Shuttle solutions and viadat WMS make Eisele fit for future growth

Automated warehouse is the core of digital transformation


Shuttle solutions and viadat WMS make Eisele fit for future growth

“Our customers expect fast and error-free delivery of their goods,” says Artur Vogel, Team Leader Optimization/Continuous Improvement Process at Eisele. That is because the customers’ production of machines and equipment would grind to a halt without the solid metal connectors manufactured by the family-owned company – including for example push-in fittings, quick release couplings or tube connections. Moreover, resulting from its successful international expansion, especially in the United States and in Asia, the medium-sized company has gained a sizeable number of automobile customers who must also be reliably supplied on time. But the old warehouse was reaching its limits.

From conventional to automated system

“At our former site right in the center of Waiblingen, we had a conventional manually operated warehouse,” says Artur Vogel. This was subdivided into various sections that were accommodated on three floors and equipped with shelving racks two meter high. “The warehouse was bursting at the seams,” he recalls. “There were no capacity reserves at all to allow for further growth or the addition of new product groups.” To secure the quick distribution of goods in the future, Eisele therefore decided to build a new state-of-the-art automated mini-load system. At the same time, this marked the initial step in relocating the company – away from the cramped conditions, out to an industrial area on the city outskirts. This opened up the opportunity to merge the previously separate areas: “We use the new warehouse to store both individual components and finished assemblies. Thus, the system links our production and assembly areas and at the same time serves as shipping warehouse for finished goods,” explains Artur Vogel. Only the raw materials – brass, stainless steel and aluminum bars – used for manufacturing the solid metal connectors are buffered in an upstream production section. The company has a vertical integration of almost 100 percent and also stocks all the other parts required for the finished products in the warehouse.

Shuttle technology ensures high system availability

Thus, the new warehouse is the hub of the entire company – shutdowns would have a significant impact on supply capacity and production. “It was therefore important to us not to be dependent on a single system component,” Vogel continues. A system equipped with automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) was therefore ruled out by Eisele at a very early stage. If an AS/RS in an aisle fails, the goods stored there cannot be retrieved for a certain amount of time. To avoid such a scenario, the decision was made to go for a state-of-the-art shuttle warehouse.

Service tailored to customer needs ensures maximum performance

The right partner for implementing the solution was quickly found: “viastore was one of few companies to offer such a system including the appropriate software solution. In addition, the company is located very close to Stuttgart, not so far from us, which is of course also helpful,” says Vogel. There were additional reasons for a decision in favor of viastore: “As a medium-sized company without any experience in automated warehouses, we have neither the expertise nor corresponding specialists to design, implement and maintain such a system,” Vogel continues. "That’s why the intralogistics experts took us firmly by the hand from the very first step and showed us appropriate solutions for our specific needs.” Peter Polywka, the project manager responsible for the Eisele project at viastore, adds: “We can advise our customers on a technology-independent basis because we offer solutions for a wide range of warehouse types and automation systems. If we hadn’t found the shuttle system to be ideal for Eisele, we would have had suitable alternatives to offer.” In addition to consulting, planning and implementation, viastore can also provide the warehouse management system (WMS) – so that the customer receives the whole system, perfectly matched to their needs, from one single source. “This is particularly advantageous during operation later on, as our customers need only one point of contact when it comes to servicing and support,” adds Polywka. viastore offers a wide range of services tailored to the respective customer needs – from continuous condition monitoring to preventive maintenance, servicing and a 24/7 service hotline to all-inclusive residential service. A precisely tuned maintenance contract was part of Eisele’s offer right from the start.

Maximum flexibility and scalability

viastore supplied a flexible shuttle solution for Eisele’s new warehouse which offers space for 17,280 containers. The viaflex³ shuttles deployed here can operate not only in different rack aisles, but they can also switch between rack levels. “This ensures that we a have access to all products at all times,” says Vogel, explaining the choice of system. For him, scalability was yet another key argument in favor of selecting this technology: “We started with five vehicles – this reduced the initial investment sum and is sufficient at the moment. As soon as we require higher output, we can successively increase the number of shuttles for the existing rack construction to up to twenty.” The concept also provides for expansion options with regard to storage locations: While the space on the ground floor is completely filled with container storage locations, the rack structure on the next floor can still be expanded so that a total of up to 26,780 containers can be accommodated. The lift required for this has already been installed. “This construction across two floors offers the additional advantage that the warehouse can be divided into two sections for fire containment purposes. Since we do not exceed the room height limit of 7.5 meters in either of these two areas, we don’t have to use a sprinkler system here,” says Peter Polywka, mentioning another advantage.

The hub of the new company location

The warehouse was completed in May 2018 and the rest of the company moved to the expanded site in Waiblingen, which offers sufficient free space for future growth. The new warehouse is also the core of the company’s digitization process. Without handhelds or similar digital aids, the old system had been managed based on lists – which had led to more and more problems with the constantly growing number of items and the increasing product portfolio. As Vogel recalls: “Time and time again goods could not be found, stocks were incorrect and the search and access times kept getting longer and longer.”

WMS and shuttle technology from a single source

The new automated warehouse comes with a modern warehouse management system. “Our ERP system does not provide the necessary logistics functions,” explains Artur Vogel. Eisele uses Sage b7, a system specially designed for medium-sized manufacturing companies. “With viadat 9, viastore offers a future-proof WMS, so we received warehouse technology and software from a single source. Buying software from a third-party supplier would only have meant unnecessary interfaces.” viadat 9 can be connected to the ERP systems of different manufacturers via standardized interfaces, so that communication between Sage b7 and the WMS was quick and straightforward.

Intuitive handling simplifies changeover

In its latest version, viadat offers a self-explanatory user interface that enables order pickers to work intuitively via touchscreen and without needing lengthy training periods in the various distribution center zones. This was an important feature for Artur Vogel because the warehouse staff were not used to working with software. “viadat convinced us with its operating concept and tools. Anyone who can use a smartphone can use viadat, too. That made the changeover enormously easier for us.” For example, all the dialogs have the same structured – regardless of whether it’s a workstation in goods receipt, picking or shipping. So, employees can switch flexibly between various stations.

Fit for digital transformation

"The most important aspect, however, is that by using viadat 9 we are making the company fit for digital transformation,” says Artur Vogel, fully convinced. “We can now recall exact inventory information at any time and carry out analyses quickly and easily.” This makes it possible to identify slow and fast-moving items and query current demands. “Permanent inventory is now also possible which is a great advantage for us,” Vogel adds. “We used to have to close the old warehouse between Christmas and the beginning of the new year in order to count the stored items. Today, however, it requires minimum effort and I can do the stock-take during running operations.” Eisele’s goal is to further optimize its business processes from incoming orders and production planning to production, quality assurance and shipping. “We want to establish paperless processes throughout the company,” explains Vogel. “We have already achieved this in the warehouse thanks to viadat 9.” Production and assembly are to follow in future projects. Maybe Eisele will benefit from viadat again – because viastore cooperates with MPDV, a company supplying the manufacturing execution system (MES) Hydra. This allows logistics and production to be closely interlinked, ensuring a high degree of process transparency and greater efficiency. Artur Vogel: “So when everything is firmly under control here, we can move on to tackling the next projects.”

Higher performance thanks to new warehouse and viadat 9

The Eisele manager responsible for continuous improvement processes is currently very satisfied. “The shuttle warehouse and viadat 9 will free up our employees’ capacities, goods arrive on time precisely where they are needed and our performance has increased overall.”

Automated warehouse is the core of digital transformation