A manual warehouse is automated without disrupting operations
IKEA Components has turned its manual warehouse in Malacky, Slovakia, into an automated one without stopping operations. It has installed trilateral stacker cranes and pallet conveyors in each of the facility’s 12 aisles, in addition to Easy WMS.
IKEA Components, an IKEA subsidiary dedicated to packaging and delivering accessories and components for furniture, has modernised its supply chain to stay ahead of the competition and meet growing demand.
We are, of course, a company within IKEA’S supply chain, and we’re responsible for developing, sourcing and supplying the different components which are needed for the finalisation of IKEA products.
In Slovakia, the company has automated its logistics facility with Mecalux solutions that streamline the movement of goods and the fulfilment and distribution of orders. VOZ In addition, the business has implemented Mecalux’s Easy WMS warehouse management system to track inventory and material flows in the centre in real time.
It’s crucially important for us to have very strong internal logistic processes and work both with competence development and equipment development in this area.
Before we started the automation project with Mecalux, our dispatch area was completely conventional, really conventional. It meant that all the movements, all the pallet transportation was done by forklifts or by VNAs. So, we delivered the pallets from the production area in front of the racking with forklifts, stored them in by VNAs and later on, removed them. In general, we can say that working with a conventional warehouse required more time, more handling equipment and more coworkers compared to working with automated systems.
We have experience with automation in warehousing, but I have to say that, mostly, we’ve been doing it on a greenfield, so to say. Here, with Mecalux, we’ve done the transformation of the existing set-up, where we had to do it on an existing building with existing racking. So it was actually more, in a way, more critical or more complicated than the previous experience. But yeah, I would say that we’ve done it now, and it’s been a good, successful project for us
Our main requirement for Mecalux before we even started the project, was to prepare and design the whole installation approach in a way that there would be no influence on running warehouse processes during the project. So there was no chance, no possibility of shutting down completely the whole warehouse and losing the whole storage capacity at the same time. The project was split within 4 different phases. Each phase consisted of a 3-stacker-crane installation and the equal extension of the conveyor loop. By going phase by phase, we achieved that we only lost 25% of storage capacity within each phase. So, the impact or influence on the warehouse operation was very minor. We can say there was no influence on what’s going on here during the standard operation.
Ikea Components partnered with Mecalux to implement its new automated storage and retrieval system. Made up of 12 aisles with 14-metre-high racking on each side, this AS/RS houses pallets arriving from production. VOZ Mecalux has installed 12 trilateral stacker cranes and a conveyor system for pallets to connect this storage area with the production lines.
The Mecalux trilateral stacker cranes integrate seamlessly with conventional racking systems, replacing trilateral forklifts.
This stacker crane model can operate 24/7 with full autonomy, greatly streamlining goods management.
Moreover, automation eliminates risks associated with manual material handling.
Automation gives us flexibility and efficiency. Everything starts with the pallet movements. Before, we had to do everything manually. Today, we’re not concerned with pallet movements, because automation does it instead of us. Then we can continue with keeping the stock inside of the silo. Having the goods within an automated system gives us a better overview of the inventory, as working with automation is much more mistake-proof than working with a conventional warehouse. And, in the end, it’s easy to control.
Mecalux’s Easy WMS warehouse management software controls IKEA Components’ inventory in real time. VOZ Items are identified from the minute they leave production until they are shipped. Pallet checkpoints automatically read the labels on the pallets to record them in the Easy WMS database and assign them a location. VOZ Easy WMS determines where to slot each pallet based on the available racking locations, the SKU to be stored and the demand level for each item.
We see a benefit of automated storage systems in our warehouse, especially in the recent pandemic time, where we were missing some people who were on sick leave or they were just out due to sickness. And it was a really significant benefit for us to be able to still fulfil the customer’s needs and ship all the pallets that we had to ship.
WAutomation helps with the fluctuation. If the volumes are going up, we can actually manage more. If the volumes are going down, we only have the cost which we have, so we don’t need to cut the cost. Those are, of course, 2 important factors. We‘ve also seen it now, during COVID, when the fluctuation was really going up and down, that the automatic set-up is supporting us very well.
We faced many challenges. But I’m glad to say that in the end, we managed to solve all of them in a very professional way. And we were always bearing in mind: What’s the project goal and why are we here? The cooperation with Mecalux was very polite, very professional. And in the end, I think that we completed the tasks. Of course, we can say that there were many people involved in the project as well as from our side, from Mecalux’s side, and many other sub-suppliers involved. And I think it was a wonderful journey for all of us. Everybody learned something new and gained some skills and experiences that can definitely be used in the future.
Thanks to the automation and digitalisation provided by Mecalux, IKEA Components has increased its growth rate without halting operations in its logistics centre. By embracing Industry 4.0 technologies, IKEA Components is prepared to confidently tackle any future challenges.