Increased efficiency by saving 30% walking times during picking

In the new Austrian central warehouse of the electrical wholesaler Sonepar, optimally customized steelworks, automation by means of a conveying system and intelligent material flow control by SSI SCHAEFER ensure maximum availability, fast made-to-order production with zero-error picking and a high service level.

When a warehouse calls for process efficiency, readiness for delivery and zero-error picking a fully automated solution is not always necessary. "As much automation as required, as little as possible," highlights Ernst Griesser, Senior Sales Manager Automation at SSI SCHAEFER, the optimum solution for customer requirements. "Our top priority is flexibility – especially when it comes to changes in the product range; for instance when classifying and allocating processes correspondingly." Together with Josef Kendl, Senior Sales Manager for Bins and Racking Systems at SSI SCHAEFER, he implemented said concept in the new logistics center for Sonepar Österreich GmbH. Despite the striking dimensions of the 15,000 m² building in Sattledt, Upper Austria, SSI SCHAEFER being general contractor for intralogistics implemented a compact system, tailor-made for the requirements of the market leader in the Austrian electrical wholesale business. "Due to our continuous growth and bearing the service level, the growing range of items and the logistics costs in mind, we had to focus on warehousing and optimize the processes " explains Peter Schmied, manager of the Sonepar logistics center in Sattledt. "We aimed at relieving our staff in the logistics center by automating internal processes. Currently, a complete automation would not yet be economical due to the diversified product range, but it is already on the table as potential extension option." Highest efficiency already characterizes the processes in the logistics center.

The Sonepar group is a family-owned company headquartered in France and is the market leader in the electrical wholesale business. Sonepar Österreich GmbH sells electrical appliances of 60 leading national and international manufacturers to customers in craft, trade, industry and the public-commercial sector. The electrical wholesaler has 11 branches throughout Austria to serve their customers locally. Since May 2018, the new logistics center in Sattledt is used as central warehouse for Austria. 25,000 different items from cable ties with RFID chips up to completely pre-configured and compiled distribution cabinets are part of the core products in stock and can be delivered within 24 hours. The basic range of electrical products is complemented by sophisticated consumer goods, light and data network technology, alarm systems or photovoltaics. Within 48 hours, the central warehouse provides customers with about 40,000 items. A total of 130,000 items are part of the Sonepar product range.

Efficient combination of manual and automated processes

In Sattledt, there are three warehouses of the electrical wholesaler. "We started warehousing in December 2017 and successively adjusted processes." explains Peter Schmied. "Since last spring, the system has been running perfectly." The solution stands out for its impressive figures. SSI SCHAEFER installed a 16-aisle, forklift-operated rack system with about 17,200 storage locations using standard components of the static system PR 600 and a stack rack area with 7,150 storage locations using rack system R 3000. For the steelwork alone with a total weight of 600 tons, 45 truckloads were delivered to Sattledt.

The special features become evident at a closer look. Using the standard components of rack system PR 600, SSI SCHAEFER was able to build a system that precisely meets the different requirements of the wide product range. So, the pallet storage locations have not only been designed for Euro pallets. The rack system also features more than 2,000 storage locations for large industrial pallets, 1,120 storage locations for pallets with special dimensions 1,900 x 800 mm and about 2,100 storage locations for 3,000 x 800 mm post pallets. For picking fast movers directly from the pallet, SSI SCHAEFER also installed a pallet flow rack for 144 Euro pallets. Long goods are stored in a special honeycomb rack with 600 storage locations, while the high-strength profiles and beams of the SSI SCHAEFER rack system PR 600 form the basis for the hanging storage of 435 cable drums.

The static racking system is used for efficient storage and fast order picking of small parts on stock. Using rack system R 3000, SSI SCHAEFER used a stable construction with 3 intermediate platforms above level zero. "It offers maximum storage capacity with a small footprint," illustrates Josef Kendl. Thanks to the cam pattern with a distance of 53 mm the shelves can be adapted individually and offer ergonomic access to the stored goods. The comprehensive range of accessories for static racking systems with different drawers, boxes, separating rear and side walls underlines the flexibility of the racking system.

No insurmountable requirement or challenge

The core of the platform system is a 700 m conveying system to connect the levels with one another as well as to connect them to order consolidation in the goods-out area. With a throughput of up to 1,000 bins per hour it has been designed for further increase of incoming order in the logistics center. "Thanks to the automation of the static racking system by installing a conveying system, Sonepar saves about 30% of walking times during picking compared to manual processes," stresses Ernst Griesser. Another special feature: The same conveying system is also used to transport goods for storage and order in the static racking system. Background: The Sonepar central warehouse is operated in 2 shifts. In the early shift, most of the 2,000 daily goods-in positions are processed and stored. Then, all orders of the previous day that arrived at the central warehouse after the cut-off time 6 pm are processed. Sonepar guarantees next day delivery throughout Austria for all orders arriving before this time. Starting from 2 pm at the latest, picking all current orders keeps the logistics center busy. More than 70 transport tours supply customers and stores in Austria from Sattledt every day.

In order to enable fast made-to-order production, the warehouse areas and material flows in the logistics center are clearly structured. On the long side of the building in front of the pallet racking system, the palletized deliveries are taken over at the 13 goods-in gates and registered in the system. The forklift-guided storage is done according to item and load carrier in the warehouse areas with the corresponding rack equipment. The storage locations are transmitted to the forklift terminal via WLAN, no paper necessary. Fast movers are replenished without temporary storage in the pallet flow rack directly adjacent to the static rack platform system. Another goods-in gate is equipped for deliveries by courier, express and parcel services (CEP services).

There, the compact conveyor system for supplying the static racking system starts. A short conveyor supplies two packing locations. At the two work stations, staff repack CEP goods as well as separated products from pallets into bins and feed them to the conveying system. Supplied mixed pallets are separated at one of six goods-in stations already. The conveying sections on the platform first go to two registration stations using gravity conveyors. Using screen dialogs, goods and bin barcodes are married before the conveying system transports them to the intended platform level in the static racking system. In parallel, pallet transfer positions for forklift trucks have been integrated into the steelwork on each platform level. The logistics software WAMAS®, which is connected to the customer's warehouse management system, is in charge of the destination control for bins on the conveying section. At the transfer locations on the platform system, staff transfer the bins onto order picking trolleys and transport them to the provided storage locations for storage.

Each level of the static racking system has four picking aisles. Orders are picked into bins using mobile data terminals (MDT), in several stages and on all levels. 2,000 stackable/nestable bins of type EFB 643 by SSI SCHAEFER go around the Sonepar logistics center for internal flow of goods. They are stackable with and without lids, and if empty nestable by rotating them by 180°. Picking orders are sent to the MDT to optimize walking times for the employees. An accumulation roller conveyor for the supply with empty bins was established. Retrieval stations were integrated into the static racking system.

Compact overall solution

After completing the picking order, the filled target bins are placed onto the conveying system. They are conveyed to level zero and buffered on three consolidation conveyors. The ordered items are distributed and compiled according to order with a final quality check by the warehouse management system and a Put to Light system. At the packing locations, the consolidated order items are equipped with shipping papers, packed, palletized and transported to the adjacent goods-out area by forklift trucks. There, the small-parts order items are consolidated with the order positions picked by forklift trucks from other storage areas as well as cable looms, long goods and Corlettes. The items are then made available at one of seven transit points in front of the goods-out gates. The transit points have been defined according to states and destinations Upper Austria, Vienna, Graz and Salzburg, which are supplied directly from the logistics center.

On average, 8,000 goods-out positions are provided for loading at the transit points. The intralogistics solution installed by SSI SCHAEFER ensures efficient processes and saves space and time in best possible way. "Everything went perfectly in the project, suppliers and customers praise the modification in every aspect. The resulting process speed and quality meet our expectations," sums up Peter Schmied. "We are very satisfied."

Contact Person

Sabine Märzendorfer Head of Marketing & Communication Phone No.: +43 (0) 7242 491-275 Mail: