By launching a comprehensive IT innovation initiative along the distribution chain, the fischer Group is ushering in a new era for warehouse and logistics processes. Using the SAP Logistics Execution System (SAP LES), a core component of mySAP™ Supply Chain Management, a paperless Pick-by-Light picking solution combined with a mobile real-time data collection solution has been implemented that ensures both speed and stock transparency within warehouse management.
As a business, fischer is viewed as one of the leading "idea factories": thousands of individual inventions and property rights underline the enormous power to innovate wielded by this company, which is based in the small Black Forest district of Waldachtal. The product programme comprises three competence areas and divisions: Fixing Systems, Automotive Systems and Construction Kits. The Group worldwide employs people in 22 foreign companies in 17 countries.
In recent years, the company has been increasingly facing major organisational challenges, thanks to dynamic growth, new markets and a highly diversified product programme.
"We've also seen changes in consumer behaviour," reportsthe Head of Logistics Systems/Projects. "Many customers now place small orders as late as possible and with very short delivery lead times. This led to a drastic increase in the number of shipments, which the legacy systems we'd been using to date were no longer able to handle." Too many interfaces and incompatible media – combined with poor stock transparency and flexibility – was Fischer's verdict.
fischer decided to undertake a complete overhaul of its warehouse logistics. At its Tumlingen/Waldachtal site, the restructuring of warehouse logistics for the company's Fixing Systems division has created a high-performance distribution centre that satisfies every possible requirement in terms of modernity and flexibility. As part of consolidating the existing information systems, fischer introduced the SAP Logistics Execution System (SAP LES) for warehouse management at the Global Distribution Centre in Tumlingen and at other sites. The project took a mere six months from project kick-off to the Phase I go-live date.
External support was provided by the Falkenberg-based logistics and SAP integrators IGZ – a SAP Special Expertise Partner for LES installations. IGZ began with a comprehensive analysis of the current situation and a report on the potential for optimisation. This was followed by the functional specification with target processes, a SAP feasibility study and prototyping with SAP LES (SAP Logistics Execution System), data migration from the legacy systems to SAP R/3, and a comprehensive series of tests and pilot runs.
Since the go-live for Phase I, process flows in operational logistics at fischer have seen a fundamental change for the better. The first unit to go live was the full-pallet reserve warehouse with over 8,500 pallet spaces and around 500 pallet movements per shift. Incoming pallets from the production floor or trading goods are recorded as handling units with handheld wireless terminals featuring integrated scanners.
Data exchange with the master SAP R/3 backend system takes place wirelessly and in real time via SAPConsole. In the reserve high bay storage, the pallets are once again scanned by forklift drivers on removal from the pallet conveyor system. Once the barcode is read in, the putaway order appears on the employee's forklift terminal, with details of the target for the current pallet. Scanning the barcode for the destination storage bin completes the transfer order and the goods are immediately available in SAP Inventory Management. This not only ensures an appropriate level of stock transparency but simultaneously reduces process costs by synchronising the flows of materials and data.
A sophisticated interleaving strategy focusing on travel optimisation guarantees even greater efficiency for goods handling:
Once the putaway has been acknowledged, the terminal assigns the forklift driver to the most urgent picking order. When the removal site is scanned, the system immediately marks this site as available for new putaways. The posting of the affected pallets is carried out by barcode scanning at the destination. For the handling of small delivery quantities, paperless Pick & Pack picking directly into shipping cartons is used within the Pick-to-Light picking system controlled by SAP LES (SAP Logistics Execution System), enhanced with efficient multi-order picking via radio frequency/SAPConsole. Using the SAP Express Cockpit, up to around 1,200 parcels – and the trend is upwards – are weighed and labelled at the Tumlingen GDC before being handed over to selected hauliers and parcel service providers for delivery. The various stopping points on the delivery route can be followed online using the integrated Track & Trace, ensuring customers can be provided with information at any time.
"The paperless management of the flow of goods has increased the productivity of the employees involved, since they have been relieved of many manual duties and have gained extra time to spend on
value-oriented activities," explains fischer.
After the successful restructuring of its warehouse processes, fischer intends to throw open the door to e-business in the future, and use the Internet to integrate customers, suppliers and service providers into business processes.