A pointer control machines

Krones in Neutraubling - Pick-by-Motion
Order fulfilled, thumbs up: How people in the Krones spare parts centre communicate with the machine. Photo: Jaumann

The Krones spare parts centre sends out 4500 products a day. The logistics specialists have clever solutions ready.

Prize question for journalists: “Who ensures that you can take yoghurt from the fridge in the morning”, asks Christian Loipeldinger. This could be one of many things, but as a logistics specialist with body and soul, Loipeldinger of course primarily means his profession. At Krones in Neutraubling, the head logistician of the Lifecycle Service Centre (LSC), which has been operating for two years, is not responsible for yoghurt, however. He is responsible for ensuring that in-house technicians as well as customers around the world are supplied with replacement parts - within 24 hours if possible.

Loipeldinger, who has an extended title of Head of Intralogistics and Production and Logistics Strategy, Central Production and Logistics, makes clear why time is money using the example of a “bread and butter system” of the machine construction group. 36 000 to 48 000 bottles are filled by a standard

plant, which the market leader sells globally. The machine runs 365 days a year in three shifts. “If it fails to operate for just one hour, the bottler’s daily profits could be lost”, says Loipeldinger, who started in the company 24 years earlier as a Technical Drawer, but found his true calling in Logistics.

Robots with a “chaotic” system

The LCS logistics centre now comes into play, bundling the incoming goods, arrangement, packaging and dispatch of the spare parts.

Krones in Neutraubling - Roboter

The core is the almost 20-metre high fully automated small parts warehouse, in which robots move up and down, collect and drop small parts across 38 000 spaces in a “chaotic system” only familiar to them.

It is chaotic because the robots darting up and down the three alleys do not order the small parts by context, but rather according to size and how often the part is required.

“We ourselves do not know where something is”, adds Loipeldinger.

[Translate to English:] Krones in Neutraubling - Lager

In addition to the small parts storage, there are 2500 pallet cage spaces and storage for abnormal items. From the wafer thin washer to the ball bearing supportedrings with a diameter of six metres, the size of the parts which are constantly available in the LCS logistics centre are sufficient and are made available at lightning speed.

3000 parts for one service

What the robots tow in crates and transport to their human colleagues using conveyor belts are arranged by them according to the order. This could be a individual part, an assembly, or any number of assemblies if a customer wants to refurbish a bottling plant. 2000 to 3000 parts are required for such a service per plant per customer. In this case, SAP software tells the employees what they should remove from the material containers where and what quantity, and where they should set which parts in the material weighing containers. If an employee repacks 60 to 70 positions in one hour over the course of seven hours, even the most focused worker will make a mistake some time.

So that later a technician in Kenya is not missing a much needed hexagonal screw, cameras control and supervise the picking process. But not in the sense of “Big Brother is watching you”. The powerful works council would certainly have used its veto. The cameras in the workplaces do not take any photos, they only record shadows. The software of the relatively simple cameras also includes the spatial depth in which the employee moves when loading the material weights. One must imagine this as a kind of three-dimensional barcode, explains Loipeldinger.

A completed order must not be given a receipt by employees at the push of a button. An extended thumb, which the camera records as a silhouette is the signal for the system to proceed to the next order - or with an energetic beep to show that a human colleague must have made a mistake somewhere.

Krones Neutraubling - Pick-by-motion

The system is called “Pick by motion”, and has been used at Krones since the start of the year. “The error rate in the LCS centre is under 0.2 per cent”, says Loipeldinger with pride. And the Krones system is cheap to boot. The cameras come from the entertainment industry. The electronic alternative would cost many times the price per workplace, says the logistician.

And in order that the employees do not overwork - which can also be reflected in costs - each employee can set up his workplace individually using lifting platforms. Loipeldinger speaks of flagship workplaces in terms of ergonomics in this context.

The finished goods go direct to a high-security wing. Only particular employees may enter who package and seal the goods in accordance with the requirements of international air freight. Only then may the goods be put directly into the aircraft without further checks at the airport.

On average, 4500 parts in 1000 packets leave the high security zone daily. And if it is very urgent, Krones even sends an “on board courier” with a spare part.

Source: Central Bavarian, Michael Jaumann, MZ

(Falkenberg, 12.2015)

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