Hänel Lean-Lifts® for lean logistics

When it comes to modern production techniques at Pfizer, the well-known American pharmaceutical concern, Hänel Lean-Lifts® play a very important role. Five automated storage systems are in use at the company's site in Illertissen, Germany. 

The Pfizer pharmaceuticals plant in Illertissen is a modern high-tech facility for the production and packaging of solid medications. Some 400 highly qualified employees produce more than 80 million packages of medicinal products for human use annually. 

Orders range from 300 to 100,000 packages each, which means that the packaging lines must be modified frequently to accommodate various formats. The lines can be up to 60 meters long, and they are comprised of equipment from a number of manufacturers. Format elements are the tools which need to be changed on the packaging lines whenever a different product is processed. Converting the lines can involve the exchange of up to 100 format elements.

Over time the number of format elements continued to grow, making it difficult for employees to find and manually retrieve the elements from storage – this was becoming a time-consuming process.

The integration of three Hänel Lean-Lift® and two Hänel Multi-Space® systems reduced the entire storage footprint to just a few square meters, and the retrieval of stored items became much quicker. These optimization measures prevented delays in the material flow and also saved money by reducing the amount of valuable storage space needed. 

About 250 double EUR-pallets with special holders for 3,200 format elements are kept in the Hänel lift systems. Orders for upgrading the packaging lines are placed through COMS, a software application developed by Pfizer specifically for format element storage. The order picking commands are automatically communicated to the Hänel control terminal located at the access point of the lift system. 

The three-axis Multi-Space® system developed by Hänel adds the horizontal dimension to the vertical lift principle for more flexibility and variable positioning of access points. At Pfizer the four lift modules in each of the two Multi-Space® systems are connected to each other. Much like a high-bay rack, the simultaneous horizontal and vertical movement of the extractor transports stored items to the retrieval point as quickly as possible. In order to fully utilize the space available at Pfizer, both Multi-Space® systems, with a height of more than 12 meters, were installed in an extension attached to the production building.