New multi-client shuttle system goes live

After being eagerly awaited for a long time, the official opening of the new shuttle system in Harsewinkel delivered what many had expected. The go-live of one of the most modern systems of its kind. Due to its implementation in an existing facility during ongoing operations, it is one of the most complex projects in the history of Arvato's Healthcare division.

For Dr. Thorsten Winkelmann, it is clear that new supply chain demands from overall growth and customers, as well as consumer trends, require new solutions for logistics and process redesign. "We have risen to this challenge and are setting new standards in reaching the next level with the new shuttle system," says the President Healthcare at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions.

New supply chain demands from overall growth and customers, as well as consumer trends, require new solutions for logistics and process redesign.

Dr. Thorsten Winkelmann
President Healthcare at Arvato Suplly Chain Solutions.

"Agile and flexible supply chains are becoming more and more in focus," confirms Christian Wolf, Executive Vice President Healthcare. "We are currently seeing volume fluctuations, higher inventory levels and a lot of short-term demand." The shuttle's high throughput is ideal for handling large volumes and is expected to help meet these new demands. Prof. Dr. Christoph Feldmann, Supply Chain Transformation Leader at the International School of Management (ISM) in Frankfurt, is certain that this will succeed. In his estimation, a level of automation such as Arvato has now implemented with the shuttle system goes well beyond what the market offers in this segment in Europe. "This puts Arvato far ahead in healthcare logistics," emphasizes the healthcare market expert. Overall, however, there is still a great need for transformation, he adds. "The healthcare industry is only at the beginning when it comes to digitalization and automation of processes," says Christoph Feldmann.

Arvato is way ahead with its automation approach to healthcare logistics.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Feldmann
Supply Chain Transformation Leader at the International School of Management (ISM) in Frankfurt

Guests at the opening ceremony were given a fascinating insight into how the shuttle system with its total of 55,000 storage spaces works in practice via video. As if by magic, the goods are stored and retrieved in an aisle by the robotic vehicles at a rate of 400 to 650 movements per hour. "The system works according to the goods-to-person principle and transports the pharmaceutical and medical products to the picking stations," explains Fabian Generotzky, Project Manager and Vice President Operations Healthcare. Arvato opted for a shuttle system with stacked containers. The advantage: the increased storage density in the shuttle cube meant that around 4,300 square meters of additional storage space could be gained, which is now available for further customer growth. 

Official inauguration of the Shuttle-System

"This shuttle design best meets our infrastructural requirements," clarifies Paul Engel, Harsewinkel Site Manager and Vice President Healthcare. In addition, the infeed and outfeed conveyor technology combines the shuttle system with various technologies such as pick-to-light or value-added service stations. According to Paul Engel, "These features give us the ability to choose between different settings within our automation that best fit the needs of the customer's logistics structure. In a multi-user configuration like Harsewinkel, process compliance correlates with process standardization where possible." In combination with certain value-added service offerings, individual needs can thus be flexibly served based on Arvato's internal standardization.

New shuttle system predestined for multichannel solutions

The new facility also makes shipping via all distribution channels even more efficient. Dr. Thorsten Winkelmann: "Since the start of our company, we have always focused on direct sales, whether to pharmacies, hospitals or even patients. And we've managed to combine this with serving other channels such as wholesalers and distributors worldwide from one platform, so today we offer true multi- and omnichannel solutions."

Arvato's goal is to support the growth and transformation of its pharmaceutical and medical technology customers - even beyond pure logistics. For Dr. Thorsten Winkelmann, however, as one of several developments, patient-specific supply chains triggered by more and more individualized treatments are also gaining in importance. These are, for example, cell and gene therapies and homecare supply. "We are currently building a platform to orchestrate and operate personalized medicine and home delivery," says Dr. Thorsten Winkelmann. 

"Another important topic is supply chain resilience," adds Dr. Winkelmann. Not least, the Corona pandemic has reinforced this aspect. Thus, it can be observed that highly centralized European single-hub strategies are being questioned and solutions with two or three hubs in combination with satellite locations or forward-stocking locations or, alternatively, a network of five to eight regional warehouses are becoming the option instead. Dr. Winkelmann: "We are currently driving forward the networking of our international healthcare sites in order to make the supply chains more location-independent and resilient in terms of business continuity planning. At the same time, we are using this to support flexibility and inventory optimization."

For him, it is also crystal clear that all current and future requirements can only be mastered with extremely strong, robust and globally integrated IT: "We are traditionally strong in this area and have also invested heavily in the cloud, security and digitization in recent years. And this is just the beginning. The creation of patient-specific, patient-centric, internationally transparent and resilient care chains are heavily IT-based. This is where we will continue to invest."

The Next Level Now - Grand Opening Show

Panel discussion about digitization on the supply chain

with Thorsten Winkelmann (President Healthcare), Christian Wolf (Executive Vice President Healthcare) and Prof. Dr. Christoph Feldmann (Supply Chain Transformation Leader at the International School of Management (ISM) in Frankfurt)

Exciting panel discussion on the importance and future of the healthcare division of Arvato Supply Chain Solutions, as well as more on the topic of Logistics 4.0.

Official inauguration of the Shuttle-System

with Fabian Generotzky (Vice President Operations) and Paul Engel (Vice President Healthcare)

Official opening of the new shuttle system: background on the idea of implementing a shuttle in Harsewinkel as well as the challenges of the project and the first live ride.


with Dr. Cornelia Börger (Director QA), Matthias Musolf (Vice President IT), DI Hannes Kracher (KNAPP AG) and Ralph Bamberg (Director Logistics Engineering)

Explanations of the requirements on the part of QA and IT, as well as the highlights of the system and the cooperation with KNAPP.