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f+h Intralogistics 3/2015

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f+h Intralogistics 3/2015


MATERIAL FLOW Using the “roller coaster” of SSI Schaefer sorting performance doubled More and more people use the services of mail-order pharmacies on the Internet. Aponeo launched a trial project with SSI Schaefer and installed a Batch Pick ‘n Scan Sorter to ensure fast delivery of the ordered goods. Not only clothes, electronics, toys or groceries are more frequently ordered on the Internet, but also pharmaceuticals and medical products. Konstantin Primbas, a pharmacist in Berlin/Germany recognized this trend early on and in 2005 he founded the mail-order pharmacy Aponeo close to his local pharmacy in Berlin-Lichtenberg. Prescription and non-prescription medication, dietary supplements, contact lenses as well as cosmetics and wellness products are sent to customers throughout Germany. A product portfolio of 140,000 articles makes this a challenging task. Aponeo not only offers standard and express deliveries, but also same-day delivery of the ordered products within the Berlin area. This requires sophisticated logistics − even more so as the mail-order pharmacy only has an area of about 600 m² available to process up to 4,000 orders with approx. 31,000 positions at peak times. This area is divided into a goods-in and sorting area, a small warehouse, six picking zones with 500 order positions, a quality inspection and a goods-out area. The formula for success: logistics The Aponeo business model requires the perfect interaction of IT and logistics. The mail-order pharmacy works together with four pharmaceutical wholesalers in the close proximity and several smaller suppliers to ensure high product availability. Several times a day all articles offered in the online shop are checked for availability in the own warehouse as well as at the suppliers to ensure that no products are on offer that might not be available later on. This is 24 f+h Intralogistics 3/2015

MATERIAL FLOW 01 In the goods receipt, the articles are placed only on an angled conveyor belt that leads into the scanning tunnel the reason the product range constantly changes. Every customer order at Aponeo immediately triggers an order from the respective supplier if the product is not on stock in the warehouse. The pharma wholesalers collect the orders and supply Aponeo with batch deliveries within a few hours. In the logistics center of the mail-order pharmacy the batch totes are emptied, the different products are registered, sorted and allocated directly to the customer orders. Up to the middle of January 2014 all articles were scanned manually, sorted and transported to the picking zones – this was considerably time- and labor-intensive. Due to the continuous growth of order volume and sales, the mail-order pharmacy had to find a solution to speed up the goods-in process to have the capacity to process more orders on the same space. After an initial contact at the CeMAT in 2011, the company approached SSI Schaefer and asked for the development of an innovative concept for automated inspection and sortation at goods-in. Common horizontal sorter solutions were out of question because of the limited space available. The SSI Schaefer intralogistics experts faced an enormous challenge due to the variety of packaging and individual packages of small bottles, cartons, tubes and pots, blister packages or bags with weights ranging from several grams to max. 1 kg. Space-saving sorter architecture After an initial planning phase, the mail-order pharmacy commissioned the intralogistics supplier in March 2013 with the supply and implementation of the Batch Pick ‘n Scan Sorter. “Especially the selection of the right sorter was demanding because common sorters are 3 to 4 m wide in the curve and would not have fit into our warehouse. Some of the systems could not handle very small products. For this reason, we had to develop a new solution in which the empty sorter trays are taken away at the top. We came up with a sorter chain with fold-away gondolas mounted at a distance of 40 cm, which transport the individual articles to their destinations. Then they return to the article intake upside down and are thus very space-saving”, Markus Jammernegg, SSI Schaefer project manager, explains the unusual sorter architecture, not unlike a roller coaster. P@P Picking Systems GmbH from Nuremberg/Germany and Denipro AG from Switzerland were implementation partners in this project. “SSI Schaefer adapted the technology to our problems and developed a solution that meets our requirements”, sums up Patrick Luig, Technical Director at Aponeo. Jammernegg adds: “The entire development and design of the system was determined by the available space. Aponeo also requested at least ten destination stations. In the end we were able to accommodate twelve.” The entire installation has a footprint of only approx. 5.5 × 12.5 m. Comprehensive test phase ensures start-up In September 2013, SSI Schaefer installed the complete sorter including scan tunnel and goods-in work station in their test center to ensure the functionality of the system 02 By the Schaefer Scan Machine, each individual item is scanned from all sides and documented and minimise the start-up period at the mail-order pharmacy. After an intensive test phase based on a wide product range of Aponeo including control and communication tests, the installation was dismantled and packed; at the beginning of January 2014 it was re-installed and launched in Berlin. “Thanks to the comprehensive preliminary testing in Graz the entire start-up period − even during running operation − was limited to two weeks including mechanical installation, electrical installation and software start-up”, Luig praises. Today, an employee empties the batch totes delivered by the pharma wholesaler at goods-in and puts every article separately onto a V-shaped conveyor belt (Fig. 01) with a 10 degree angle. The speed of the conveyor belt allows for product separation; the separated articles are taken through the Schaefer Scan Machine, where each individual item is scanned from all sides and documented (Fig. 02). “Scanning the products from six sides considerably increases process efficiency since the operator no longer has to look for the barcode and scan it or ensure the correct product orientation. This saves time as the articles can be gathered two to three times faster than in manual solutions”, explains Jammernegg. On the f+h Intralogistics 3/2015 25


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