Green light for Frey


Stöcklin Logistik AG realized a new, fully automatic tire warehouse for tires and wheels at the request of Kalono Real Estate at the Härkingen location for the Swiss retailer Emil Frey. The automation concept implemented was laid out for maximum process efficiency with performance values to further increase the service level for customers and stabilize it at an above average level. Simultaneously attention was given to the subject of labor safety.

It was his passion for automobiles and racing, that prompted Emil Frey to open his own repair workshop in Zurich in 1924. From such modest beginnings, a commercial enterprise developed in the course of decades, which is still owned by the family and now employs a staff of near 6,000 employees in Switzerland and locations in Germany. The corporate group includes various import companies, served by a comprehensive network of dealerships, as well as Emil Frey Garages, financing companies and other enterprises in the service branch. Nearly all known brands in the automotive industry are carried and sold.

Expansion as reaction to prolonged growth.

In addition to Safenwil, the branch office in Härkingen has become an important supplement to the logistic infrastructure of the Emil Frey Company since the property was taken over in 2007. More than 50,000 different items are stored here. At the end of November 2014 a new high bay warehouse for intermediate storage of tires and wheels from dealerships and garages was put into operation in the immediate vicinity of the existing distribution center. “Due to the continuous positive development of our business activities, our storage capacities were exhausted”, explained Roland Huber, Manager of Emil Frey’s central warehouse in Härkingen adding

“The pressure for action was increased even further by more stringent safety regulations for fire prevention, which the new building satisfies with ease.”

Under the auspices of the Swiss Architect Group Olten AG, a two story building was erected with floor space of 10,000 m², length of 120 m, width of 84 m and height of 24 m. The effective volume is more than 200,000 m³. The equipment for this new landmark with state-of-the-art intralogistics was provided by Stöcklin, as general contractor for the conveying and storage technology as well as project coordinator and integrator for the new warehouse management system.

“We depend on high availability. That is why we place great value on proven and robust automation technology, known for its reliability”

continued Roland Huber. Moreover they were convinced by the extremely detailed safety concept presented.

Since start up the end of November 2014, the facility has been in single shift operation five days a week. The heart is the automatic tire warehouse installed at a level of -5,0 m, with approximately 10,000 storage locations for Euro-pallets with pallet frames as well as special wooden pallets with attachment for holding four car tires each. In addition a 14.4 m high, 4-aisle stacker storage area at level +/-0.0 offers 3,858 storage bays for additional pallets with max. dimensions of 1,400 x 1,400 and max. permissible gross weight of 1,000 kg. This area is served with the aid of manually guided narrow aisle stackers.

High performance pallet conveying technology over two storeys.

Each tire and rim is checked precisely before storage. The warehouse management system receives the required pallet information from the ERP System, and initiates the storage process on this basis. On the ground floor the loading units are transferred by hand lift trucks at the floor level to the pallet conveying system where they are logged by a hand scanner and then routed on to the profile check. Here the type of pallet and specific load height are identified. Moreover the runners and runner clearance are checked.

If anything conspicuous is noted, the pallet can be discharged to the NOK station at the side by a pusher unit in the form of a continuous horizontal conveyor and returned after eliminating the problem. Load units that are okay are routed by a pallet lifter equipped with two roller tracks on the load handling device, to the connected pallet conveying path, which is capable of parallel storage and retrieval of 100 pallets per hours at a level 500 mm above the floor. Status messages are output by so-called “mobile panels”, on which authorized operators acknowledge errors and can also make corrections to the material flow, if required.

During storage, the goods are transported by vertical conveyors to the second floor at a conveying level of +4.8 m. Here they are taken over by signal conveyors, transported to a turntable, turned 90 degrees and moved to the wait position in front of the transfer shuttle by two more conveyors. The transfer shuttle moves over a length of 12 m and is equipped with two load handling devices laid out as chain conveyors. Subsequently a pallet can be picked up in parallel from the storage route and another transferred from the retrieval route. The slip-free toothed belt drive allows speeds of up to 5.0 m/s to be realized in forward motion in the loaded state. The pallets are stored in one of the three aisles in the high bay warehouse by infeed conveyors, where the pallets are cycled. The loading units with their various lengths are positioned precisely before pickup by special sensors.

Varying loading units can be stored and retrieved quickly and securely.

The automatic tire storage area is designed as a free-standing rack system offering space for single depth, crosswise storage of nearly 10,000 pallets in three aisles. The clear aisle height is approx. 23 m. Storage is accomplished on Type 1 Euro-pallets with pallet frames (1,250 x 850 x 545 mm) and gross weight of up to 500 kg, as well as on special wooden load carriers capable of holding up to four car tires. While the length and width are permanently defined at 800 mm each, and the max. permissible gross weight is always 140 kg, the heights vary in four categories: 880 mm, 960 mm, 1,140 mm and 1,380 mm.

Three fully automatic stacker cranes (RBG) from the Stöcklin MASTer product family operated in the high bay warehouse aisles. The load handling device on the single mast units is equipped with rotating retractable forks with adjustable fork tines. The motion of the rotating retractable forks are controlled and monitored by an incremental travel monitoring system. Proximity type monitoring units serve for control of compliant pickup, ensuring continuous, precise and reliable handling of the load units with their varying dimensions.

The pallet stacker cranes (RBG) move over a length of approx. 94.3 m. They are designed for an elevating speed of 0.5 m/s2 in the loaded state, and acceleration of 0.4 m/s2 and achieve travelling speeds of 2.0 m/s. “The performance of the stacker cranes is matched precisely to the figures actually required at Emil Frey”, confirmed Stöcklin Project Managers Herbert Schwarz and Ivan Jovanovic. Each device is capable of completing up to 86 pallet storage and retrieval operations in parallel per hour, incl. relocation.  All totalled this is a capacity 150 pallets each hour. The transport orders are transferred directly to the programmable logic control (SPS) for the affected stacker crane (RBG) via Ethernet interface by the warehouse management system. After conclusion an appropriate feedback message is sent by the warehouse management system (LVS) reporting the bay number to the ERP System. 

Integral solution for safety requirements

In addition to the required system capacity, the automation concept for Emil Frey foresaw comprehensive safety features for protecting employees and material. For example safety light curtains with muting light barriers were installed in the hazard area of the vertical conveyor. The scissors-type lift table in the receiving department is also equipped with a safety light curtain. If the platform hits unexpectedly against an object when lowering, is it switched off immediately by a contact strip.

For safety reasons the conveying equipment installed on the upper floor is also divided up into two zones.

“This imaginary separation also has the advantage that the transfer shuttle can continue to be operated, even when it is necessary for an employee to enter the antechamber zone for maintenance reasons”

explained Ivan Jovanovic. Although storage and retrieval operations are temporarily suspended due to the fact that the antechamber zone is shut down, relocation operations are still possible. All function areas in the tire warehouse are also completely fenced off and equipped with state-of-the-art fire prevention technology, “fully compliant with the current specific requirements”, continued the Stöcklin logistics expert.

Farsighted strategic investment

In a branch, in which new products are launched at continuously shorter time intervals, state-of-the-art technology is essential for success”, according to popular opinion at Emil Frey AG. This applies for automobiles as well as for logistics providers. This is why successful completion of the new construction and expansion project in Härklingen is an important prerequisite for continuing to occupy the pole position in the competition for market shares. “Stöcklin provided us with exactly the support we wanted”, summarized Central Warehouse Manager Roland Huber. This goes far beyond simply keeping storage capacities stocked up to the required extent. The automation concept implemented today allows significantly more precise and secure storage of customer tires and wheels, increases delivery reliability and more efficient facility operation.

Author: Urs Grütter