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viastore systems replaces WMS at WIKA during ongoing operations

Ability to deliver safeguarded, basis for growth established

06.03.2015

Image 1: The six-aisle automated mini-load system accommodates 48,000 storage locations.

Delivery reliability is a focus issue at WIKA, a global leader in pressure, temperature and fill level measurement technology. When the company decided to replace its old, discontinued warehouse management system with the new WMS from viastore, maintaining the ability to continue to deliver goods to the customer quickly and on time, was a key requirement. viastore renewed the operational heart of the warehouse by installing its viadatWMS that had been configured to meet all the individual requirements of WIKA – during normal ware house operation.

“We are known for our high-quality devices. Our demands in terms of logistics are equally high,” emphasizes Michael Werner, Head of Logistics at WIKA Alexander Wiegand SE & Co. KG. The company is headquartered in Klingenberg, near Frankfurt and currently employs 7,900 staff. Every day, around 200,000 units leave the company’s production facilities all over the world. “We need a highly available logistics system to be able to handle this,” he says. For years, delivery reliability has been a key focus at WIKA. “For our logistics system alone, the delivery reliability target is at over 99 percent,” Werner sums up.

9,500 different items in stock

The core of WIKA’s logistics processes is a distribution and production warehouse, consisting of a six-aisle mini-load auto mated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) with 48,000 storage locations, a two-aisle automated pallet storage system with 1,036 storage locations, and a small manual storage section. Approximately 9,500 different items are stocked throughout – from seals weighing only a few grams to heavy equipment weighing several hundred kilograms. The warehouse is directly linked to production; the same blue containers employed for storing goods in the AS/RS are also used for transporting the required items to the production area via conveyor system lanes. The majority of purchased parts and raw materials are delivered in these plastic totes by external suppliers or other WIKA subsidiaries. The AS/RS is connected to 16 mini-load and 3 pallet-load pick stations, where the finished parts are prepared for shipping and the required items are put together.

Support for existing warehouse management system discontinued

To manage all logistics processes, WIKA previously used a warehouse management system that was closely linked to the ERP system Microsoft Dynamics AX (formerly Axapta). In late 2012, however, the provider announced it would discontinue its support for the system. “So we had to look for an alternative,” says Michael Werner. A journal which listed 120 providers of warehouse management systems proved helpful. However, the number of potential suppliers for a new WMS decreased rapidly, as the WIKA experts presented their list of requirements. “By the time it came to the question of integrating the system into our SQL servers, most suppliers had to admit they were at their wits’ end,” recalls Klaus Grosch, IT Application Development at WIKA.

WIKA contracted viastore SYSTEMS to implement the new WMS as viastore was one of the few suppliers that could work with WIKA’s SQL servers. The international company with headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany is a leading provider of turnkey intralogistics systems and software for industry and trade. The viastore WMS is especially suitable for both conventional and automated warehouses. Furthermore, viastore has many years of experience in the reconstruction, modernization and retrofitting of existing logistics systems – even installations from third-party providers. This made viastore the obvious choice.

Required: a flexible, adjustable system

A major reason for selecting viastore was the high level of flexibility that this WMS offers, explains Uwe Fersch, Technical Manager for Warehouse and Shipping Logistics at WIKA: “Our conditions and flow of goods are subject to constant change. Therefore, we need a flexible system which allows the rapid adjustment of all the processes, from goods receiving to shipping, so that we can achieve our high aims in terms of delivery reliability.” In addition, the software was expected to have as many of the functions as possible integrated that WIKA had in its list of specifications. This also included communication with the existing ERP system. “Hardly any providers were able to set up a solution on our ERP system,” says IT expert Klaus Grosch. Here the viastore WMS offers a distinct advantage due to its software architecture, as Markus Müllerschön, Head of IT Consulting at viastore, explains: “We have localized all operating system and database accesses in our own viastore class library. This enables us to support a range of very different databases and operating systems. We maintain this library on a permanent basis. If the oper ating system or the database are discontinued, we simply replace this library with the latest version and run the system on a new platform. This means we could even operate the WMS on platforms that do not even exist today.”

Adapté aux besoins individuels

viadat offres de nombreuses fonctionnalités standards pour la gestion de différents types d’entrepôts. Cependant, quand il s’agit d’intégrer le système à des processus logistiques existants, il faut l’adapter aux besoins individuels. Chez WIKA, ce fut le cas dès le début du flux de matériaux au niveau de la réception des marchandises, explique Volker Ahrens, qui a effectué les ajustements dans viadat pour viastore : « Comme la boucle de convoyeurs entre les postes de picking, la réception des marchandises et les systèmes de stockage automatisés (transstockeurs) s’est avérée être un goulot d'étranglement dans les périodes de forte utilisation de l'entrepôt, nous avons intégré des paramètres de restriction dans viadat. Ceci permet aux entrées et aux sorties de marchandises de s’adapter à la performance du système ".

Il a également fallu modifier le WMS par rapport à la saisie des stocks après le picking. Normalement, le WMS communique le niveau du stock à l’ERP dès qu’un conteneur est placé sur le circuit de manutention. Chez WIKA, viadat garde cette information jusqu’à ce que le conteneur atteigne son emplacement de stockage. Le niveau de stock est alors communiqué au système hôte. « Ainsi nous pouvons continuer à modifier des commandes pendant le processus » explique Klaus Grosch.

« Si la quantité de marchandise était confirmée au système hôte au préalable, nous ne pourrions pas faire d’autres modifications via le système ERP, par exemple en cas de différences de poids ou d’erreurs de conteneurs. » La raison sous-jacente est que chez WIKA les conteneurs qui sont renvoyés vers le magasin sont vérifiés une fois de plus par des balances quand ils ont été placés sur le système de convoyage au niveau des postes de picking. C’est pourquoi il est possible de vérifier rapidement si le bon nombre d’articles a été prélevé. Dans le cas où il y aurait un message d’erreur, le conteneur concerné est détourné et renvoyé vers le poste de picking. Wolfgang Schindler, responsable IT chez WIKA Allemagne, ajouta un autre argument en faveur de la déclaration différée d'inventaire au système ERP: «Pour les grandes quantités de pièces pour lesquelles nous avons besoin de plusieurs conteneurs, si l’information était donnée au système hôte à partir de là pour chaque conteneur, il y aurait soudain un grand nombre de livraisons partielles, et donc aussi plusieurs bons de livraison ".

D’autres ajustements ont dû être mis en place pour illustrer les processus chez WIKA. Il s’agit notamment d'une fonction d'inventaire, avec laquelle les conteneurs sont transférés à partir de l'entrepôt vers les balances du système de manutention ainsi que l'impression des certificats et des rapports pour les articles emballés au niveau des postes de picking, le stockage des marchandises livrées dans le stock tampon, en fonction de la capacité disponible en assurance qualité ainsi que l'approvisionnement de la production et des postes de picking avec des conteneurs vides.

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