Scherdel ‑ Flexibility as a key goal of automation
Inhouse logistics starts to be a difficult issue from companies of medium size. One such company is SCHERDEL, whose Czech division has embarked on a project to automate and digitalize logistics, specifically by implementing a fully automated warehouse full of self-driving robots. During the work, the entire concept changed several times, because one of the key conditions of the whole solution was flexibility, which is not easy to provide through automation. The experience of building an automated warehouse was submitted by the company's managers in a presentation at the TAL 2023 conference.
Scherdel specialises in the production of technical springs, conventional springs and stamped parts. As Michael Kuhn, Head of Organization at SCHERDEL, states in his presentation, the production logistics there were relatively simple. However, when the company won a large order for the production of 20 different assembled units at the turn of 2016/2017, it was clear that the transition from single-step to multi-step production could not be performed without intervention in the warehouse logic. The customers' demand for technical cleanliness, combined with the lack of manpower in the Czech Republic, led the company to a clear decision - we must automate.
Servus automated warehouse controlled by the Aimtec DCIx digitisation platform
The company turned to an external supplier, the Austrian company Servus, which offers a fully automated warehouse solution with self-driving autonomous robots. After a two-day workshop and an analysis including all the necessary processes, it was clear that the company could not do without a new control system. "There was an offer to use WMS from Servus or a more universal, fully configurable solution from Aimtec, into which all the company's automation processes could be integrated," explains Kuhn.
After discussions with management at headquarters, which were dragged out due to the coronavirus pandemic, the management of SCHERDEL's domestic division finally got the green light to implement a solution based on the Servus automated warehouse and the Aimtec DCIx digitalisation platform. First of all, this required the system implementation and then close cooperation between the two companies going forward.
The specific form of the solution is presented by Kateřina Donate, Head of Logistics of SCHERDEL's domestic division. The production material is moved in KLT containers on seven trolleys controlled and monitored by Servus.
The warehouse currently contains 4,000 storage positions, with a third warehouse tier soon to be launched, bringing capacity to 6,000 positions.
Flexibility comes first
The company's primary goal is logistics flexibility. This is not an easy task, and during the project the company changed the brief in favour of flexibility. "We would like to go down the route of robotization in production supply with small self-driving robots that do not need to build fixed conveyor routes and which provide the necessary flexibility in production supply," Donate mentions in the presentation. Experience with the slowness and limitations of fixed paths and positions led the company to abandon the intention of further building fixed transfer stations and led it to a solution based on faster Fetch Robotics robots.