Borgholzhausen/Alzey, March 16, 2022 – Flexibility and high turnover fitted into an existing warehouse hall – those were the key requirements for a new automated storage and retrieval system implemented and commissioned in January 2022 for the Dold Logistik group of companies at its Alzey site in the major German Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region.
There, the family-owned company founded by Oskar Dold Senior in 1963 had its first automated storage system executed by the intralogistics specialist Westfalia 20 years ago. To this day, the system is the backbone of its customized warehousing and distribution solutions for the logistics, freight forwarding, warehousing, and inhouse logistics industries.
Now a new two-aisle storage system has been added right next to the existing system. Implemented between February and September 2021, it is state-of-the-art in safety and technology. Providing a total of 4,516 storage spaces on six levels for euro pallets and industrial pallets, the new automated Satellite® storage system doubles the capacity available at Dold’s site and helps the company keep its Just-in-Time promise. The benefits of the Satellite technology were obvious: large handling capacity of up to 136 pallets per hour in double-cycle operation, large capacity in minimum space, high reliability, and material-friendly handling of pallets.
Diversified logistics provider expands its strengths with help from Westfalia
Like its predecessor, Westfalia’s second storage system is the technological center-piece of the warehouse, allowing high throughput of unit loads of up to one ton in weight and 2.2 meters in height. While large in capacity, the storage system has a small footprint, being just under 12.5 meters high, 90 meters long and 19 meters wide. Tailored to fit into one side of the hall and resting on ten hall girder supports, it makes optimum use of the space available.
Equipped with 60 modern trucks and having a total storage space of 40,000 square meters available at six sites in Buchenbach, Freiburg, Alzey, St. Leon-Rot, Schwieberdingen and Talheim, the company’s 100+ employees specialize on branch distribution for commercial firms as well as transportation of partial and full truck loads in Southern Germany, Switzerland and France. Services include logistics, freight forwarding and transport, outsourcing, inhouse logistics, packaging services as well as projects for the aviation industry.
“We transport goods, provide storage space, and at request take care of the entire inventory management,” is how junior managing director Sebastian Dold describes the company’s range of services. According to Dold, these also include decades of experience in the fields of campaign logistics, including co-packing, display construction, and order customizing: “We take care of all on-site production processing and disposal, manage finished goods warehouses, provide all required loading equipment, and arrange the reverse logistics – including any shipping and customs paperwork.” Dold emphasizes the capability to handle a great variety of goods – for which the new automated warehouse is key. “Whether packaging, machine spare parts, or foodstuff: we react flexibly to the requirements of existing and new customers and quickly provide them with solutions,” says the managing director. “To achieve this, we handle a total of 600 pallets per day on the two Westfalia systems.”
Quick entry and warehousing of goods
The layout of the first Satellite® storage system implemented in Alzey in 2001 allowed for a future extension. Now the new storage system has been integrated as a stand-alone system tailored to meet the customer’s priorities: “Quick storage was key for our client,” says Mathias Spötter, Westfalia’s Head of Project Management. “We have accounted for that by implementing a special entry and receiving station in the transfer area leading to the two storage and retrieval machines and by using a synchronized storage and retrieval process.” Special stackers perform the loading and unloading at several truck docking stations, grabbing pallets in turns by the front and side. This flexible and therefore extremely quick handling during loading and unloading is also reflected in the feeding and receiving station of the conveyor system.”
“Couples of euro pallets or individual industrial pallets can be entered and received from different sides,” says Goran Markovic, product engineer at Westfalia. “The track efficiency of our system begins at the interface to the manual industrial trucks.”
A short storage line to the two aisles and an extremely fast-working transfer area reduce the idle period of the two structurally identical storage and retrieval machines. Requiring only two aisles and storage and retrieval machines, the Satellite® storage system saves implementation, operation, and maintenance costs – without becoming a bottleneck. High efficiency is ensured by the tight timing of the conveyor system and storage and retrieval machines, by the efficient throughput of 68 pallets per hour in double-cycle operation, and by the material flow control with Westfalia’s Savanna.NET® Warehouse Execution System: If retrievals are queuing up in one of the two aisles, the system will favor the other aisle for the storage goods.
Warehouse strategies vary according to need
Depending on the client’s requirements, Savanna.NET® will map various warehouse strategies and combine functionalities for warehouse management and material flow control in a software that connects seamlessly to the ERP system. During storage and retrieval, and depending on the client’s needs, the software will therefore select goods either by article number and storage date, by article number and best before date, or by customer number only. Based on the intended storage duration or the stipulated best before date, goods are then positioned in such a way that they can be directly retrieved when requested, i.e. they are always positioned correctly for access by the storage and retrieval machine. Changes of parameters and/or customer preferences can be taken into account in the storage strategies at any time.
When implementing the new system, the software and scanner technology of the existing warehouse were also modernized. After the specification phase, the Westfalia team replaced the old PMain warehouse management software with Savanna.NET®. In the next step, the IT and PLC experts replaced the PLC data concentrator with a modern TCP/IP interface – the foundation for expanding the system with the new storage system. While working autonomously, the existing and new systems are now administered and controlled through a single Savanna instance with a single user surface.
Maximum reliability, flexibility and efficiency
The great reliability and efficiency of the technology convinced Dold Logistik to place their bets on Westfalia again: Once the unit loads have been entered, the pallet couples are separated and aligned. This is followed by contour checks, weight checks, and photo scans. Defective unit loads are diverted for troubleshooting so that any defects occurring during manual feeding will not disrupt the operation of the storage system. In order to ensure trouble-free operation, each storage and retrieval machine additionally checks the correct loading height. The high-bay rack is designed for 100 percent filling at maximum load, for euro and industrial pallet formats, and for three different storage heights.
What convinced the Dold group of companies were the advantages of storage and retrieval machines equipped with Satellite®: a layout designed to fit into the existing hall, high packing depth, and the possibility to store euro and industrial pallets together in mixed channels. And a storage on satellite rails and thus without tolerances that can occur in multi-deep storage by telescopic forks. According to product engineer Markovic this ensures trouble-free operation and particularly material-friendly handling: “The Satellite technology allows significantly deeper storage channels and better utilization of storage space. Due to the low approach dimensions, the short travel distance, and the possibility to bypass the transverse hall girders and store goods between them, pallets can be packed even more densely.” Transverse storage made it possible to fit the storage system perfectly between the existing girder supports. The leaner dimensions of the storage and retrieval machines reduce wear and save costs of transport, placement, installation and maintenance.
Sebastian Dold: “We can continue our sustainable growth”
“We have expanded our capacity in the automated Westfalia high-bay warehouses to over 9,000 storage spaces and can now continue to grow with our existing and new business,” is how Sebastian Dold describes one key goal. “Thanks to the sophisticated design of the new system, the extension of logistics and storage capacities allows us to cover a broad range of potential storage goods in a highly energy-efficient manner. With greater automation, we are also responding to the shortage in skilled staff.” In addition, the logistics group is positioning itself for the long term: “Implementing a state-of-the-art system, we have achieved not only greater energy efficiency but also an economically sustainable investment since we will use the system for many years to come and have constant technical updates.”
The existing plant that has been in use since 2021 has been a full success, serving as a basis for the entire performance offering at the Alzey site: “With Westfalia, we have experienced high availability and reliable technology, quick response from contacts in case of queries, and good collaboration with all parties involved”, says Sebastian Dold.
The cooperation was excellent as ever: “Westfalia speaks the language of SMEs. Reliability and flexibility are a red thread running through all levels of the company The team responds quickly to any challenges that may occur and seeks solutions viable for both sides.” Potential future expansions are accounted for in the planning. “Because of that experience, we have been working with Westfalia for many years now and can highly recommend our intralogistics automation partner.”
Photos: Adrian Ketterer/ Westfalia Logistics Solutions Europe