Just in time: Always well stocked


In order to guarantee just-in-time replenishment for its state-of-the-art production facility, one of the world's leading manufacturers of mechatronic systems, the Swiss Sonceboz Group, is relying on the new, fully-automated high-bay pallet and container warehouse from Stöcklin Logistik AG.

The family firm Sonceboz is active around the world. It develops and produces mechatronic solutions for the automotive and HGV industry, but also for medical technology and industrial automation. With its quality standards of almost 0ppm and a sound respect for the environment, its mechatronic drive systems are particularly suitable for challenging applications. Within the industry, the group relies on a high level of automation and strong vertical integration, allowing it to efficiently produce more than 50 million drives per year.

To enable further growth, the site in Boncourt has expanded with the goal of doubling its production volume and flows. To ensure that the intralogistics processes continue to work smoothly around the clock during this considerable expansion of material and production flows, Boncourt invested in a new double-depth automated high-bay pallet warehouse and an automated small parts warehouse (3 deep incl. WMS) from Stöcklin. This aims to ensure the acceleration of the turnover of goods, just-in-time supply of production lines with sufficient material, triggering of retrieval orders on demand and ensures the right products are transported to the right destination at the right time.

Smart technology, which enables and supports huge growth

At full capacity, each day, 200 to 250 different types of suppliers' pallets can be stored in Boncourt and 240 to 300 pallets can be sent to customers by HGV. The new high-bay pallet warehouse has over 8,000 pallet storage spaces and, with the two automated stacker cranes MASTer 32 DT, more than 50 pallets can be stored and retrieved each hour. The high-bay warehouse is linked to production over two floors for incoming and outgoing goods as well as trans-shipment site for the container warehouse.

The new automated small parts warehouse is served by two BOXer stacker cranes which enable more than 250 storage or retrieval processes per hour. In total Boncourt has close to 32,000 storage spaces for 300 x 400 or 400 x 600 mm format containers. When storing boxes, these are placed by hand onto shelves measuring 325 x 425 mm or 425 x 625 mm. 30% of the pallets delivered each day contain boxes with components which are stored in the high-bay warehouse. When a minimal amount of stock in the manual warehouses is reached, the pallets from the high-bay warehouse are driven to the trans-shipment site for the container warehouse. Here, the boxes are shifted to containers or onto trays then containers are labeled, stored in the small parts warehouse in a space-saving manner and retrieved on demand by production.

Intelligent pallet recognition and control

“For us, something special about this facility is the large number of different types of pallets which are delivered by suppliers: plastic and wood europallets in four different sizes. Within this, there are also a large number of subcategories with regard to the substructure. This requires an innovative, intelligent pallet-type recognition system and the application of the standard europallets as slave pallet. Currently, 15 to 20 different types of pallets are in use at once, which was already something unusual for us,”

explains Domenico Palombo, Sales Manager for Stöcklin Logistik AG, who supported the project in a leading role.

If a special pallet cannot be automatically conveyed, it is placed onto a slave europallet and transported on from there. An intelligent pallet type recognition system developed by Stöcklin for Sonceboz analyzes when separation can take place automatically and when it needs to be executed by a forklift truck driver. The automatic separation of slave from the customer pallet is carried out using a special separation device which automatically separates the two transport units using a mechanical facility. The slave pallet is transported back into the pallet magazine and reused for inbound goods. The customer pallet automatically goes to the exit so no-one has to deal with the empty pallet handling.

Very well prepared

“The special thing for us was to double our warehousing at the Boncourt site during continuous operation to incorporate more production lines. At the same time, the logistics for the existing production lines and the implementation and integration of the new lines needed to be safeguarded. This is why the pre-project phase including the definition of the requirements and specification is crucial and at the same time worked very well. Stöcklin's specialist knowledge on the interactions of the intralogistics processes with the building were likewise a bonus,”

said Samuel Davron, Industrial Excellence & Operations Director at Sonceboz SA, commenting on the challenges of this project.

“To complete the project phase, basing ourselves on the developed design, we created a simulation using the customer's data and the number of pallets as well as container movements. This enabled us to find the optimal layout, which was subsequently confirmed by the performance test. It showed that this approach to such a complex solution that is especially tailored to the customer is very expedient,”

adds Domenico Palombo.

Overall quality target

“Offering solutions of impeccable quality and a reliability down to zero errors: this is what makes our reputation and what we work for every day. We share a part of our DNA with Stöcklin, as well as being in geographic and cultural proximity. Furthermore, these are experts who love their job and know how to handle challenges,”

says Samuel Davron in summarizing the cooperation with the Stöcklin Logistik AG team.