Value-added processes remodeled – A question of correct combination


Swiss general contractor successful with “live cell therapy” for intralogistics at Semadeni Plastics Group

With the reorganization and partial automation of its formerly entirely manual processes, the Semandeni Plastics Group has ushered in a new era in logistics. The solution originates from Stöcklin Logistik AG, which, as general contractor, has also supplied the storage and material handling equipment from one company. In addition, the Swiss systems supplier handled the implementation of a future-proof warehouse management system, which is also contributing to an increase in productivity and efficiency.

The development, design and manufacture as well as the operation of plastic products – these are the stock in trade of Semadeni AG with headquarters in Ostermundigen, on the eastern side of Bern. In addition to having a broad standard product range, a multitude of differing products is developed and manufactured using various production processes in three European locations. Semadeni's products are used in the following sectors: science, laboratories, food and gastronomy, health, industry and logistics as well as construction and building maintenance.

The Swiss company has recently consolidated three business fields under the umbrella brand Semadeni Plastics Group: “Semadeni Plastics Market” stands for over 6,500 standard products, sold via catalog and webshop. “Semadeni Plastics Technology” includes the area of plastics technology focusing on development and production of customer-specific solutions as well as plastic-related services. The third category is “plastics packaging”, where all efforts of the Logo Group specialized in packaging technology are integrated, on which Semadeni has held controlling interest since 2013.

Straightening out established structures

The modernization of storage logistics is an important milestone in the successful history of the company, which came into being in quite a modest way in 1952. It was then that Andrea Semadeni set up a business in Bern called "Vertretungen von Neuheiten aller Art", which literally means "Representation of All Types of Innovations". One of the very first products was an acid pump made of plastic; a sensational innovation at that time, which was in exceptional demand, particularly by pharmacies.

Since that time, the Semadeni Group has continued to perform work on innovations and has enjoyed consistent growth. Today the Group employs some 160 employees and has a turnover of 40 million Swiss francs. In order to keep pace on the logistic level with this development, several million Swiss francs were invested in reconstruction and modernization of storage logistics at the Ostermundigen premises during a period of just over one year. "A typical feature of our former storage facility has been to some extent the historically developed fragmentation of the storage locations, on the one hand on several levels in the main building and on the other hand in two halls on the opposite side of the road that runs inside the plant", reports Edgar Weyermann, Logistics Manager at Semadeni. The work was made even more difficult by the enormous variety of items of approximately 11,000 parts of differing sizes, whilst in addition the access frequencies were considerably varied.

Jointly meeting the challenges

"Our task then consisted of both optimizing the space available and the processes, and at the same time introducing a 'decent' warehouse management system", continues Edgar Weyermann. In terms of what was offered, the approach presented by Stöcklin Logistik AG (from Dornach, Switzerland), which favored a mix of automated and conventional manual processes, was selected. The starting shot for implementation was in January 2013. The new system was already in productive operation by October of the same year. Final Go-Live was in March 2014.

With the installation of the new intra-logistics combined with the integration of a new warehouse management system (LVS), "a new logistic era has begun", emphasizes the Logistics boss. Nevertheless, this was an exceptionally challenging project in which quite a few obstacles had to be surmounted. Because the task had to be carried out in parallel with the day-to-day business activity, which had to continue as seamlessly as possible at the level of quality expected by customers. Thanks to the commitment of the employees, no mentionable complications were encountered in spite of the fact that it was necessary to clear more than 2,000 pallet storage bays. A major contribution here was also the knowhow of the Stöcklin employees responsible for the project as well as their experience in handling similar modernization measures.

The BOXer - once again first choice

The fully automatically driven small parts warehouse (AKL) is the pace-setter and the central key player in Semadeni's new storage logistics. At 14 m high, 20 m wide and 15 m long, the small parts warehouse (AKL) is equipped with some 7,200 container spaces in two aisles. Significant features of the two BOXer D1 stacker cranes from Stöcklin Logistik are their lightweight design, a well-proven positive energy balance and dynamic values when traveling and lifting. The load handling devices are designed for a total weight of 100 kg and can cater for two containers at the same time. Semadeni can store and retrieve more than 210 containers every hour or generate some 420 storage movements every 60 minutes.

The automated installation is connected to the upper floor of the main building via a bridge. It is here that the picking takes place which is carried out using material handling technology with the requisite container which are once again returned to the small parts warehouse (AKL) after being removed. "In terms of picking, we faced the challenge of finding and installing a solution, which is designed for maximum performance and flexibility but at the same time does not completely turn the normal processes of the employees upside down or completely change everything unnecessarily“, says Patrick Eichenlaub, Modernization Specialist/Plant Construction at Stöcklin Logistik AG.

Picker/stacker with special refinements

Since overdimensioning of a new system solutions is rarely practical and generally has a contra-productive effect from an economic point of view, pallet handling is supported primarily by stackers. On the other hand the existing lift in the main building was automated to create a direct connection between the picking area on the upper floor of the main building and the ground floor with its receiving and shipping areas. Moreover conveying routes connecting the pallet storage area with the main building were installed in a newly constructed tunnel, allowing pallets to be transported to the previously defined destination.

Three Stöcklin picker/stackers designed according to ergonomic principles are used in the pallet warehouse, supplemented by various hand stackers and hand pallet trucks. Semadeni also uses these in this area in a blue and yellow livery. There are two picker/stackers of the EDPK type in use. “With a width of only 680 mm and a front length without forks of only 1,060 mm, this is the most maneuverable picker/stacker on the market" emphasizes Valentin Adelfio, Sales Manager of Stöcklin Logistik's Floor Handling Equipment division. The unit is equipped with a climbing ladder for picking work at the second level and is therefore ideal for working in narrow aisles.

The Swiss intra-logistics experts have only just recently launched the third picker, which Semadeni has selected, under the model designation of ESPK-20-H. This has an infinitely variable person lifting device and thereby enables the operator to gain a rapid and at the same time secure access to the second storage level. The machine can be driven at reduced speed in the raised position via an operating control unit connected to the lifting device cab. Additional foot-operated switches are available for lowering, so that the manually ordered/picked goods do not have to be put down again.

Rock solid and consumption-optimized

"Thanks to the built-in level compensation and the automatic speed reduction device when negotiating bends, this unit has a universally praised "road-holding", even at the highest travel speeds of 14 km/h", continues Valentin Adelfio. Operating controls are performed via a central tiller. Short forward and reverse movements can also be carried out at reduced tempo via pressure pushbuttons outside of the stacker.

Depending on the type of application, the units can be equipped with 465 Ah or 620 Ah batteries. The ESPK 20-H is a “consumption optimizer” in any case. The energy released during electronic braking can be reused by means of the energy recovery system. In addition, the AC travel and steering motors are designed to be energy-efficient. And should any unexpected breakdowns occur during demanding applications, the machine can be driven away to a limited extent. The built-in LOS (Limited Operating Strategy) system provides this. One further advantage: Service work can be performed without using any larger technical supporting items.

The future is now

Employees in the pallet picking facilities are guided by state-of-the-art handhelds. In addition to storage and retrieval operations, inventory corrections and information requests can also be performed. The most important new feature for Semadeni is that this now also allows paperless operation in this area. Time-consuming and error-prone processes using manually compiled picking lists are eliminated. The mobile terminals are depicted in the warehouse management system just as are the automated processes.

Change-over to a completely new, computer-aided warehouse management system (LVS) including material flow control with connection to the Navision-based ERP or merchandise management system has proven worthwhile for Semadeni in many respects. The present manual storage can still be used as previously, however considerably more efficiently. Simultaneously the prerequisites were created for integration of the small parts warehouse (AKL) as well as storage and retrieval conveying equipment. Before implementation the new warehouse management system (LVS) was adapted to the actual requirements of the plastic specialists in workshops.

Edgar Weyermann pleased about Semadeni’s successful entry into the new logistics era. The new semi-automated overall system adequately covers the current requirements of the target markets. Moreover it is laid out flexibly and future-proof, so that further growth can be handled easily in the coming years. “We have achieved a great deal in a short time”, confirmed the logistics manager. He is also grateful to the participating employees as well as the Stöcklin team.