THUN – PLANNING AND REALIZATION OF A HIGH AUTOMATION DISTRIBUTION CENTRE
La Thun is an international company leader in the conception and production of gift-oriented items and elegant and precious stoves.It is a forefront company, stepping his production towards the future and however remaining faithful to ancient traditions when creating objects of great quality and originality.
The clearest confirmation of the successful company mission is stressed by the present continuous growth and for the future expected one; for this reason, a new 35.667 sqm Logistics Center, which will have to meet the medium/long-term needs, was built in Mantova.
In addition to coping with the increase in flows, stocks and references, the goal of the new facilities is to provide an excellent level of service to customers, removing possible shipping errors, reducing damages and ensuring extremely timely and punctual delivery times, thanks to the remarkable capacity of the sorter (up to 19.000 items now).
Nevertheless, the goal was also to create a work environment that can guarantee at the same time high levels of safety and ergonomics for the operator and extremely efficient performances in terms of productivity, lead times and operation flexibility.
During the distribution of new products period (when flow peaks almost triple compared to those of normal periods) the new Logistics Center shall be able to ensure the restocking of the shops according to what programmed in terms of timing and precision.
The goods arrive in pallets from the production sites and are stocked in an area equipped with a 12-meter-high pallet rack shelving and served by reach trucks. Part of the inlet flow by-passes the inventory area and is directly addressed to the order preparation area, which represents the operation and technological hub of the new Logistics Center. The picking area consists of 12 collection lines divided into 3 levels (ground floor + two mezzanine floors).
The picking is carried out by batch of orders (at least one hundred), in order to reduce to the minimum extent the picking distances and to collect the pieces requested by different customers but corresponding to the same reference, with the pick-to-belt technique. The pieces of each collected reference are then deposited on a conveyor belt and delivered to a high speed double deck sorter sorting on one or more docks the products of the same order to be packed (also the packaging, which are automatically built up, are automatically forwarded to the right spot); the packing docks are 252 and can be further increased to meet the long-term requirements.
In the pick to belt area the products are stored on roller conveyors, suitable for the reception of pallets (fast moving references) or packages (medium moving references), or on shelves (slow moving references). In the picking area the information to the operators comes through pick-to-light and voice picking techniques, mechanized discharge systems for empty cartons are installed to be directly addressed to the compactors placed outside the building.
The composed packages are positioned on a roller conveyor system that, through a series of auxiliary workstations for the introduction of non-sortable products and air bubble for the protection of the articles, conveys the packages to the automatic station for the introduction of shipping documents, the closing of the package and its palletization by an anthropomorphic robot, forming the loading units that will be loaded on the trucks according to the shipping lines.
All the activities of the Logistics Center are governed by a warehouse management software (WMS) which also performs the optimization of the sampling batches through a simulation that matches the items to be picked up, the balancing of the picking lines, the areas and delivery times and other parameters useful to efficiency. In the Logistics Center a zone has been dedicated to stoves and fireplaces which, due to their structural features (size, weight) and to operational needs do not match the method used for gift items.
The Master Plan of the entire seat foresees that in the medium run, a self-supporting automatic warehouse for extra-stock can be created; this last allotment of the warehouse will be possibly connected to the other existing functional areas, with an LGV automatic vehicle system.
The solutions adopted allowed the use of advanced technologies for high levels of efficiency and an ergonomic and safe working environment with interesting returns on capital invested and with good levels of operation flexibility.
The high level of automation will allow, in the future, the increase for limited periods of time to two/three shifts to cope with seasonal peaks without creating problems.