Etra is the leading supplier of industrial equipment in Finland. Its range of products runs to a total of more than 30,000 different articles, including tools, small parts, such as hoses, plastic components, or occupational safety equipment and even chemical materials. The distribution center in Hämeenlinna, Finland supplies goods to 34 mega-centers throughout the country daily. Etra integrated Kardex Remstar dynamic storage and retrieval systems with inventory management software to keep inventory organized, improve order picking and increase picking productivity.
The distribution center in Hämeenlinna is divided into several zones: a pallet storage area for larger goods, a zone with special fire protection for hazardous materials and a section for small parts. The small parts section has 36 Kardex Remstar Shuttle XP 500 Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs), each standing more than ten meters tall and storing stock of around 20,000 different parts. "The small parts sections is the heart of our distribution center," states Pekka Pöntiö, development director at Etra.
Orders must be ready to be picked up by 2:30pm so they are on the shelves of mega-center stores the following day. The picking process begins when the empty boxes arrive on conveyor and are scanned. The name, number and quantity of articles and their location immediately appear on the screens positioned on the side of the VLMs. The employee removes the article and attaches a label to it. Once all the elements are in the order boxes, "FINISHED" appears on the LED display located on the conveyor. The boxes are scanned and the conveyor transports the order to the distribution area where they are dispatched to direct customers and mega-centers.
Four Shuttle XP VLMs are always assigned to one picking station so several orders can be processed simultaneously. Multi-order picking significantly increases the productivity of the entire system. At present, around three employees pick approximately 1,800 order items during one shift - within a couple of hours. If all picking stations are manned, up to 6,500 order items can be processed every day. "We now work around eight-times faster than with a static system," explains Pöntiö. Etra is currently operating its small parts storage section at 75 percent capacity of the storage volume. Even now, the number of articles stored in the VLMs has risen by 20 percent compared to when they first came into operation. "As the Kardex Remstar system is scalable - on account of its modular design - it is able to grow with our business," says Pöntiö.
Etra is continually looking at ways of making operations easier and processes more productive. "It is only possible by looking at the inventory management software," according to Pöntiö. When the system first came into operation, the label for the order items could only be requested when pressing a button. Now the labels come automatically with the order. This cuts out thousands of movements every day, not only saving time, but also making the job even easier for employees.
Currently, Etra is considering how they can reorganize processes in the packing zone, which is subdivided into one area for direct customers and another for the mega-centers as well as finding a solution for displaying the priority of orders. Better inventory management, improved order picking and increased productivity were all achieved after the initial installation but looking to continually improve in the future is always a goal for Etra.
Kardex Remstar, LLC, a company of the Kardex Group is a leading provider of automated storage and retrieval systems for manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, offices and institutions. For information about our dynamic storage solutions, call 800-639-5805 or visit www.kardexremstar.com.
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