The use of automation technology is on the rise in logistics. Arvato Supply Chain Solutions is also increasingly relying on the automation of its worldwide locations. In order to find the right solution for its customers in the complex market of warehouse automation quickly, in line with their needs and independent of manufacturers, the company has bundled its expertise in the Logistics Engineering department. The central department combines operational logistics experience and in-depth knowledge of automation technology with extensive site know-how.
"The use of automated warehouse solutions is currently being driven primarily by strong volume increases in online shopping with high peak volumes, the desire for the shortest possible delivery times, and individual customer requirements, but also by an increasing shortage of qualified warehouse staff and skilled workers," explains Philipp Rücker, Head of Client Logistics Solutions at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions.
"This results in requirements for logistics and fulfilment that can often no longer be implemented with manual processes." For Arvato Supply Chain Solutions, automation is also an important building block in the current digitalisation strategy.
Modern automation technology is the key to transferring digitalisation into physical logistics.”
However, automation is never an end in itself. The selection of a suitable solution rather requires a comprehensive analysis and the examination of all requirements from different perspectives. "In essence, we work like an external consulting company. We approach logistics and automation projects holistically, record the existing infrastructure and evaluate the required individual processes," says Philipp Rücker.
For example, in order to be able to define the degree of automation of a location in terms of staff and capacity requirements, productivity, space requirements and the necessary investments, processes, features and order patterns for both B2B and B2C business are examined in detail, future forecasts are made and everything is evaluated in close consultation with the customer - also with a view to profitability.
Philipp Rücker: "Whether to invest in a fully or partially automated solution in the warehouse must always be decided for each project according to the respective requirements. However, it is important for us that the solution is flexible and scalable and fits the needs of the customer and the location.
In order to always be up to date with the latest technological developments, the experts from Logistics Engineering constantly screen the latest market developments, automation technologies and innovations. The spectrum ranges from automatic storage and retrieval systems such as AutoStore or shuttles, driverless transport systems and mobile transport robots to packaging machines and 3D camera technology for automatic image recognition in incoming and outgoing goods or for returns.
"Depending on the user focus and potential, we can quickly identify which automation solutions make sense for which customers," emphasises Bernhard Lembeck, Head of Future Warehouse.
Competence bundled in expert teams for the implementation of major projects
The Logistics Engineering division also has tools when it comes to site selection, logistics design and warehouse project development. Arvato is represented in all international logistics hotspots and can offer its customers optimal locations for their logistics and distribution centres as part of network planning. Last year alone, the global network of locations was expanded by more than 100,000 square metres of logistics space through the opening of new locations and the expansion of existing distribution centres.
"We currently have several major projects in our order pipeline," says Philipp Rücker. "For example, we are currently implementing an automation project for the healthcare sector at our new location in Memphis." There, Arvato will be responsible for the entire logistics and distribution in the USA for one of the world's leading medical technology companies.
For this purpose, the 20,000-square-metre site will be expanded by another 10,000 square metres of storage space and a modern AutoStore system with 50,000 bin locations and 52 robots will be installed as the centrepiece of the warehouse automation. "The fact that we were able to start and implement this project during the Corona restrictions almost borders on a miracle," says Philipp Rücker, describing the enormous challenges for everyone involved. For example, the team of experts that Arvato assembles from the various departments and industries to implement such large-scale projects was not on site as usual, but only involved "remotely".
"The coordination of the team from areas such as logistics engineering, healthcare and IT and with employees from Germany, Italy and the Netherlands was incredibly challenging under Corona conditions," says Philipp Rücker. "But we benefited from our experience from other AutoStore implementations and the fact that the bundling of competences in the team works excellently. We get better and faster with every project."
A major reorganisation of the logistics processes at the healthcare site in Harsewinkel in the district of Gütersloh is also currently underway. Philipp Rücker: "We are installing a new shuttle system there during ongoing operations." The project was preceded by a detailed analysis of the stock and delivery quantities and the structure of the products by the experts from Logistics Engineering. Since very different clients are served in Harsewinkel, for whose products no distinct ABC distribution can be foreseen, a shuttle solution was ultimately more suitable, since no lead time is needed for quick direct access to the products in order to fetch the articles from a lower compartment to the top, as in the AutoStore.
The implementation in ongoing operations is more complex and always requires a longer implementation phase.”
Automation projects as blueprint models
The automation solutions, which are designed and implemented by the location, automation and logistics planning experts at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions individually tailored to the respective requirements of the customers, always also function as a blueprint model at the same time. In agile working groups between IT, purchasing, logistics engineering and operations, the blueprint models are then adapted and further developed to the new customer projects. This means they can be implemented completely or modified accordingly for other customers from other industries and at other locations in the global network of Arvato Supply Chain Solutions. Bernhard Lembeck: "The standardisation of logistics processes and IT integration is an important prerequisite for the successful introduction of automated solutions. However, for cross-industry and international portability or use at a multi-client location, we also place extremely high value on flexibility and scalability."
When designing new automation solutions, the focus is also on close cooperation with customers. New approaches and ideas for digitalisation and automation are tested in joint pilot projects. "An interesting field, for example, are developments and innovations around robotics and new possibilities of image reconition, because a lot of what we have to measure in our processes can also be implemented with camera technology," says Philipp Rücker. "But we are also observing how strongly the increasing labour shortage is having an impact and how we are absorbing this with automation technology in order to then use the existing employees for tasks with higher added value."