IT landscape harmonized, intermediate transports automated


At the Ostermundigen site, Stöcklin Logistik has carried out a reorganization for Emmi Schweiz AG at the intralogistics level and has further increased the flexibility of processes. In the course of this reorganization, the StöcklinWCS (warehouse control system) was modified to meet the needs and rolled out to other functional areas. At the same time, goods transport between the two high bay warehouses - originally performed manually and thus very time-consuming - was automated within a time frame of four months. Since April 2018, this is now handled by two automated guided vehicles type EAGLE ANT.

In 1907, 62 co-operatives founded the Zentralschweizerische Milchverband Luzern (Central Swiss Milk Co-operative Lucerne - MLV). With that they established the preceding organization to today's Emmi, the largest milk processor in Switzerland and one of the most innovative premium dairies in Europe. At home, the company, which is headquartered in Lucerne, focuses on the development, production and marketing of a full range of dairy and fresh products and the manufacture, maturing and trading of Swiss cheese. Markets abroad demand in particular fresh lifestyle, convenience and health products, which Emmi exports to 60 countries around the world. In 2017, the international group of companies was able to yet again increase its revenue by 3.2 % to CHF 3.364 billion. This success can be attributed to roughly 6,150 employees, 2,950 of which are in Switzerland.

Growth demands reorganization of logistics

In Ostermundigen near Berne, fresh products such as yogurt, Emmi Caffè Latte and Emmi Ice Cream are produced and placed in intermediate storage. In addition, products from other Emmi production sites pass through the site via cross-docking. The annual throughput amounts to ~350,000 refrigerated pallets and ~65,000 non-refrigerated pallets. In addition, there are roughly 30,000 pallets that are loaded with commercial products. For many years, Emmi in Ostermundigen operated two high bay warehouses, one for the fresh produce sector and the other in a deep-freeze environment. Due to the continued growth, the strategic decision to outsource the deep-freeze logistics was made at the end of 2013 and convert this high bay warehouse into a logistics hub or rather a fresh produce distribution centre. In addition to the measures concerning the building technology, a complete reconception of the in-house material flow and distribution logistics was needed to implement this idea.

Subsequently, Emmi commissioned Stöcklin Logistik AG as general contractor for the intralogistics with the implementation of the pending tasks. In the course of these measures, the existing deep lane storage system was converted and the storage capacity increased by 24 % to 8,600 bin locations between 2013 and 2015. Two existing storage and retrieval machines (SRMs) from a third-party supplier were completely modernised and two additional pallet SRMs from the MASTer family were added by Stöcklin Logistik. The control of all processes is the responsibility of the WCS warehouse control system of the StöcklinWMS. In addition to the four storage and retrieval machines and Stöcklin power shuttles, a spacious pallet conveyor system and an electric monorail conveyor linking production are integrated. The installation of which was implemented by an external supplier. A central objective of the project was a consistently high availability. This is because the target performance of the system must be guaranteed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 105 double cycles per hour must be completed for this.

Data communication standardized and transports automated

Since then, two independent warehouses existed, each with their own warehouse administration and material flow control. So as to achieve a new, interface-adjusted consistency for both systems, the control authority for all material flows was, among other things, completely transferred to the StöcklinWCS. The StöcklinWCS is a location management and material flow application for automated warehouses, which is able to function both as an integral component of the StöcklinWMS or, as is the case at Emmi, can be operated as a self-contained level under the WMS of a competitor. Intelligent storage, transfer and stock removal strategies are constantly used to optimize throughput while taking into account the necessary warehouse restrictions.

Parallel to this, functional adaptations were made to the existing pallet conveyor system and the goods transports between the two warehouses were automated. "In view of the continuous improvement process implemented at Emmi, deliveries via pallet truck or forklift could no longer be tolerated," reports Niklaus Schäfer, who attended to the project in addition to the responsible manager Michael Wernke, who in the meantime has relocated to the Emmi site in Suhr. Every day, roughly 300 pallets must be moved between the two systems over a period of twelve hours. The route is about 40 m long one way. "In addition, up to 200 manually picked pallets must be taken to the warehouse during this time," Niklaus Schäfer continues.

To be able to cope with this daily challenge more efficiently, Emmi decided to transfer these tasks to automated guided vehicles (AGV). The company opted for two automated medium stroke devices type EAGLE ANT 1 from Stöcklin Logistik. The AGV typically navigates by means of environmental features such as walls, columns, etc. Two integrated safety laser scanners provide the necessary orientation and monitor the movement range on an ongoing basis. While the vehicle is in motion, the measurement data from the laser scanners are compared with a stored map of the operating environment in which the route is recorded. The vehicle stops at mobile or stationary obstacles or adapts its speed to what is happening in its surroundings. The automated guided vehicle (AGV) is equipped with state-of-the art, economical and maintenance-free lithium-ion batteries (Stöcklin Li-ion).

Driverless and autonomous - every time exactly where they are supposed to be

As soon as the remote I/O box of the conveyor system in the "old" high bay warehouse has transmitted a signal to the traffic management system (TMS) in the AGV host computer that a pallet is ready for collection, an ad hoc transport order is triggered for the next available vehicle. The AGV picks up the pallet and transfers it to the infeed station of the conveyor system in the "new" high bay warehouse. In addition, there are individual manual stations, which register by means of occupied-sensors when a pallet is located below them. After a brief delay of ten seconds, a transport order for a vehicle is then generated for each of these stations, too. These load carriers are also headed for the pallet conveyor system of Stöcklin Logistik, which transports the goods onwards for storage.

In both cases the peak output or number of transports by means of the AGV amounts to 25 pallets per hour. Over a period of twelve hours, on average 300 to 500 pallets are moved in an automated manner, enabling employees who until now were involved in this process to be deployed for productive work in other areas.

"Due to its technical optimization, the EAGLE ANT is designed for a fast return on investment (ROI),"

says Bernd Krebs, Product Manager AGV/AGS at Stöcklin Logistik AG. "Navigation by means of environmental features allows users to benefit from a high degree of flexibility, especially when route changes occur or additional vehicles are to be integrated to expand the fleet."

Overall package reduces time and effort and increases flexibility

"The physical connection of the two warehouses by means of automated guided vehicles with simultaneous synchronization of the entire material flow control at the site requires a very special kind of expertise, which we combine in our business segments systems and industrial trucks," Bernd Krebs paraphrases the special requirements profile.

"A consistently harmonized IT-landscape across both high rack warehouses makes everything that much easier, reduces interface issues and lowers supervising expenses,"

Niklaus Schäfer of Emmi adds. The defined objectives were reached within the agreed time frame. Thanks to the implementation of the EAGLE ANT-AGV, it is now possible to transact goods transports between the two high bay warehouses in an effortless, faultless and safely automated manner. Stock transfers between the warehouses can be planned in a flexible way, since the AGVs are always available and no employees need to be scheduled for these activities. Should an expansion be necessary in the future due to increased requirements, the existing duo can easily be supplemented by one or more autonomously operated "colleagues" at any time.