Small, but powerful!


KUK Electronic AG remains on route to success with new high bay warehouse.

KUK Electronic AG has just invested 1.5 million Swiss Franks in the new facilities for suppling its production department. Within only 12 months the system integrator Stöcklin realized a fully automatic high bay warehouse for pallets and containers, whose extraordinary features are visible underground, in a manner of speaking.

If world championships were held for winding coils, the Swiss Company KUK Electronic AG would certainly be a worthy candidate for the title. More than 100 million coils are wound annually for consumers in Switzerland and 30 other countries around the world. The company founded in 1990 by Hansueli and Bruno Koster is also specialized in the field of electronics. The products are used in the automotive industry, aviation and aerospace, medical technology, traffic, environmental and safety engineering, to mention only a few. KUK Electronic AG employs more than 300 personnel at the locations in Appenzell, Shanghai and Nová Dubnice in Slovakia, producing custom solutions from prototypes to large series for specific customers on the world market, in part manually and in part with fully automatic support.

No compromises (more)

Continuous growth is a distinguishing feature for KUK Electronic AG. This development was last considered in 2005 with an expansion project at the location in Appenzell. However these new capacities were again exhausted within a few years.

“We need to be proactive”, stated Business Manager Hansueli Koster. “The assignment was to create more space for production and simultaneously optimize the processes, for instance, by using the ‘First in - First out” strategy consistently without errors.”

This is hardly possible without automated processes. Moreover two external, leased warehouses were to be abandoned and consolidated in one newly constructed annex.

The height of the new high bay warehouse to be erected was, however, limited due to local features and construction regulations. As a result, the steel structure of the new nine meter high building was constructed at a level of 1000 mm, so that only a three-storey high head end is visible. The architecture office Inauen in Appenzell was responsible for the building equipment and also as general contractor.

For the intralogistics KUK Electronic AG also chose a Swiss company, Stöcklin Logistik AG with headquarters in Dornach. The concept elaborated by the Swiss manufacturer and system provider focused on optimum utilization of the area available in the vertical and horizontal directions.

“The challenge was to fill the space present with the largest possible number of storage bays, to allow efficient use of the high bay warehouse”

explained Marco Lindermer, Project Manager for Stöcklin. Moreover the material flow for storage and retrieval was to be linked to the shelves at the side, allowing the picking workstations in the existing building to be incorporated simply into the chain of production.

All intralogistic technology from one company

The floor slab was completed the end of November 2013. Only eight months later the new, fully automatic KUK high bay warehouse was officially dedicated for use in July 2014. Since that time, the facilities have been in 3-shift operation five days a week. According to information from the partner it was only possible to realized the building in such a short period of time thanks to the exact planning and coordination. Moreover the comparatively mild winter permitted smooth work without weather-related delays.

This heart of this virtually underground system, subdivided into a ground floor and second floor, is a single aisle, automatic small parts warehouse (AKL) in each section, with 4,500 container storage bays and an automatic pallet storage facility with 830 double-depth storage bays. The load units are stored and retrieved by the connecting container and pallet conveying equipment with integrated picking stations. All conveying paths are laid out so that they are reversible. This means that storage as well as retrieval operations can be accomplished on the same path. Four automatic flat rolling doors, also delivered and installed by Stöcklin, serve as climatic sluices. They are designed as high speed doors with muting function, to prevent interruption to the conveying flow. The company was also responsible for the required fire doors as well as installation of a visitors’ platform to allow interested visitors to view the system personally. 

In addition the Swiss intralogistic provider implemented the PLC control (programmable logic control - SPS) as well as a material flow computer and warehouse management system. The experts at KUK Electronic AG realized the visualization at the user stations as well as connection to the existing ERP system themselves.

“This ensured optimum adaptation to the requirements of the workers and specifications from our management”

explained KUK Project Manager Stefan Dörig. This ensured a seamless transition between the previous storage philosophy and the automatic processes in the new high bay warehouse.

Requirement oriented pallet movement

Incoming pallets are transferred to the conveying path designed as a roller track on the ground floor as well as on the second floor with the aid of hand pallet trucks. These roller tracks are located at a level of +80 mm above the floor. A red warning light is present at both setup stations. When illuminated it signals that a pallet is presently being retrieved from the location in question to prevent collisions with load units to be stored.

As soon as the material flow computer (MFR) sends a start telegram, the high speed door opens and the pallet, with bar code on the center base, runs through the profile check. The identity is logged by a laser scanner installed at the side. If no profile errors are detected, the pallets is transported on in the direction of the pallet storage area. As soon as a pallet is ready at the transfer station, and travel order is automatically generated for the stacker crane (RBG).

The stacker crane (RBG) used is equipped with an 8.50 high mast with telescopic fork from the proven MASTer series, and serves the automatic pallet storage area over a length of 42 m. Circulating Euro 1 pallets (1,250 x 850 mm) with a permissible gross weight of 500 kg serve as loading aids. The 830 pallet storage bays are dimensioned to allow storage of four height classes. Approx. 50 pallets are moved per day at KUK Electronic AG. The stacker cranes (RBG) are dimensioned to match this requirement profile. The units are equipped with three-phase drives for acceleration rates of 0.30 m/s2 and travelling speeds of up to 0.80 m/s, allowing completion of at least ten double cycles per hour.

Proven solution for intelligent container handling

The process for storing containers in the small parts warehouse (AKL) is designed analog. At the setup stations on the ground floor and second storey, the load units, each provided with a laminated bar code label, are transferred to the conveying equipment; after successful profile check they are transported on to the +700 mm conveying level and positioned at the check-in docks. The small parts warehouse (AKL) is served by a BOXer D1 small parts unit. The unit equipped with telescopic fork and stationary belt conveyors, stores and retrieves containers at the 4,500 storage locations. These containers come in four sizes with a maximum weight of 25 kg.

The load handling device is laid out to carry two load units in parallel. At peak times 100 containers can be moved per hour; during regular operation the average requirement is 400 per day. 4,500 ESD (electrostatic discharge) containers consisting of electrically conductive plastic material, circulate in the system. These containers protect sensitive electronic components against electrostatic discharge, thus preventing damage.

The single mast stacker crane moving in a 28.3 m long aisle, accelerates at a rate of 2.0 m/s2, achieving travelling speeds of up to 4.0 m/s. Speed of 2.0 m/s are achieved during hoisting operations. These values correspond exactly to the requirements specified by KUK electronic. In this context Marco Lindermer mentions a particular strength of BOXer series with its modular design: “The basic versions of this model series can be adapted flexible at any time to specific requirements and situations. This means we dimension the system so that our customers always have sufficient reserves for handling their goods. Simultaneously we help reduce energy consumption and avoid unnecessarily high operating costs.” The consistent light weight design is also a contributing factor. Moreover the smooth motion in curves ensures low vibration and simultaneously dynamic operation with high availability. With this the Stöcklin project manager emphasizes aspects, which influenced the decision in favor of the Swiss intralogistics supplier, who is presently continuously setting new standards in terms of energy efficiency with development of the BOXer “Smart Edition” (SE).

Reserves exhausted and new potentials released

The restricted space at the location in Appenzell made it continuously more difficult for KUK Electronic AG to guarantee error-resistant processes. The decentralized storage was connected with considerable expenditure, so that some of the production areas were cumbered with stocks. 

“The expansion project completely eliminated this situation” stated KUK Project Manager Stefan Dörig. “We now have more freedom to breath, in the truest sense of the word.”

Today sufficient storage space is available to allow production to focus optimally on the current and future requirements.

“Optimum use of space within the given building dimensions and improved subdivision of the space has allowed us to significantly increase the efficiency in our production processes”

added Business Manager Hansueli Koster. The changeover to a fully automatic solution in the area of production logistics has resulted increased handling performance and improved picking processes. Simultaneously KUK Electronic AG as profited from optimizations in handling raw material and shipping finished products.