few spaces as possible. This is very important for us as we pay pallet rates to stores, so we always want to get as much onto a pallet as possible. It’s a really essential factor in minimizing transportation costs.” Another effect of the system design is that because of the chutes terminate at about waist height, the pallet builders no longer have to pick the carton up from the floor, so there is less chance of work-related injuries and much less fatigue – with a corresponding increase in productivity. Energy efficient and user-friendly In addition to the system design itself, operating costs were a major factor in Best & Less’s decision to choose the Crisplant system. It is built around Crisplant’s low-energy LS-4000CB cross-belt sorter, powered by linear synchronous motors and controlled and supervised by a Crisplant Sorter Control system, featuring a user-friendly interface from the Crisplant software suite. “When we were looking for solutions for the sortation system, nothing came close to the power consumption estimates we received from Crisplant”, says Viljoen. “I’m pleased to report that so far the system is running well within those parameters.” What does Viljoen have in mind for future improvements, expansion or new features for the sortation system? “One thing we have to consider is that with our current growth we are opening between six and 10 stores a year, so handling the extra stock will require some modification to the system. In addition there is a general volume growth, which we also have to consider. Currently we have a capacity of approximately 4,000 items an hour with two inductions and we can add another four without changing the loop. We can also add additional chutes and increase the sorter speed as necessary”, Viljoen concludes. “The next step is that we would like to start with pick and pack. We have quite a few stores that are relatively small and even the minimum pack size for them is too large. A pick and pack capability in our own distribution center would enable us also to buy more directly”, he completes. Viljoen finally comments: “I’ve been involved in quite a few projects in my career, but I think this one was the most professionally run with an external company.” Photos: Beumer Group MULTIMEDIA CONTENT Internal Video: Get to know more about the achievement spectrum of the enterprise. PDF: The Crisplant sorters are powered by energy-efficient linear motors. But what exactly are these devices? f+h Intralogistics 2/2015 33


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