Etra Oy

ETRA Oy brings a success factor to its warehouse with SuPCIS-L8!

Higher, faster, further? Customer demands on the Finnish technology company ETRA Oy (ETRA), which offers its customers a wide range of industrial products and services as a wholesaler and retailer, are constantly increasing and require the highest level of quality and reliability at all times. Looking to the future, ETRA has therefore made a conscious decision in favour of automation when expanding its warehouse logistics at the Hämeenlinna (Finland) central warehouse site.

With the expansion of the logistics centre and the implementation of the warehouse management software SuPCIS-L8, ETRA has already taken decisive steps into the digital age. The processes that the WMS SuPCIS-L8 maps and supports include all processes and components in the automated warehouse areas - from goods receipt to picking with integrated pick-to-light system, consolidation and packaging. Through the seamless interaction of the WMS and MFC with the system controls of GEBHARDT Fördertechnik GmbH, ETRA benefits from a customised and efficient material flow.

The new, double-deep 4-aisle automated small parts warehouse (AS/RS) offers extensive usable space and around 50,000 storage locations for ETRA's wide-ranging warehouse assortment. Incoming goods from the central goods receiving area or replenishments from the manual storage areas are repacked, depending on the quantity and configuration in the WMS article master, onto the containers automatically provided by the WMS in the quantity suggested by the WMS. Two different types of containers are available for this purpose. If necessary, these can also be subdivided for the storage of several articles per container. This subdivision is also visualised graphically in the processes. Before the goods can be stored, however, they undergo a weight and height check - in this context, the specified maximum weight of 50kg is checked and it is ensured that no material or packaging material is protruding from the containers.

Etra Oy logistics center

In the event of a fault, the containers are returned directly to the operator with the fault displayed. For very small quantities, one of the repacking stations also offers the option of requesting low-filled storage containers for storage.

Of the four aisles of the miniload, two are operated by stacker cranes (RGB) from GEBHARDT Fördertechnik GmbH and serve as a zone for non-fast-moving goods with large stocks. In the other two aisles, totes with fast-moving items are stored. There, 5 multi-level shuttles (MLS) are arranged on top of each other, which are supplied and removed via a lift. This parallelisation significantly increases the storage capacity. Each individual vehicle, as well as the 3 controls of the conveyor technology areas, are directly coupled with the SuPCIS-L8 MFC.

In order to also increase performance during storage, both RBG and MLS have the option of transporting 2 containers at the same time. The selection of the storage locations is optimised by the WMS so that both the current occupancy of the buffers in front of the levels and the storage location occupancy within the aisles as well as the pair formation for double-deep storage are taken into account.

Fast and transparent logistics processes

The WMS manages both the new miniload and the previously installed picking and storage area with 32 Kardex storage towers and upstream Gebhardt conveyor technology. The WMS linked into the interface that originally existed between the Kardex control system and the host just as it did between Kardex and the existing conveyor control system. The new functionality could thus be achieved without interfering with the existing systems. If goods from both areas are required within an order, the goods are first picked in the Kardex area and temporarily stored in the consolidation buffer, which is also automated by means of a multi-level shuttle. Only then does the WMS start removing the order parts from the miniload.

Via the conveyor system, the individual source totes then reach the six picking workstations ("goods-to-person" principle), each with 4 destination locations for extra-large totes that are only used for transport between the picking location and the packing location. These totes are provided automatically and married to the destination location. Here, the WMS schedules large orders to individual totes and single-item orders to reduce transports on the conveyor system between the picking and packing area to collective totes. The employee is shown the product image and picks the goods in the quantity specified by the warehouse management system. The attached pick-to-light system makes the subsequent distribution process even easier for the employees, as the display mounted above the container shows the employee where which quantity has to be placed. Afterwards, the distribution only has to be confirmed via the acknowledgement button.

For small items that would have to be counted in large quantities, counting scales fully integrated in the SuPCIS L8 dialogue are used. The dialogue ergonomically shows how many items have been weighed and to what extent further piece goods have to be added or removed. Time-consuming counting is no longer necessary and, thanks to the integrated dialogue guidance in the WMS, the scales do not have to be operated additionally.

Packing station at Etra Oy

When an order is completed, this is indicated to the employee in plain text via the PTL system and the employee triggers the removal of the target container via the display, as well as the removal of the source container when it is no longer needed. By the time the employee is back at the collection point, the next collection container is already ready. Depending on requirements, the source container either moves to another picking location or is returned to the miniload, even after a zero cycle.

Order totes that contain a complete order, like the consolidation totes for single-item orders, arrive at one of the 6 packing stations via a loop directly after the picking process. If, on the other hand, an order is composed of several totes, which can come from both automated storage areas, intermediate buffering first takes place until the last tote arrives in the consolidation buffer. Now the warehouse management system initiates the retrieval of all totes belonging to an order to one of the five packing stations directly controlled from the consolidation buffer in the priority that can be controlled by the operator. This is very important, as both direct deliveries to customers' construction sites and replenishment orders to the decentralised warehouses and ETRA sales outlets throughout Finland are made with different departure times from the central warehouse. ETRA's high service quality requires that all order days are delivered ready. Parcel deliveries are packed at the packing station and prepared for dispatch. Deliveries to the ETRA sales outlets are made in an environmentally friendly manner via a circulation system with reusable containers, which the packer transfers back to the conveyor system and which are discharged fully automatically via a dispatch sorter to the staging lanes assigned to the branches.

Complete overview of the condition in the warehouse

Bird's eye view of the container conveyor system at Etra Oy

In order to increase efficiency, productivity and transparency in ETRA's warehouse as much as possible and to avoid errors, the photo studio in SuPCIS-L8 and the Warehouse Viewer are also used. With the photo studio in SuPCIS-L8, the articles or packaging units that previously had no image stored in the web shop can also be captured via the camera in the MDE. Using the integrated image processing, special features can also be marked and displayed and permanently stored in the warehouse management system.

Warehouse Viewer in combination with the warehouse management software SuPCIS-L8

In addition, the Warehouse Viewer offers a graphic overview of the warehouse areas at any time as well as a visualisation of the movements and states of the automation components used in the warehouse. This also makes it possible to view possible faults in the warehouse or scanner statistics quickly and easily at every workstation of the WMS. The SuPCIS-L8 Cockpit with its collection of dashboards constantly displays current data on the number of pending and closed orders, information on the current fill level of the aisles, storage and retrieval, as well as the status of order picking.

Efficient logistics strategy as the linchpin of the future

The smooth interaction between the WMS SuPCIS-L8 and the conveyor technology of GEBHARDT Fördertechnik GmbH form a successful overall solution for the company. Thanks to the flexibility, customisability and available interfaces of the warehouse management software, ETRA also has the option of further expanding its warehouse logistics in the future. "Through the expansion of our warehouse logistics and the successful implementation of SuPCIS-L8, we will also be able to respond to the needs of our customers in the best possible way in the future. The structured warehouse and work processes as well as increased efficiency, transparency and flexibility in our warehouse allow us to look positively into the future," says Pekka Pöntiö, Head of Logistics at ETRA.

"We are delighted with the trust placed in us by ETRA and Gebhardt and still fondly remember this joint team achievement, which was of course also celebrated on site in typical Finnish style in the sauna!", says Horst Reichert, Managing Director at S&P Computersysteme GmbH.