Case Study RheinfelsQuellen, Germany

Intelligent Solutions For Seasonal Peaks

The Schäfer Lift&Run System is used for handling full pallets in the channels

Refreshingly Efficient – Start of a New Era of Logistics

Intelligent Solutions For Seasonal Peaks

By establishing a leading-edge logistics system at the production location in Duisburg-Walsum, SSI SCHAEFER has elevated the intralogistics processes as well as the entire empties management to a new level for the beverage manufacturer. A fully automated high-bay warehouse, an intelligent and revolutionary material flow control, the use of state-of-the-art algorithms for empties supply, and the use of a range of different warehouse and transport technologies have resulted in a significant increase in efficiency, ensuring maximum cost effectiveness even during seasonal peak periods.

RheinfelsQuellen produces around 200 different types of beverages at eight bottling lines in Duisburg. 250,000 beverage bottles are filled here per hour with mineral water, spritzers, vitamin drinks, and isotonic soft drinks. More than 80 % of those are returnable bottles. The ecological sense of responsibility poses enormous challenges not only to the system layout for optimal material flows, but also to IT with respect to controlling efficient intralogistics processes.

The solution: A four-aisle high-bay warehouse (HBW) with around 53,000 pallet spaces as a matrix solution with 20 storage and retrieval machines, which stock the products in and out on 16 levels. The automated internal pallet transports are largely assumed by two electric monorail systems with no forklift traffic. A circulation system is set up on the top level of the plant. It connects the HBW with the production lines, the picking area, the external goods-in for trading goods, and the empties delivery into the so-called empties yard.

Future-oriented logistics center for Rheinfelsquellen, Germany.


The objective of the project was to increase the capacities of RheinfelsQuellen to an inventory coverage of ten days, to simplify the processes by means of automation and a coordinated control of production and capacities while gearing them to increasingly small-scale orders, and to increase cost-saving potential in logistics accordingly. Another challenge was to deliver the right empties in the correct mix, at the right time, in the right quantity to the right line and to ensure fast and returned from retailers to the logistics center consist mainly of a mix of products and bottle sizes. However, the production systems fill by product. The installed empties management for sequenced dispatching while considering the possibility of passing trucks on the factory premises.

In order to maintain hygiene standards and throughput capacity, these material flows impact the HBW system technology. SSI SCHAEFER solved this problem with the smart approach of combining two different automation systems: Empties handling in the HBW is performed on the lower four levels only, which in total have a storage capacity of approx. 8,400 pallets. The Exyz storage and retrieval machines equipped with the SSI Orbiter LHD as load handling device, perform the storage and retrieval tasks. Schaefer’s Lift&Run system (SLR) is used in the same aisles to handle full pallets in the channel with the remaining 44,400 pallet storage locations. Four SLR, also equipped with the SSI Orbiter LHD as load handling devices, are stacked and operate in each aisle. During peak times, up to 495 inbound pallets and up to 750 outbound pallets are moved per hour. Added to this are additional transport quantities, which, however, are only processed directly via the electric monorail systems.

For special requirements SSI SCHAEFER has also developed a new type of inspection system for fully automated empties detection based on its WAMAS® Vision software, programmed special algorithms for the control software, and tailored the features of the HBW. Background: The empties pallets returned from retailers to the logistics center consist mainly of a mix of products and bottle sizes. However, the production systems fill by product. The installed empties management for reusable bottles includes an intelligent empties assessment and material flow control as well as the system technology. In the goods-in area, two cameras automatically detect and evaluate the degree to which each pallet is mixed and evaluate the case structure. WAMAS® uses the data from the Vision system to determine how many cases of the relevant empties can be found on the incoming empties pallet and, based on the degree in which the empties are mixed and the needs of the production lines, controls their further transport. The needs-based supply of filling lines with empties is a central function of the new logistics system.

Impressions on The Partnership with RheinfelsQuellen, Germany

“We have achieved all of the targets we set. The system is running steadily, and with the automation systems and the IT, we are achieving excellent performance results. This allowed us to reduce logistics costs overall. With this system, SSI SCHAEFER has provided us with a professional, holistic solution, tailored exactly to our needs.”

Olaf Kroh, Head of Internal Projects, RheinfelsQuellen

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