Shuttle System Cuby with up to 36 storage levels

Ponsse invests in future-oriented solution for its warehouse

With the implementation of an intelligent automation concept for intralogistics for production supply, SSI Schäfer has laid the foundations for a 50 percent increase in production output at the assembly plant of one of the world’s leading manufacturers of forest machines company Ponsse.

"The old inventory warehouse could no longer ensure capacities and performance of an efficient production supply for the increased demand," says Tapio Honkanen, Logistics Manager of the Ponsse Group. Against this background, the engineering company, which has been listed on the stock exchange since 1995, initiated the automation and digitalization of internal logistics for assembly supply with a new logistics centre at its production site in Vieremä, Finland. The order for designing and equipping the automated intralogistics was placed with SSI Schäfer. "A convincing rough concept with modern technologies for space-saving storage and efficient picking processes optimized by automation," Honkanen explains the key aspects of the contract award. "SSI Schaefer understood our requirements, analysed the problems, studied and calculated figures and throughputs - and then presented a future-proof concept designed to meet our needs. The solution implemented by SSI Schäfer enabled us to increase the production supply output by 50 percent. Moreover, it increased our warehouse operations productivity and quality significantly."

Founded in 1970, the Ponsse Group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of forestry machinery. Its product range includes all size categories of forestry machines for all climates and soil conditions in the world. All products and their key components are developed and manufactured by Ponsse on the company's premises in Vieremä. The factory there has been expanded in recent years from the original 300 m2 to 4 ha. Production is supplied on time from the connected new central logistics centre. 8,000 different products, ranging from vehicle axles weighing 4,000 kg to small electronic components, are stored there. In two-shift operation, the logistics centre supplies 100 different pickup points on the plant's production lines with pre-commissioned component and assembly kits. For storage of the components, fast, error-free picking of the kits and reliable, demand-oriented supply of the production lines, SSI Schäfer has implemented an automation concept with pallet high-bay warehouse (HBW), shuttle system for small parts storage, as well as compact conveyor technology and ergonomically designed picking stations.

Entry into automation and digitalization

Every day, an average of 12 trucks from suppliers deliver the components for the forestry machines to the logistics centre. In order to be able to efficiently unload the diversified range of articles, Ponsse has integrated goods receiving ramps into the logistics centre. "This enables comfortable side unloading by the forklifts," explains Jani Eronen, Aftersales Manager SSI Schäfer North & East Europe. The deliveries are moved to the repacking and storage locations in the logistics center after inspection, receipt and release by forklifts. In both automated warehouse systems, storage and retrieval are carried out via the 200-meter pallet or container conveyor system, which is set up in the front zone of the warehouse systems.

For storage in the HBW, the incoming goods pallets at Ponsse are fed into the conveyor system by the forklifts at transfer points in the front zone. The pallet conveyor system feeds the pallets to the storage-retrieval machines (SRM). In the 3-aisle automated high-bay warehouse with 3,700 storage locations for double-deep pallet storage, SSI Schaefer's SSI Exyz storage-retrieval machines ensure efficient storage and retrieval processes on eleven rack levels. The single-mast units achieve a throughput of 40 double cycles per hour each. When called off by the assembly stations, the pallets are retrieved to four parallel picking stations in the HRW pre-zone. There, the required larger components are picked manually from source pallets onto dollies and transport pallets, supported by ergonomic lifts and guided by display indicators. The conveyor system automatically transports source pallets back to the transfer stations of the Exyz for storage. In this way, 1,600 order lines of larger and heavier components are made per day. The loaded transport pallets for the production lines are taken over by forklifts and - depending on requirements - combined with picked small parts from the shuttle warehouse.

For the fully automated storage of the smaller machine components, SSI Schaefer has set up a state-of-the-art, flexible single-level shuttle system SSI Cuby. The excellent, highly standardized storage system consists of racking, lifters, one Cuby shuttle per storage level, a shuttle crane for lifting, maintenance and any level changes of a shuttle, and the control software. "Components scalable according to the modular principle, which represents an optimal entry-level solution for the automation and digitalization of processes in small parts storage," judges SSI Schaefer manager Eronen. "Thus, the overall concept of the Cuby Shuttle system offers a smart solution for optimal space utilization in small parts storage in intralogistics." For example, the integrated, innovative and scalable lifter system at the front ends of the storage cube, which is used to feed the containers to the rack levels, ensures a compact system layout with maximum storage space capacity. For storage and retrieval, the shuttles utilize the full depth of the rack. The patented rack depth support for guiding the load handling device (LHD) is unique in system technology. The Cuby Shuttle technology from SSI Schaefer thus enables double-deep storage of containers and cartons weighing up to 35 kg while ensuring high availability and throughput.

15,000 containers in circulation

This is also the case at Ponsse. In the single-aisle, 65 m long Cuby system, a total of 34 shuttles serve around 15,000 storage locations. Containers are stored here for single-item picking. Storage and retrieval to the conveyor system and the two picking stations in the shuttle system's pre-zone are handled by two lifts. The effective double-lift design with the double-deck function of the LHD ensures maximum throughput rates. More than 50 percent of the small parts delivered by suppliers are already packed in storable units that are precisely designed for kitting for the assembly stations. After being received by the forklifts, they are taken to the repacking stations, where they are simply separated from the pallets or placed in containers and transferred to the shuttle warehouse via conveyor technology. "Storage and retrieval in the small parts warehouse and staging at the picking stations are then automated," says Ponsse Logistics Manager Honkanen. Reliable picking of small parts for kitting to supply the assembly lines is carried out at two goods-to-person work stations based on the pick-to-tote principle. The same type of container as the source containers acts as the destination container. In total, about 15,000 LTF6220 series containers from the SSI Schäfer container range are in circulation at Ponsse for loading the storage locations in the Cuby system and as transport containers for production supply.

By optimally coordinating the lifter and shuttle performance with the conveyor technology in the warehouse front zone and the supply of the two goods-to-person work stations, the employees in the Cuby pre-zone at Ponsse achieve 6,000 picks per day. Break-off containers are returned to the Cuby system via conveyors and lifters. Depending on the order requirements, the target containers with the components from the Cuby system are transported directly to the assembly lines or the consolidation stations for merging with the palletized components from the HBW. Finally, the supply to the demand points in production is carried out by forklift or tagger train. After being emptied, the production supply containers are returned to a special shipping buffer in the Cuby system for refilling.

"A harmonious project process and excellent technologies for automated material flows," sums up Ponsse Logistics Manager Honkanen. "The automated storage systems provide maximum capacity in the available space. Capacities as well as availability and access speed have been multiplied. The automated and optimized intralogistics processes have sustainably accelerated the accurate supply of production lines and assembly stations and increased our production output by more than 50 percent. Thus, the concept implemented by SSI Schäfer is a forward-looking solution for us.”