ATP and WITRON realize state-of-the-art E-Commerce logistics centerzentrum
ATP, Auto-Teile-Poellath GmbH, an online retailer for automotive parts, has implemented an innovative and modular E-Commerce solution with the general logistics contractor, WITRON Logistik + Informatik GmbH. The logistics center with a size of 12,200 square meters / 131,300 square feet ships more than 10,000 packages per day. For the first time ever, both companies who call the Upper Palatinate their home, presented the result of the project live in the course of a common logistics day with international experts from eight different nations. Another highlight of the event was the presentation of the former race car driver and Formula 1 commentator, Christian Danner, who drew interesting comparisons between the Formula 1 and E-Commerce.
ATP is considered the fastest growing automotive online shop in Germany. The successful e-retailer currently supplies more than one million customers across Europe. Trend: upwards. The privately owned company provides an assortment of 700,000 different items including automotive spare parts and wear and tear parts, car care products, electronic parts, tuning elements, tools, and accessories. The E-Commerce distribution center located in Pressath stores some 30,000 different products. Top priority in the online trade is to supply its customers with these items in the fastest way possible. ATP’s promise to its customers: The right product at attractive prices, in next to no time. This promise is to be kept day in and day out - a quality demand that requires an optimal logistics infrastructure. “We benefit from the many advantages of the automated, high performance logistics technology from WITRON”, said Dr. Stefan Uebelacker, Director of Sales , Marketing & Customer Support at ATP, when visiting the E-Commerce logistics center in Pressath. “High cost-efficiency despite small-volume picking, error-free picking directly into the dispatch carton, consequently a very low return rate, efficient order consolidation, and shortest throughput times - the WITRON solution offers all that.” Based on the flexibility of the system, it doesn’t matter whether it deals with small, medium, or large order volumes. An efficient order consolidation is ensured, independent from the products contained in a customer order.
Delivery on the next day of the order
One of the major challenges for ATP is the permanently growing SKU range and the handling of a high number of flow items in a logistically optimal manner. “Today, we are able to supply our customers from this extremely broad and inhomogeneous product range in an error-free manner and as fast as possible”, according to Dr. Uebelacker. “A major part of the items is already assigned to an order, the flow items will be supplied directly by the system before dispatch.” All deliveries and packages must be timed for a daily supply. So far, same-day delivery is not a top priority for ATP customers from Germany (85%) and the EU including Switzerland and Norway (15%). Today, it is absolutely sufficient to supply the customers in the course of the next day. “The goal is to provide all customers with next day home delivery if they order by 3:00 PM”.
High scalability of the system
“We decided in favor of WITRON as a project partner because they convinced us with the best overall concept compared to all other providers”, emphasizes Dr. Stefan Uebelacker. “Another benefit is, of course, the regional vicinity. Pressath is only about ten minutes away from Parkstein”.
The approach with focus on high modularity, expandability, and flexibility has proven in practical use: Based on the strong growth of ATP, the automated small parts warehouse (AS/RS) is currently being expanded by two additional aisles (14,400 additional tote locations) and the number of pick locations is being increased from eight to twelve. This expansion is part of construction phase II, which is done during ongoing operation. The AS/RS capacity will therefore be increased from 50,000 to 65,000 storage locations. And the system limits have still not been reached. It is possible to double the current capacity by completely mirroring the AS/RS and the high bay warehouse.
Many WITRON customers from the online trade have devolved from a start-up company to a successful medium-sized company. So did ATP. Revenue increased within eight years from 4.1 million Euros to 85 million Euros. The number of employees grew in the same period from 29 to 400. “We think, a highly dynamic industry as online retail, requires modular solutions with scalable system components to permanently create flexible logistics structures”, says WITRON Project Manager, Josef Gallersdoerfer. “It is not necessary to re-invent the wheel to create a successful E-Commerce solution - we have the corresponding components within our portfolio. The approach is based on an optimal combination of innovative functionalities from different standard components proven in practical use - in IT and control engineering, as well as in mechanics. These functionalities have been exactly tailored to the individual processes of ATP and thus been optimally adapted to the online business.”
For this reason, the logistics center in Pressath uses both WITRON system solutions, “Order Picking System (OPS)” for tote picking in the AS/RS, the heart of the system, and the “Ergonomic Picking System (EPS)” for the picking of large, heavy, and bulky parts onto pallets or grid boxes. The third warehouse area at ATP comprises manual picking processes for all parts that cannot be handled within the automation based on their hazardous substance classification. This area uses a radio frequency solution from WITRON. Depending on the order, products from this area are consolidated together with the automatically picked goods in the dispatch area. “Here too, we tried to focus the holistic concept of the solution”, says Gallersdoerfer. “We only automated the areas that would benefit from the cost-efficiency.”
WITRON system solutions OPS and EPS
The automated picking system OPS includes the integration of an automated small parts warehouse (AS/RS), a distribution loop over conveyor system lines, and upstream picking workstations. The products handled at the stationary and multi-functional OPS picking workstations are provided for picking according to the goods-to-person principle - order-related and in the right sequence. The employees at ATP pick at eight workstations directly into the shipping carton based on the dialog-supported “pick & pack” principle (an expansion to twelve workstations is currently being realized). Eight different carton sizes are available. A system specifies the optimal carton size for every order. The consequence: The elimination of transporting air” saves transportation costs. The delivery documents and the invoice will be added to the carton at these workstations. The pick performance amounts to 100 order lines per workstation per hour.
The ergonomic picking of heavy and bulky items in EPS is done according to the “person-to-goods” principle, via the pick mobile directly into the pallet high bay warehouse, equipped with 12,200 storage locations. The EPS has a modular design and is easily expandable if needed. Pick mobiles are transported to the correct pick location and the pick container is always aligned to the correct storage shelf. The employee is guided by a screen dialog. At the same time, the pick volume is shown in a display on the railing of the vehicle. Therefore, picking errors are practically eliminated. Three EPS picking mobiles and four fully automated replenishment mobiles are currently being used in the seven-aisle pallet warehouse - they are able to process up to 100 order lines per vehicle and hour. All items of the assortment will be provided in each aisle. All module aisles work independently from each other - orders will be completed in one aisle. Order picking into flexible pick containers with up to six levels allows parallel picking of several orders according to the multi-order picking principle. The items picked in the EPS will be packed into shipping cartons at twelve packing stations, that are directly connected to the pallet conveyor system, and then equipped with an automatic carton transportation unit. Employees at these workstations are always given the right carton size for the respective order.
Order Consolidation Buffer for maximum order density
During the currently realized second construction stage, a so-called Order Consolidation Buffer (OCB) with 420 storage locations will be installed directly in front of the dispatch area. In the future, it will buffer the completely picked totes from the OPS prior to the final consolidation to customer- and tour-related orders. This allows an even higher consolidation of orders when it comes to customers and tours. All packages will receive their dispatch label and a maximum load securing at two packaging lines before they are transported to the trailer of the respective shipping provider via conveyor system, sorter, and telescopic loading stations. Expansion possibilities have already been considered for the packaging line and the dispatch area.
E-Commerce production control and state-of-the-art logistics IT
In addition to WITRON's warehouse management solution, which is exactly adapted to the customer business, the so-called E-Commerce production control plays also a central role when it comes to the realization of flexible E-Commerce logistics concepts. These have been defined together with ATP to always optimally align the logistics processes to the requirements of the Multi- or Omni-Channel era. “Thus, ATP is able to react fast and flexible to permanently changing customer requirements and business processes”, explains Josef Gallersdoerfer, Authorized Signatory and Member of the Management Board at WITRON. “The high business dynamics must be functionally implemented by state-of-the-art IT systems”. For a largely independent operation of the logistics system, a control software developed by WITRON prepares a huge amount of information from the warehouse management system, presents it in a transparent manner, and automatically deflects special offers and decision recommendations for ATP.
High-performance IT also in the service environment
A high-performance IT not only provides transparency in the operative business, but it also provides benefits for the system service and system availability. In case of problems, the ATP technicians can directly communicate with the system via smart phone (WiFi) and barcodes applied at the conveyor system lines to identify the elements and revert to all relevant information required to solve the problem.
Direct sales integrated into the overall process
Another highlight of the distribution center is the integration of the direct sales business in Pressath. “With the possibility of direct sales at a “counter” in the logistics center, we react to our customers’ request to be present not only as an online retailer, but also as a specialized retailer directly in the region”, says ATP Sales Director, Dr. Uebelacker. “Moreover, this is a good test for us to proof if or how stationary and online business can basically be connected.” The items to be picked up will be removed via the automated logistics systems and provided to the counter within a short time.
New logistics center creates added values on different levels
“With the implementation of WITRON’s logistics solutions, ATP has a logistics system that entirely fulfills the complex requirements of the E-Commerce business and is absolutely unique in the online business for automotive parts”, according to the Project Managers of both companies. Both, in terms of flexibility and modularity of the processes in a highly dynamic industry sector, but also in terms of cost-efficiency, ergonomics, and ecology. High adherence to delivery dates and delivery quality - with a low returns rate - ensure an outstanding customer satisfaction. ATP offers its employees state-of-the-art workstations. This success of ATP is shown through the development of new market areas, business areas, and permanent growth, and through numerous awards the company received so far: „Bavarias Best 50“ from the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Media, Energy, and Technology, „Best Online Shop in the category automotive parts and accessories“ from the magazine “FOCUS” and “Germany Test”, as well as „Top Shop 2016“ from the magazine “Computerbild”, or the nomination for „Großer Preis des Mittelstandes“ (award for mid-sized companies) - these awards show the impressive development of the enterprise.
Christian Danner: Parallels between E-Commerce and motor sports
The E-Commerce experts as well as numerous employees of the WITRON Group and of ATP followed the presentation of the former Formula 1 professional, Christian Danner, at the end of the event, who provided exciting insight into many facets of motor sports. Accompanied by video sequences with spectacular racing scenes and statements of current Formula 1 stars, he provided exciting and competent background about his own career, the current racing scene on and beside the track, as well as the future of automotive racing sports. There are many parallels between motor sports and online trade: “As it is in the Formula 1, success in online trade also depends on six cornerstones - quality, innovation, efficiency, flexibility, team play, and speed. The fastest car will not succeed if it doesn’t reach the finishing line. Also the fastest package supply will not provide any customer benefit, if the order is incomplete”, according to Danner. Maximum success is only possible with a functioning overall concept.
Author: Thomas Woehrle, specialized journalist, Karlsruhe
ATP, Autoteile-Poellath Handels GmbH, is an owner-run trade company located in Pressath (logistics) and Kirchenthumbach (administration) - in the Upper Palatinate region (Germany), and was founded in 2002. The company’s activity includes the online trade with automotive spare and wear parts. ATP offers more than 700,000 new automotive parts at attractive prices and original parts quality. Today, ATP employs some 400 staff members at both locations in Pressath and Kirchenthumbach. Moreover, several national and international distribution companies are responsible for the customer service and the distribution of goods. The Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs gave ATP the “Bavaria’ Best 50” award for specialstrongly growing companies in 2012 and 2015.