"Milling at its best" is the slogan of Hermle AG who distributes milling machines and machining centres for economic milling and fraising. Hermle continues on expansion course, and so TGW relocated and extended the existing automatic mini-load warehouse as fundamental part of the new logistics centre. And all this was done in no time at all. Hermle's new logistics centre is now operating about 200 metres away.
Hermle, a German company with long tradition headquartered in Gosheim, has been using a TGW tray storage system in its central warehouse since 2006. Constant growth prompted the company to relocate the existing system to a new building and to extend it on this occasion. TGW was entrusted with this project as general contractor - the extensive know-how in retrofit projects and the implementation of the existing warehouse were reasons why Hermle opted for TGW's solution.
The Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG ranks among the world's leading manufacturers of milling machines and machining centres. Due to their top-class quality and high precision, Hermle machine tools are used in a large number of industries, including in particular highly demanding sectors such as medical technology, optical industry, aircraft, automotive and motor sports industries as well as and their suppliers. As globally operating company, Hermle employs about 900 people worldwide, 700 of which are working at the Gosheim site. This site is also the only production location. The company has local service and sales offices abroad from where the international markets are attended to. After an extremely successful year, Hermle could increase the group's sales revenue by 44% to a total of 269 million Euros, the annual net income could even be more than doubled to 41 million Euros. A clear factor of success for the long-standing business. The 13 million Euro investment gives proof of its success and answers to the company's high quality standards.
Central warehouse was relocated
"We pursue two strategies in our warehouse", explains Florian Beck, Project Manager Logistics at Hermle. "We use the person-to-goods as well as goods-to-person principle. Goods in the shelving racks, pallet racks and mobile racking system are retrieved manually, whereas we follow the goods-to-person principle in the automatic tray storage system by TGW." The old warehouse built in 1985 had been extended bit by bit over the years and was no longer able to execute the current processes efficiently. "The infrastructure in the warehouse had really become out of date", says Beck. "Extending the warehouse capacity during retrofit was necessary to be able to cope with our future demands. These steps were indispensable for a successful corporate management."
A new building was erected for the new warehouse about 200 metres away from the old location to which the complete existing warehouse had to be relocated. Besides, the broad range of products including about 20,000 items on stock with a total value of several million Euros had to be moved to the new warehouse, too. The central warehouse includes a spare parts warehouse and an assembly supply warehouse, that is to say a production warehouse. According to this, the goods may take two different courses: they are either shipped as spare parts or used for assembly supply. These two warehouses were relocated to the new building during the retrofit operations.
Retrofit by TGW
"The footprint of the former warehouse is now used for assembly purposes", explains Beck, "since we needed far more space due to the increase in quantities of our machining centres."
For Hermle, the decision for TGW was quite clear. "We have been very content with the operating efficiency and the low downtimes of the existing system. Therefore, it was clear that TGW was our first contact", Florian Beck recalls. "Our mission statement says that the invested capital shall be used as long as it is possible. And as we had been very satisfied with how the system worked, we did not have to think twice how we were going to consult." Planning for the retrofit projects already started two years ago. The economic crisis slightly delayed the ambition enterprise, but as the economic pick-up finally went on, the new logistics centre was actively driven forward. "We were very well prepared then, as we had already done certain preliminary work. We already knew precisely how many storage locations or tray locations we would need and had an exact idea of what the system should look like", Stefan Oswald, supervisor of the central warehouse, points out. Before the project was started, the retrofit and relocation details were agreed with all service providers involved to be able to coordinate the different modernisation activities as exactly as possible and adhere to the tight time schedule.
Relocation at record speed
The tight time schedule for this project was especially challenging. In order to keep interferences with or interruptions of Hermle's warehouse operations to a minimum, the automatic mini-load warehouse including the stacker crane were disassembled and relocated to the new site 200 metres away at record speed. TGW's experts reinstalled the system without problems and Hermle could fill the warehouse again after not more than three weeks.
Employees of Hermle and TGW were working 24/7, based on a meticulous preliminary planning. All new controls components, such as the new control cabinet for the conveyor equipment, were tested and parameterised during an in-house test phase at TGW to save time at the customer site. This test and parametrisation procedure including pre-cabling of the equipment spared the customer unnecessary downtimes in live operation.
Construction of the new building was started mid April 2011. End of September 2011, Hermle's new logistics centre was completed. "The existing warehouse had to be relocated to the new logistics centre and all new racking system, including TGW's equipment, installed - all this had to be done in the month of October 2011. That means we had exactly 30 days to move into the new logistics centre," Beck sums up. A strict project schedule with exact dates and deadlines was created. "We created day-based, sometimes even hour-based schedules with all people involved in the project, and it could only work out well, if all installers complied with their deadlines. And it worked out excellently", the project manager is happy.
The entire tray warehouse was disassembled, relocated, installed and put into operation again. The 1-aisle automatic mini-load warehouse was extended by additional 13 X-position in the steelwork and the pick-up and delivery area of the warehouse was extended by a transfer car. "Actually, there were no major changes compared to the existing installation. What was important was the P&D area which had to be adapted to the structural conditions of the new building", says Beck. "Before, storage and retrieval of the goods were effected at the sides of the existing rack aisle. We changed this so that the goods are now picked up and delivered in front of the rack aisle. Therefore, we had to extend the P&D area slightly and to insert a cross conveyor", explains warehouse supervisor Oswald.
In the meantime, the trays had to be temporarily stored in the pallet warehouse. As the relocation was realised during normal operation, the trays were finally put back into the warehouse at the weekends. "We had normal operation during the day and worked on the new warehouse during the night and at weekends. Production had to continue without problems on the following Mondays to guarantee spare parts supplies at any time", says Florian Beck.
Apart from the machinery, TGW's scope of supply included software and lifetime service support. The existing Stratus stacker crane with Spectra load handling device is still in use without any modification.
"Relocating the stacker crane was a particularly exciting part of the relocation. Unfortunately, we did not have an opening that was big enough to insert the stacker crane into the new warehouse in upright position. So we had to tilt it over and relocate it in horizontal position. And the tilting was not so easy! We used two forklift trucks to transport the crane to the new location and put it up again", says Stefan Oswald, "we were working quasi 24/7." Relocation work was mostly done at night in order not to disturb operation during the day. "Sometimes we rang and woke the TGW installation engineers in the middle of the night. For us, it was very important that somebody from TGW was always on site. Some nights we had to do extra shifts, but somebody from TGW was always there for us." The completion deadline had top priority, as Hermle had already planned to use the footprint of the old warehouse for assembly purposes as from November 2011 to generate new revenues. Florian Beck: "It was a very exciting project."
Apart from the extension of the automatic mini-load warehouse and the optimisation of the P&D area, TGW redesigned the picking workstation. In addition to a small chain conveyor area, a transfer car was installed to transport the trays from the warehouse to the workstations. Some buffer locations, weighing terminals and a return lane into the warehouse make working at the picking stations easier. The total system went live end of October 2011.
Hermle stands for quality - and so does its logistics
Hermle attaches great importance to service and spare parts availability. "We promise your customers that spare parts are immediately available - all around the world. That is to say, if we get a spare parts request, the required parts are immediately picked and delivered to the customer or to our service technicians. For this reason it is of utmost importance to us that the system works", assures Florian Beck. And Stefan Oswald adds: "The high demands we guarantee our customers must also be backed by the technical equipment in the warehouse." Service quality is top priority at Hermle. Maintaining a leading position in customer satisfaction is a standard Hermle is always asserting, also by the help of their in-house logistics.