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Permanent investment protection and productivity gains

Today, innovative modernization is more than just “turning old into new”. It is a sustainable response to business changes.

Photo: Witron

Photo: Witron

Photo: Witron

Photo: Witron

The market requirements are permanently changing, and above all, in an ever faster way - overlapping multiple branches, nationally, internationally. In order to react to customer demands immediately and especially in a cost-efficient manner, logistics experts from retail, industry, and external service providers require extremely flexible logistics structures - in material flow processes, at workstations, within the IT environment, mechanics, through to service and operator concepts. However, what do you do if a logistics center is already 15 to 20 years old and a new construction is no option due to missing property, high construction investment, or prime location of the existing facility?

“The main reason for many modernization requests we receive today is not only the technological change”, explains Ulrich Schlosser, authorized signatory of the general contractor WITRON Logistik + Informatik GmbH in Parkstein, and who is responsible for the design and realization of modernization and expansion projects. The short-term objective of a retrofit is certainly the securing of support and spare parts availability. WITRON realizes some 200 modernization projects of different types and scopes per year.

Primary goal: Maintaining a competitive advantage and location
“In a medium-term perspective, modernization projects are focused on greater objectives”, according to Schlosser. “Namely to generate competitive advantages and thus permanently securing the location”. Modernizations offer permanent investment protection, productivity increase, as well as a flexible adaption to an ever faster changing business and new surrounding conditions. Of course, humans and sustainability play an important role. “Today, the design of state-of-the-art, leading-edge work processes, oftentimes aimed towards Value Added Services, ensuring a high work quality and work quantity, is an integral part of every modernization plan”. 

New distribution channels as the driver of innovative logistics processes
“Almost all industry sectors are already affected or will be affected directly or indirectly by E-Commerce and online trade”, explains Ulrich Schlosser. Individual customer service, small order batch sizes, extremely short delivery times, and rapidly expanding SKU ranges will no longer be possible without high-performance logistics systems that are scalable. Added to this is the progressive digitalization of all processes within and outside the logistics center. “Especially the pace of IT integration is particularly demanding”. Maximum flexibility is required. Warehouse management systems with interfaces to internal and external customer systems guaranteeing transparency within the entire supply chain and providing well-grounded action recommendations for the operator based on Big Data, Smart Logistics 4.0, and Predictive Analytics - will replace existing technologies. “In addition, logistics designs for new projects as well as modernization concepts will have to consider further growth in many different ways - volume, SKUs, processes, etc.”, asserts Schlosser. “A logistics center is no longer a rigid unit that does the same work day by day for 20 years. The logistics center has certainly become some kind of vital organism for the customers that needs to adapt quickly to variable environmental conditions.”

Modernization and extension projects of all kinds and scopes
The WITRON experts specialized in so-called “retrofits” know their business, ranging from the IT and control upgrade, over the exchange of sensor technology and mechanics, extensions and modifications, through to the multiplication of the original system size. 

For example, the logistics center of the Dutch online retailer, Distrelec, in Hertogenbosch (the Netherlands), was recently expanded by 12 additional aisles and 20 additional workstations. Also the automated small parts warehouse of ATP, an online retailer for automotive parts, has received many expansions and 14,400 additional storage locations. The Max Weishaupt GmbH, one of the internationally leading companies for burners, heating, and condensing systems, heat pumps, and building automation, has also responded to their positive business development by integrating an automated tote warehouse into an existing building, designed to handle a pick performance of 10,000 order lines per day. 

Also customers from industry, pharmaceutical, chemical, textile industry, electronics, automotive, mechanical engineering, or external service providers are aligning their logistics processes for future requirements by working together with WITRON. 

Based on this premise, the Austrian sugar manufacturer, AGRANA, has modernized its distribution center in Tulln. During ongoing operation, the company exchanged all stacker cranes in the pallet high bay warehouse, adapted the drive and control technology, and updated the computer hardware, as well as the warehouse management system. 

Another example is the TKL Lebensmittel Logistik GmbH, which operates a logistics center in Vienna. The service specializes in the storage, picking, and transportation of temperature-controlled products. The frozen goods warehouse realized by WITRON in 1996, will be expanded by two automated pallet aisles in the course of 2017, and modernizations will also include a mechanics, conveyor system, controls, computer engineering, and IT areas. The material flow will also be optimized according to future demands.

“Long Life Service”: Holistic concepts
While in the past it was mainly about replacing components, today’s, modernization projects focus on a holistic implementation strategy. These are mostly multi-level concepts that not only include exactly planned, budgeted, and scheduled realization steps, but also suggestions for alternative expansion and modernization stages - not only with regards to the distribution center, but also anticipating to supply chain, market changes, demographic factors, and legal frame conditions.  They also include impacts of the planned measures on service, maintenance, and a sustainable system operation. This is called “Long Life Service” in the WITRON department of Ulrich Schlosser, “because the customer not only buys a WITRON logistics system, but also the promise of professional customer support over the entire life cycle of this system including dynamic business changes. Today, state-of-the-art intra-logistics projects are no longer complete with ramp-up and commissioning. Rather, it has become a rule that we fully support our customers throughout the entire life cycle of the system after start-up.”