Perfectly timed logistics processes thanks to standard software

OPTIMA continues on its successful course with SAP EWM for central production and spare parts logistics

OPTIMA has invested around 20 million euros in the construction of a new hybrid central warehouse. Since March 2019, the packaging system specialist has been using the facility in Schwäbisch Hall to manage both the assembly supply across several business units and the global distribution of its range of spare parts. As a development and implementation partner, the SAP EWM general contractor IGZ was responsible not only for the entire plant technology but also for the implementation of SAP EWM (SAP Extended Warehouse Management) with the integrated SAP MFS (Material Flow Control), as well as direct ERP integration; furthermore, IGZ also implemented the entire control technology and plant visualisation.

The third-generation family-run OPTIMA packaging group GmbH from Schwäbisch Hall is regarded as the global technology leader for packaging machines and filling systems. This is once again confirmed by the record result recorded in the 2018/19 annual report. Accordingly, group-wide sales increased by around 15 per cent to over 400 million euros. Behind this achievement are more than 2,000 employees who are committed to innovative system solutions, which are in demand on the global packaging market.

As early as 1983, the company built a semi-automatic high-bay warehouse including manual storage areas at its headquarters, which was subsequently partially modernised. "Since 2011, we’ve been working with OPTIMA on specific plans for realigning OPTIMA's materials management. There were many reasons for this: acute lack of space, the once cutting-edge warehouse technology was getting on in years and the subsidiaries were looking for more space in their own halls in order to expand their successful product business," reports Andreas Kettemann, Head of Logistics.

Complex processes compactly consolidated

Due to this high level of importance, the new OPTIMA central warehouse started productive operation in March 2019 after a construction period of only ten months. Expansion options also make it possible to develop additional assembly areas in Schwäbisch Hall. The central logistics location is used to supply the local assembly sites with the necessary components and, in parallel, the installed system solution is used for the stocking, picking and worldwide distribution of spare parts.

Approx. 6,000 m² of floor space is available for processing. On average, approx. 1,000 items are received in the incoming goods department every day. OPTIMA's central warehouse is divided into manual functional areas (quality inspection, block and long goods storage, etc.) and an automatic small parts warehouse (ASPW), which has a capacity for 27,280 small load carriers with double-deep storage. The standard containers can be subdivided using insert containers (1/8, 1/4, 1/2 crosswise/lengthwise), thus providing space for up to 60,000 items. The performance achieved in the course of multi-order picking amounts to around 3,500 removal units per day, with an average provision time to the workstation of less than 60 seconds. The centrepiece next to the ASPW is an order consolidation buffer (OCB), which can hold up to 700 containers of pre-picked goods from the ASPW. The pre-picked parts are consolidated from the OCB and the manual storage areas and transferred to the supply trollies according to assembly assignment. These are transported to the assembly locations by the plant's own milk run. Empty and order containers are temporarily buffered using the OCB designed as a walking beam. The empty containers are then made available again at the picking station for further order processing.

"Be ready for SAP S/4HANA"

SAP EWM (SAP Extended Warehouse Management) manages the manual warehouse areas in addition to the automated system. SAP MFS (SAP Material Flow System) ensures consistent material flow control. "With SAP's discontinuation of SAP WM, we took the opportunity to switch to SAP EWM at an early stage," explains Andreas Kettemann. "At the same time, we were able to select a future-proof solution together with our IT department and eliminate subsystems and interfaces as much as possible." Also in view of the fact that it is possible to communicate directly from SAP EWM with the automation technology in real time, implementing this highly functional standard software seemed the logical thing to do. At the same time, OPTIMA has set a decisive course for tapping further potential in a follow-up project based on the new ERP generation SAP S/4HANA – for example, in the area of production-related predictive material and resource planning.

Ambitious plans need reliable partners. "IGZ has already successfully implemented a large number of automation solutions as a general contractor in the EWM environment," adds Heiko Funk, Managing Director of OPTIMA materials management GmbH. The packaging specialist was able to satisfy itself of this in detail during reference visits. "In addition, as an SAP EWM general contractor, IGZ has clearly set itself apart from the competition with its project methodology as well as its comprehensive portfolio of best practices for SAP EWM. In particular, the IGZ project methodology is designed to achieve a high level of system maturity before the go-live date. In order to achieve this, "quality gates" are defined for each project phase; milestones against which IGZ can be measured. Among other things, standardised emulation tools are used to virtually test the interaction of mechanics, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and SAP EWM/MFS. And this also works for mass operation, for example to map peak days. "The advantage is that, together with SAP EWM/MFS, the system solution from IGZ achieves a very high level of maturity and testing at an early stage, shortens commissioning times and ensures consistently high availability once start-up is complete," notes Alfred Meyer, Managing Director of IGZ Automation GmbH.

Effort reduced, processes optimised, errors minimised

As initially preformulated as a goal by OPTIMA, the new automatic system still operates in 1-shift operation today, although the plant already has capacity reserves for multi-shift operation. This means that OPTIMA is well equipped for growing sales.
Further optimisation was carried out at the load carrier level in order to reduce the existing variety of container types. The previous 16 different container types have been greatly reduced to two new container designs. The new plastic containers in two heights can be equipped with insert boxes, allowing up to eight different articles to be stored in each.

Highest picking accuracy is achieved with IGZ PICK-BY-MOTION. With this SAP EWM Best Practice, IGZ has developed a gesture-based, paperless picking application that is both cost-effective and highly effective. The storage areas and containers on the source and destination side are monitored by camera, posted in SAP EWM entirely automatically and any errors are immediately indicated acoustically and visually. The automatic recognition of insert bins also increases reliability while shortening processes. The IGZ SCAN-STATION, which is integrated into the material flow with SAP EWM for this purpose, supports the goods receipt and consolidation process by automatically recording the load carriers without gaps and simultaneously checking and booking the arrangement of the insert bins. This fast and automatic recording allows further sources of error to be eliminated. Another IGZ Best Practice is applied in the form of IGZ "SMART CRANE CONTROL, which regulates the power consumption of the storage and retrieval machines and helps to save energy permanently.

Innovative solutions integrated

The functions and processes in SAP EWM serve different logistics requirements. These concern, for example, network-based assembly supply, production orders, spare parts orders for customer service and various material withdrawals. "The objective was to combine all requirements in a standard outgoing goods process tailored to OPTIMA's needs - from order loading into various plant sections to order picking and order merging, to goods distribution and decentralised assembly locations and the service area," says Christian Weiß, IGZ Division Manager for SAP Warehousing. "This provides great benefits in end-to-end application, monitoring and software maintenance." Furthermore, a fast lane was implemented so that prioritised orders with urgently requested parts can be routed directly from the incoming goods department to production or dispatch.
The SAP EWM-supported quality assurance directly on the shopfloor is another special feature. Using the inspection module (Quality Inspection Engine) integrated in SAP EWM, inspection documents can be created and usage decisions made as part of the incoming goods process. The inspection results are then reported back to the ERP system. The move to the new central warehouse operated by OPTIMA materials management GmbH and the go-live were mastered in record time. In addition to the joint project team, the early involvement of the affected warehouse employees also contributed significantly to this success. They had the opportunity to make timely and comprehensive proposals for the design of the workstations and processes. Thanks to the emulation, they were also able to familiarise themselves with the new software in advance of its use in production. "Together with IGZ, we achieved a very good result," confirms Heiko Funk.

Future-proof high-performance logistics with SAP EWM/MFS

During the start-up, further business units were connected, meaning that the warehouses at the decentralised assembly locations are still managed and controlled by SAP EWM/MFS today. With the new logistics centre, OPTIMA sees itself as being well positioned to respond effectively to challenges in the Industry 4.0 environment. Thanks to automation and lean, SAP EWM-supported processes, parts can be made available for picking at short notice. This reduces delivery times for assembly supply and spare parts distribution. Large reserves for further growth have already been factored in. One further effect is that the transport routes between the other plants in and around Schwäbisch Hall have been optimised and the number of journeys through the city has been significantly reduced. With the support of IGZ, key users of SAP EWM were able to build up their own expertise right from the start in order to parameterise the standard software to current requirements. OPTIMA also relies on the comprehensive partnership with IGZ for maintenance and support.

Back to overview