Just-in-time tablet press storage for the production line

Hänel Lean-Lift® vertical storage systems support component inventory for just-in-time production of tablet presses

With production capacity running in high gear, KORSCH AG in Berlin, the specialist for tablet pressing machinery, demonstrates that market demand for its innovative technology continues to rise. To keep pace with this demand, the flow of material to the assembly lines for various types of tablet presses must be efficient and uninterrupted. With this goal in mind, KORSCH reorganized processes and installed 12 Hänel Lean-Lift® vertical storage systems, along with HänelSoft® warehouse management software, for its inventory of small and medium-sized production components. The modern vertical lifts support inventory control and the continuity required for a reliable flow of material and just-in-time manufacturing. Today 90 percent of all internal material flow processes are managed with the Hänel lift systems.

KORSCH tablet presses first launched in 1919

KORSCH specializes in the development and production of tablet presses as well as systems for controllers, tablet inspection and data analytics – and has been doing so since 1919. The tablet presses are made in Berlin, Germany, and are in operation around the world. Bernd Magirius, Head of Material Management at KORSCH, explains: “The basis for development and production is our extensive know-how. We are able to offer solutions for nearly every requirement in tablet compression applications. Our products include special presses for research and development, rotary presses for scale-up businesses and for the production of medium-sized batches, not to mention high-performance presses for 24-hour operation.”

Revenue growth required restructuring of materials management

“In the early 1980s we developed and produced circuit boards for tablet press control units ourselves. The small parts needed for the circuit boards were kept in two Rotomat® storage carousels from Hänel; medium-sized and large parts were stored in bins or on pallets in our high-bay warehouse. With the ‘goods to man’ storage and retrieval machine (SRM), the order picker can work independently and fill job orders for the assembly lines,” says Bernd Magirius. The strong revenue growth of recent years meant that access to items needed for production processes increased dramatically. “We urgently needed a new solution! The bottleneck was the timeconsuming picking process with only one SRM. We reorganized our production warehouse and deployed Navision as our new ERP system: 12 Hänel Lean-Lift® systems were purchased for storing small and medium-sized production components.

Today we are able to fill orders for items needed in manufacturing much faster and more efficiently thanks to the ‘goods to man’ principle.”

Hänel lifts are used to manage 90 percent of the material flow processes

Up to 1,000 items are picked in the production warehouse every day. The pick rate has increased due to strong business growth – in fact, over the past five years the pick rate has doubled! Last year alone the number of pick transactions jumped from 800 to 1,000 per day thanks to the vertical storage systems. Bernd Magirius adds: “Today we manage 90 percent of our material flow with the vertical lift systems. The height-optimized storage provided by the lift systems – from floor to ceiling – results in enormous storage density for maximum capacity. This is a decisive factor because our range of components has grown dramatically. Our inventory has doubled within just two years! The new lifts are absolutely vital for our inventory management processes.”

Secure inventory management

Some 25,000 articles are stored at 30,000 positions in the production warehouse. Thus the number of positions exceeds the number of articles in stock because when an item is put on inventory, a new storage position is set up along with a batch number in the Navision ERP system, which then sends this number to HänelSoft . For example, if an item not used by the assembly line is returned to the production warehouse, it is assigned a new batch number and put back on inventory in a new storage position. Taking a defined article strategy and optimized routing into account, HänelSoft uses an automatic search function to find the optimal storage position for the article. All put and pick transactions are initiated through Navision and sent in the form of jobs via an interface to HänelSoft. Navision serves as the overarching inventory system and specifies the quantities listed in the job orders. When the jobs are completed, all job data is automatically sent via the interface to Navision for processing. This ensures that the precise inventory status is available at all times. This approach is based on material demand and enables efficient management of just-in-time production.

Batch job orders and dynamic lift groups for parallel prepositioning saves time during picking

When production is at its peak, four order pickers operate several lifts in order to fill job orders at the same time. For situations of this kind HänelSoft has an option for defining lift groups that run simultaneously to support fast and dynamic picking. In addition, single jobs can be combined using the aggregated order function on the user interface of HänelSoft  – this enables optimized routing and picking in one process step. For example, if a job order is called up on one Lean-Lift , the container of the nearest neighboring lift carrying the next order item is already transported to the access point – this saves an enormous amount of time during item retrieval. Once picking has been completed, the operator presses a button to confirm the transaction and the retrieval data is recorded in the warehouse management system. The picking cycle continues as the next container is advanced to the access point. If only one employee is picking items (for example, on weekends), the vertical lift systems are operated as a cluster. The containers in all 12 Lean-Lift  systems can be automatically prepositioned as needed to optimize processes: The vertical lift systems are equipped with photoelectric barriers that enable fully automated transport of the lift containers.

Clever put and pick transactions

Put and pick operations are performed simultaneously. Putting items into storage is supported by the graphical presentation of the container and its bins as shown on the controller display. One container can accommodate up to eight bins for large components like flange and grate systems, or up to 192 bins for small items like nuts and bolts. Bernd Magirius: “The graphical presentation of the container layout, along with the various bins, enables us to immediately find the right location for an item based on its size. This approach is ideal for conducting put operations on lift systems that are not being momentarily used for pick operations. What’s more, we also don’t have to enter an item’s dimensions into the software – and that saves time.”

No mix-ups with Hänel Pick-o-Light®-Vario

The Pick-o-Light®-Vario system from Hänel is comprised of a moving LED pointer installed inside on the panel above the Lean-Lift® access point – it shines a beam of light on the items which should be retrieved from the container. When picking items from up to 192 bins on one container, the Hänel Pick-o-Light®-Vario system really does reduce mix-ups and picking errors.