Excavators in constant motion thanks to optimized parts supplies in Hänel storage systems

If a replacement part needed for a Volvo construction machine is not available from one of the many Swecon sites or dealerships in northern and central Germany, it is ordered directly from one of Swecon’s central warehouses in Bochum or Gera. Thanks to the Hänel vertical Lean-Lift® modules and Rotomat® storage carousels, the requested spare parts can be delivered straight to the construction site overnight. All the transactions completed at the central warehouses are logged and controlled via the IT system on the MS Dynamics Navision server at the German headquarters of Swecon Baumaschinen GmbH in Ratingen.

In addition to trading in industrial machinery made by Volvo Construction Equipment, along with the associated spare parts, Swecon carries out maintenance and repair work with its own Customer Service. Swecon also has a wide-ranging fleet of high-grade construction machinery which it offers for leasing. In conjunction with its authorized dealers, its numerous sites in northern and central Germany guarantee comprehensive customer support for virtually any Volvo construction vehicle.

Ideal mix of Rotomat® and Lean-Lift® systems

Swecon’s central warehouse in Bochum is constantly stocked with about 38,000 replacement parts. Every day some 250 spare parts consignments are shipped overnight to construction sites, gravel pits or quarries – wherever the construction machinery needing repair is deployed. Around 18,000 small components are kept in five space-saving Rotomat® carousels and three Hänel Lean-Lifts® where they are stored neatly in bins, protected from dust and light, and ready for immediate access.

The head of spare parts management at Swecon, Martin Schmid, explains, “Many items such as rubber gaskets or sealing washers are similar in shape and size, so these are best stored in the uniform storage bins of the Rotomat® carousels. At the central warehouse in Gera we have been able to house all the small parts in just two Rotomat® storage carousels.”

Bulky parts, on the other hand, are placed on containers in the vertical Lean-Lifts® where storage is optimized according to height. The vertical lift modules and storage carousels have a very small footprint, so most of the previous rack storage system, which took up 400 m2, has been decommissioned and the valuable space freed up for other purposes, such as the dispatch department. It was even possible to re-use the bins from the old rack storage system in the containers and carriers of the Hänel storage systems.

High-speed, user-friendly order picking in the storage cluster

Thanks to the high-speed “goods to user” retrievals, order picking times have been reduced by around 20 percent – a significant improvement. When a parts shipment is initiated or the receipt of incoming goods logged at a PC in the central warehouse in Bochum or Gera, the corresponding order data is transferred from the storage management system of the Microsoft Dynamics Navision ERP system directly to the Hänel storage systems via the IT network.

These systems are seamlessly interconnected and linked to the network via the Sweco server at headquarters in Ratingen. When incoming goods are received, barcode labels are printed out and stuck on the articles. To keep the overall numbers of items in the warehouse constant, one warehouseman does the order picking while another puts incoming goods into storage in an automated process by scanning the labels.

At order picking, the barcodes on the labels prepared for the packages are scanned so that the right Lean-Lift® container or Rotomat® carrier is automatically conveyed to the retrieval point. The number of items to be withdrawn is displayed in the electronic pick list on the wireless tablet PCs installed on the picking trolleys. Immediately after processing, the pick lists are automatically deleted. Retrieval errors are avoided with the help of order picking indicator strips. After withdrawing the required items, the user presses the green button, the next item is brought to the access point, and the warehouseman proceeds in this way until the order picking or replenishment process is completed.

Article pool management and inventory control

Thanks to the article pool management and inventory control functions, all the article data are already stored in the individual microprocessor controllers without the storage position. This means there is no need to re-enter the item stock level, minimum inventory or special data fields again when goods are being picked or replenished.

Package height helps determine storage position

The storage management system memorizes the dimensions and weights of the item packages. So when it searches through all the storage lifts for a suitable slot, the height of the item is also taken into account. This allows packages with individual or fixed heights to be stored together on containers. Schmid adds: “Many packages have the same size. With this feature the Rotomat® storage carousels with their standard bin sizes are optimally integrated into the cluster.”

Storage positions allocated flexibly and reliably

When an item reaches the zero inventory level, the storage position is immediately released for other items by the central storage management system. “In this way our warehouse maintains maximum flexibility. For security reasons, storage positions cannot be created locally at the Rotomat® or Lean-Lift®. This is easy to implement with the simple FTP interface to the Hänel microprocessor controllers by blocking storage position allocation. All storage and retrieval booking procedures are logged in a transaction journal so that they can be reported back to the storage management system transparently. In this process order numbers, cost center numbers, storage position and user data fields can be entered in supplementary data fields,” Schmid explains, and adds, “This affords us maximum transparency and optimization of all warehouses, storage units and storage positions. The end result is an error ratio well below one percent.”