SSI Schaefer International invests heavily in new technology in its facilities in Germany and Austria. Australian Director Alan Clark tells Logistics Magazine that the company is always developing new systems.
“In fact, I’m not aware of any other Australian company with comparable resources available to them,” he says.
By way of example, Clark points to SSI Schaefer’s launch of an Automated Case Picking System at Cemat 2009, to be held in Hannover in Germany.
“This is a modular scalable and expandable solution designed to handle 30,000 to 300,000 cases per eight hour shift for the retail giants who pick from pallet and palletise mixed product of varying weights and fragility in reverse drop sequencing to store,” he says.
In recent years, SSI Schaefer has also developed the Schaefer Carousel System, the Schaefer Quad Shuttle as well as ergonomic pick systems for Parallel Picking and Goods-to-Person Picking, using PBL, PTL, PBV and RF technologies.
“The secret is the combination of varying and modular sub-systems to provide the lowest real cost operating system and that could still be rack and a wheelbarrow for some clients,” Clark maintains.
According to Alan Clark, there’s currently a significant emphasis by major suppliers like SSI Schaefer International on the ergonomics of full and split case picking to minimise Occupational Health & Safety issues and enhance productivity.
“Pick methodologies are also evolving with Goods-to-Person operations and obviously more cross dock operations are being considered in an effort to reduce Inventory in the DC,” he says.
“We are also seeing operational issues influence the design of warehouses and DCs.
“Some of these include greater order frequencies with less volume per order, range proliferation with manufacturers growing the consumer offer, different units of measure with eaches replacing full case, product life cycle which is diminishing and replenishment strategies to optimise product in the supply chain,” Clark explains.
“The modern Distribution centre must be able to accommodate all these changes but still deliver least real operating costs.”
In terms of storage trends, Clark says in 90 per cent of cases, it’s still ‘more of the same’.
“However, Satellite Systems are the flavor of the month at present for high volume DCs with low SKU counts,” he observes.
“SSI Schaefer International has seen the re-emergence of mobile racking systems in cold stores and we have recently completed a 27,000 pallet installation.”
“We have also observed automated and rack-clad warehouses becoming financially attractive and SSI Schaefer has constructed several in Australia and New Zealand over the last five years,” Clark adds.
“New FEM and DIN standards in Europe are changing rack design and computations as computerised design develops.”
Alan Clark says modelling is an absolute must if a company is investing millions of dollars into a warehouse or DC.
“It’s not cheap to simulate the dynamic behaviour of a material handling system, so we generally start with a 2D simulation when building highly complex systems,” Clark says.
“At Schaefer we have to know during the design stage when and where the potential bottlenecks appear under varying load conditions.”
“A 3D simulation further enhances the visibility of any proposed system to our customers, but is not essential for the development of a system design.”
“The Schaefer Material Flow Systems (MFS) is part of the overall Schaefer Conveyor system where we have pick route, or customer picking and sortation systems.”
While more customers are opting for robotics, PBL, PTL and automation systems, Clark says they represent the top end of the market only.
“SSI Schaefer International has built systems in Australia with PBL/Voice, which is a value add product to racking, shelving and carton flow systems,” he says.
“It has a relatively low capital entry cost yet delivers substantial operating cost reductions as well as accuracy of pick.”
“The response time or window of pick is getting smaller as end users are more demanding and competition fierce,” Clark argues.
“Staff availability is a major issue with record lows of unemployment, space considerations both land and building are at a premium and the price is escalating with availability.”
“In addition, the temperature environment in cold stores has a major impact on productivity,” he says.
“Traffic congestion is a major problem as the frequency of delivery vehicles increase both receipt and dispatch and ultimately the operational costs must be constrained to remain competitive.”
“There are only a limited number of high end retailers and they are increasingly putting suppliers under pressure to perform to suit their highly sophisticated DCs,” Clark says.
“That requires some level of technology, which will continue to develop at pace.”