Automatic Warehouse for Wood and Building Materials
Inauguration of Warehouse with Trend-Setting Technology
CAB 56, one of France’s largest wholesale cooperatives for the building trade, has put its new, automatic warehouse into operation. As primary contractor, OHRA was responsible for the realisation of the rack facilities, the implementation of the warehouse management system (WMS), and the integration of the stacker cranes.
With its new 4,500 m² warehouse in the municipality of Plescop in Brittany, the cooperative has significantly expanded its storage capacity for long goods, chipboard, laminate, and palleted goods. In addition to a new high rack facility from OHRA, conveyor systems from Hamon, and curve-traversing stacker cranes from Koettgen, the project also includes a warehouse management system from Innolog, networked with CAB 56’s company software, thus integrating all storage, picking, and dispatch procedures on the 20,000 square meter site.
The project team, composed of representatives from CAB 56, Axisbois Consultants, and OHRA divided the entire undertaking into three specific zones and implementation steps: The first zone consists of the automatic storage and retrieval of laminate, chipboard, and MDF. The second area consists of the automatic storage and retrieval of different building materials such as aluminium profiles, windows, door leaves, or parquet floorboards. Finally, zone 3 consists of the integration of all the site’s storage areas, including the connection of the outside warehouse to the WMS via barcode, and radio terminals on all the conveyor equipment.
The construction of the 20 meter high building began in June 2011, and the essential building structure with floor slab, building shell, and roof was completed by the end of 2012. The assembly of the over 900 tons of rack elements began in January 2012 and was completed after four months. The first stacker crane was installed in February 2012 and in April the warehouse was put into service.
In zone 1 a fully automatic stacker crane is responsible for the storage and retrieval of the chipboard packages and palleted laminate floorboards weighing up to 5 tons and with a length of up to 5.1 meters. The curve-traversing stacker crane services all three aisles in this section of the warehouse. The goods are either removed from storage for customer orders or for production orders from the cooperatives-own pre-cut goods. Chain and roller conveyors receive the goods from the stacker crane and transport them to the corresponding work stations.
The eight aisles of zone 2 are serviced by two curve-traversing stacker cranes with a load bearing capacity of 4 tons capable of lifting goods with a length of up to 4.2 meters to a height of 12.5 meters. The stacker cranes can operate fully automatically, for example in order to refill the inventory at night, as well as semi-automatically according to the “man-to-goods” principle. In semi-automatic mode manual batch picking is combined with the advantages of automatic guidance from one storage position to the next. With a top speed of 150 meters per minute, the stacker cranes can complete more than 50 load cycles per hour.
In both areas cantilever racks have been installed as they offer the most flexible storage option for the wide variety of goods supplied by CAB 56. The racks are 14.5 meters high and 75 meters long, with a maximum field load of a total of 19,200 kilograms. The rack construction also supports the upper guide rails for the stacker cranes.
The third and final stage of the project – zone 3 – covered the integration of all new and existing storage areas throughout the entire site into the WMS, including floor storage in the outside area and transfer points. In order to achieve this, all the forklift trucks have been equipped with radio-based data terminals which supply the pickers with their paperless orders, as well as providing warehouse management with improved real-time information on the warehouse performance.
Philippe Mérian, Managing Director of CAB 56
“In terms of size and complexity, this is the first warehouse of its kind in France and in our market sector. Many of the associate cooperatives and timber merchants we are on friendly terms with have already visited our facility in order to gain an impressions of what we have realised together with OHRA. We have succeeded in increasing our storage capacity by almost 50 percent, while simultaneously avoiding the disadvantages of having to build a second warehouse. Admittedly we initially embarked into uncharted territory, however we had faith in the specialist competence of our longstanding partners who have already realised many similar projects in other countries. Our vision was to gain complete control over all distribution processes, to reduce errors and damage to goods during storage and handling, and minimise manual handling processes in order to maintain product quality and reduce illness-related absenteeism. We have achieved this. In the first month following phase 1 we succeeded in doubling productivity in our furniture workshop, where, as sub-contractor, we produce wooden components for our customers. Today, damage to goods is close to zero, sickness rates are significantly lower thanks to the reduced manual handling of heavy goods, and picking errors no longer occur. We have a continuous monitoring of our inventory, inventory errors are negligible. Naturally, we initially underestimated the scale of the process for our company and our employees, however we have undergone an enormous change and made the right decision, especially when one considers the economic climate.”
About CAB 56
The wholesale cooperative CAB 56 is an umbrella organisation covering around 350 trade businesses from the sectors roofing, finishing, carpentry, cabinet making, and wood construction, as well as smaller building companies. The cooperative is not only responsible for purchasing the building materials – and their dispatch to the tradesmen – it also provides services such as cutting to size, metal processing, and wood drying. With 81 employees, the cooperative generated a turnover of 34 million Euros in 2010. Thus in terms of turnover CAB 56 is the second largest member of the French Association of Wholesale Cooperatives for the Building Trade (ORCAB). In 2013 the cooperative celebrated its 15th anniversary.