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Three times higher productivity thanks to “goods-to-person” with AM automation

November 2019

Three times higher productivity thanks to “goods-to-person”
The H. Gautzsch and AM-Automation implement AutoStore system in the new south central warehouse

(Offenau, November 2019) The search for a sustainable and flexible solution for storing small parts led electrical wholesaler H. Gautzsch to the AutoStore concept. The company now operates five of its own AutoStore facilities – for example in the recently built Central Warehouse South near Passau.

Accessories for installations and switchgear, system components for smart home applications or LED lighting of all kinds: the H. Gautzsch Group’s South Central Warehouse has more than 30,000 electrical items ready for retrieval. The logistics center at the Rathsmannsdorf site near Passau was only recently put into operation and is designed to ensure maximum efficiency in the flow of goods from storage to order picking. From Rathsmannsdorf, the electrical wholesaler H. Gautzsch supplies specialist companies in the electrical trade within a radius of 70 kilometers and ensures that its own sales outlets are stocked, both in Bavaria and in neighboring Austria. Founded more than 160 years ago in Münster, the H. Gautzsch Group has a nationwide presence with electrical goods, garden furniture and hardware at a total of 79 locations. 1,300 employees in 59 H. Gautzsch companies generate a turnover of more than 450 million euros, with e-business services and product-related training for the electrical sector becoming increasingly important alongside the sale of goods.

Small parts with high space requirements
In goods logistics, the H. Gautzsch Group consistently relies on the use of state-of-the-art technology. Wherever possible, processes are continuously optimized or automated solutions facilitate the handling of stored goods. In view of rapidly growing product ranges, especially in the small parts sector, customer requirements can hardly be met with traditional warehousing: The need for additional space is directly detrimental to efficiency, and additional routes for storing and removing individual items cost valuable time.

The search for a long-term profitable and easily scalable alternative to traditional shelving ultimately led H. Gautzsch Managing Director Helmut Lindinger to the AutoStore concept. “AutoStore fulfills all the requirements that a logistics solution has to meet for our range,” says Lindinger. Specifically: “The stored goods are significantly compressed, which reduces the space required. The system can be expanded easily and modularly, is less susceptible to faults than other concepts and offers a high level of operational reliability.” The logistics specialists at H. Gautzsch inspected existing AutoStore systems in practical use and soon realized their first own project at the Elektro-West central warehouse in Münster. A short time later, AM-Automation, as the leading AutoStore provider in Germany, integrated further systems in the neighboring central warehouse for household and garden as well as in Rathsmannsdorf in Bavaria.

“AutoStore meets all expectations”
H. Gautzsch’s Managing Director believes that the expectations have been fully met and cites the newly built Central Warehouse South as an example: “We have been able to triple productivity in order picking by no longer having to pick the requested items individually from rack storage locations, but by automatically transporting them to the workstation.” With maximum utilization of the existing storage space, this also means a noticeable reduction in workload for the 40 or so employees who spend up to 80 percent of their time handling small parts.

Simple concept, high flexibility
AutoStore is based on a simple concept. The base is an aluminum construction up to 7.50 m high and divided into grids (the so-called grid). The goods are stored in standardized containers that offer volumes of 48, 75 or 99 liters, depending on the design of the system, with a maximum payload of 30 kilograms each. The containers are stacked on top of each other in the vertical channels of the grid, with only a few centimeters between them on the horizontal level. AutoStore therefore makes maximum use of the available space in all directions.

Depending on the design, an AutoStore construction can hold between 1,000 and more than 1,500,000 containers. In the H. Gautzsch South Central Warehouse, AM-Automation integrated a system that can accommodate a good 22,000 storage containers, each with a volume of 75 liters, with a storage height of around 5.5 m and an area of around 17 x 46 m.

The individual containers are stored and retrieved centrally from the top. Compact robots are used there, which can access each cell in the grid via rails and remove the top container from each cell. Depending on the layout, two to well over 600 vehicles are in use on the grid. In contrast to conventional shelving, the storage containers do not have permanently assigned locations, but are continuously rearranged during operation. Complex software controls the movement sequences and continuously keeps track of the locations of the individual containers. The number of robots used on the grid determines the picking performance of the entire system: a single robot can carry out an average of 25 storage and retrieval operations per hour; 21 such systems are currently in use at the H. Gautzsch South Central Warehouse.

The picking of removed items – and conversely the storage of new goods – takes place from so-called ports, which can be set up at any location along the lowest grid level.

In conjunction with the customer-specific warehouse management system, the AutoStore routing software ensures that the containers requested and removed at the top level are delivered to the desired workstation via vertically unloaded cells.

After the positive experiences with the systems installed so far, the H. Gautzsch Group can hardly do without AutoStore. In cooperation with AM-Automation, the installation of further systems at various company locations is already under discussion.

“In our opinion, AutoStore is the best solution available on the market for handling small parts,” summarizes Helmut Lindinger, Managing Partner of the H. Gautzsch Group in Bavaria.