The demand for corrugated cardboard has never been greater than it is now. Sustainability issues and a generally booming economy mean that the production of corrugated cardboard is running to capacity. At the same time, enormous cost increases are testing the corrugated cardboard industry to the limit. In times like these what it takes is uncompromising warehouse logistics.

 

A quick look inside the warehouses of many corrugated cardboard manufacturers is enough to understand the challenges they face: too little space, different cardboard formats as far as the eye can reach, and meters-long blue conveyor belts. When semi-finished products are put in intermediate storage for further processing in-house, the classic method is to place the products on wide-area buffer conveyor systems, which are usually spread across a maximum of two warehouse levels. Moreover, the stacks of cardboard are bulky – often several metres long and wide – and take up a lot of space. In some cases, surplus cardboard is removed from the material flow, and often put on pallets and placed in intermediate storage in the block warehouse manually.

 

This is a widespread situation that involves a lot of compromise, and which by today’s standards of modern warehouse technology must be regarded as inefficient. The efficiency of automated warehouse systems mainly depends on the technology used” – Stephan Bruns, intralogistics expert at Westfalia.

 

Up to 80 per cent less floorspace needed

An intelligent and uncompromising solution for the automated intermediate storage of semi-finished products is to combine wide-area buffer conveyors with innovative warehouse logistics technologies and technologies used in practice.

Conveyor technology helps create additional rack levels that are designed for high-density storage. When a hall already exists, from a financial point of view it is worth while to create the highest possible storage density and therefore optimum utilisation of area and space. To achieve this aim, the entire height of the semi-finished goods warehouse can be fully utilised.

This boosts the storage capacity of the in-house logistics. Two key technologies contribute to this logistics-driven solution: The conceptual framework is provided by the technology of the Aviator® off-floor storage and retrieval machine. It is the integral range of movement of this off-floor machine that facilitates the useful combination, since the Aviator® does not need any floor rail. While travelling on the topmost rack level, from there it serves all the other levels too, as well as the integrated buffer conveyors at the lowest high-density warehouse level. Cables lift and lower the load handling device within the aisle. Smart automation technology directs the load handling device to the right compartment each time.

„Thanks to this intelligent combination, the available space is utilised to the full – providing a long-term solution to the space requirements of many corrugated cardboard manufacturers, without them having to invest in a new building” – Matthias Upmeyer, Managing Shareholder at Westfalia.

The Aviator® uses several Satellites® to pick up and drop off the stacks of corrugated cardboard. Since different formats may have to be stored together, there must be the option of flexible arrangements. The Aviator® uses its satellites to map these arrangements, storing several cardboard stacks next to and behind one another in any number of different arrangements.

Various combination possibilities ensure flexibility

Another major challenge with which corrugated cardboard manufacturers are faced is the handling of semi-finished goods. This is due both to the fact that the goods have widely differing dimensions and to the palletless transport of unit loads. This shows just how complex the storage of corrugated cardboard is and how flexible the load-handling device has to be. Often, these requirements determine the type of load handling device and the technology to be used

 

On the lowest warehouse level within the storage and retrieval aisle, a transfer car pre-sorts the products in the usual manner and takes the semi-finished goods straight through to further in-house processing via buffer lines. The revolutionary thing about this system solution is the combination of the two systems. The transfer car ensures prompt transportation of the majority of semi-finished goods, while a smaller proportion of the goods produced cannot or do not have to be processed yet and are stored in the newly created high-density storage system completely automatically.

Moreover, the two systems can also work separately and do not necessarily have to depend on one another. If one of them does shut down, the other system performs either all or some of its functions, depending on the system design, and ensures the supply to the downstream process. The lowest storage level of the conveyor technology can be separated off from the main activity zone of the off-floor storage and retrieval machine by means of a protective grating.

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