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Premium logistics for premium vehicles

Image: Porsche

Image: Witron

Image: Witron

Image: Witron

Image: Witron

Image: Witron

Image: Witron

Image: Witron

Image: Witron

Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, the manufacturer of premium sports vehicles located in Zuffenhausen, has centralized its worldwide spare parts logistics at its location in Sachsenheim. The spare parts center in Sachsenheim is currently supplying 3.2 million order lines per year. The logistics general contractor from Parkstein, WITRON Logistik + Informatik, was responsible for the realization and the technical operation of the automated small parts warehouse. 

Porsche, the manufacturer of premium sports vehicles, invested over 100 million Euros in this huge project. Porsche supplies more than 700 of their Porsche centers throughout the world with spare parts from the distribution center in Sachsenheim. The warehouse currently provides some 85,000 different Porsche parts or material numbers - everything from a single screw to a complete hard top. A sophisticated and leading-edge logistics system with streamlined and efficient processes in the central spare parts center ensures the best quality for worldwide parts distribution and thus optimal customer service. "Porsche's vehicles are a premium product. That is why the customer expects optimal quality - at any time and at any place all over the world - also with regards to spare parts", according to Juergen Wels, Managing Director of Porsche Logistik GmbH and Logistics Manager at Porsche AG.

Logistics excellence according to the flow principle
The construction of two halls with a total storage surface of almost 1,216,321 square feet was realized in two construction phases within three years. "Our primary goal in the spare parts center in Sachsenheim is to reach excellence in physical logistics according to the flow principle ", explains Juergen Wels. "For that reason, we would like to establish an optimum cost-benefit-ratio within all processes". And time is a very decisive factor. If a retailer orders a spare part at Porsche today, it will be supplied within 24 hours in Europe, and within 48 hours in other regions of the world. And the assortment doesn't just cover the spare parts for current Porsche models. Based on the increased variety of types in past years, it is a growing challenge by itself. The range of stored parts also covers spare parts for classic vehicles, special products for the trade (e. g. additives), and for a short time, also parts for the prototype production of development.

Warehouse divided into three sections based on logistic requirements
To enable an optimized process, the spare parts warehouse in Sachsenheim is divided into an automated storage and picking system for small parts, and into manual storage and picking areas for medium-sized and large parts.  

The space-saving and compact storage of the broad small parts product range in the automated small parts warehouse (AS/RS) is accomplished with plastic totes available in different sizes and dimensions. The medium-sized parts are stored in grid boxes, and the large parts on pallets. 

"This clustering/division into three organizationally independent units enables us to work with ideal, process-related procedures - through goods-to-man or man-to-goods", according to Wels. "It also allows orders to be placed as late as possible - depending on the respective throughput time". An interim consolidation will no longer be required - saving time and handling efforts, and guaranteeing a direct material flow.

A train concept serves as the internal transport system in the spare parts warehouse, connecting the three sections with the receiving area, the packaging area, and the dispatch area. Based on a defined schedule, this technically simple and robust solution ensures synchronized material flows and therefore an overall permanent material flow in the warehouse - one of the basic principles in Porsche's logistics structure (see interview).  

Porsche uses WITRON's OPS and TMS solutions
The heart of the spare parts center in Sachsenheim is a highly dynamic, automated small parts warehouse (AS/RS) designed and realized by WITRON. With the decision in favor of the logistics expert from Parkstein, both companies further expand their long-lasting partnership. WITRON previously implemented its RF-based TMS (Transport Management System) at Porsche's Ludwigsburg location and several other conventional warehouses in year 2000. It optimizes the material flow from receiving through to dispatch below the warehouse management in SAP LES.  "We rely on long-term partnerships - but the partner must prove himself again and again", says Juergen Wels.  

In summer 2011, Porsche awarded WITRON the prestigious "Porsche Supplier Award" in the category "non-production material". This prize is awarded every year to the best ten suppliers and service providers of the sports vehicle manufacturer. 

WITRON describes the function of the AS/RS as Order Picking System (OPS). The goods-to-man-principle is perfectly suited to handle a very broad range of articles as is usual in the spare parts business. The OPS for Porsche has been designed for maximum flexibility, allowing spare parts to be stored in totes with different heights, in totes with inserts, or on trays that hold several small load carriers. 

The picking workstations are staffed depending on the workload and requirements. So the system is able to flexibly react to fluctuations. As usual in those warehouse systems, the stock per tote is monitored by means of perpetual inventory control. The warehouse is realized as a so-called black box in SAP; only the total stock per material is visible. Depending on the requirements, pick and pack workstations can be dedicated to specific customers or routes, but normally the system itself automatically carries out prioritization on the basis of outbound times that are specified for every store. 

Separation of material flow from workstations
"The warehouse currently stores some 50,000 different toteable articles from Porsche's spare parts assortment in a 12-aisle AS/RS that holds 170,000 tote locations. Picking is carried out at 16 ergonomic workstations into both shipping cartons based on a volume calculation and returnable totes from Porsche", says Josef Gallersdoerfer, Member of the Executive Board at WITRON. "An advantage of the OPS system is the separation of the material flow from the workstations through sequence buffers, enabling a highly dynamic picking of articles and a sequenced provision of the storage totes at the pick locations". One sequence buffer supplies two picking stations at the same time. So-called volume orders - a large order from a customer - is buffered in an one-aisle Order Consolidation Buffer after being picked in the AS/RS before it is supplied to the packing locations shortly before dispatch. The aim is to generate as few packages as possible for one customer order. As volume orders have a longer throughput time, picking can be done throughout the day, allowing a more balanced picking process. 

Once the dispatch packages and labeling have been finished, the packages will be transported to the dispatch area. WITRON’s RF-based TMS will carry out the loading control and manage non-automated order picking areas which contain parts not suitable for tote storage. The WITRON performance scope also includes the development, production and installation of the entire tote conveyor mechanics (cranes, conveyor system, sequence buffers) executed by its subsidiary FAS. "The Porsche project was a huge challenge in terms of the target dates", says Gallersdoerfer. "We had to fight extremely hard for this project in the course of the concept and contractual phase, and we finally gained the upper hand versus our competitors. We are happy with everything thus far, and we will continue to support our customers in efficiently managing any future requirement changes". 

High supply rate and minimum error rates
The minimum throughput time in the fully-automated logistics area is around 60 minutes during a regular business day. Around two thirds of all article positions are managed through the AS/RS in Sachsenheim.  

"All of our strategic goals at the new site were achieved. In terms of our spare parts business, Porsche is a logistics pioneer", says Porsche's Head of Logistics, Juergen Wels, summing up the positive achievements. "We have high flexibility in all processes, and benefit from even faster access times". The system availability in the entire process is leading edge - more than 99 percent. Our specifications with respect to short distances and ergonomic processes at all workstations have been realized.   

Environmental protection played a significant role for the building concept
In addition to a sophisticated logistics concept, Porsche attached great importance to environmental aspects when building the spare parts logistics center. 

A state-of-the-art photovoltaic system installed on the roof area of the first building and covering some 430,556 square feet produces two million kilowatts of power per year. In addition, Porsche has realized a block heating station, and all stacker cranes within the AS/RS are equipped with power re-feed units.  

As one of the first companies to adopt such widespread technologies, Porsche could achieve an environmental certification at its logistics site in Sachsenheim. 

Sustainable further development of the logistics processes
Due to its worldwide success, Porsche has already started to think about concrete measures for future development of the spare parts business. The main focus in the years to come will be the permanent further development of the logistics process flows with regards to sustainability. 

The overall capacity of the spare parts logistics center in Sachsenheim was designed to handle year 2016 volumes. In case Porsche should need further space for logistics systems, the buildings can be expanded on the existing site that covers a total of 2,798,616 square feet. They have created expandable building structures while considering modular expansion of the AS/RS.

Author: Thomas Wöhrle, journalist, Karlsruhe

"The largest single component in our worldwide after-sales network"
Porsche's Head of Logistics, Juergen Wels, about the logistics understanding of Porsche and the meaning of the Sachsenheim site for the worldwide after-sales business of the sports vehicle manufacturer 

Logistik Heute: What were the main reasons to centralize the spare parts logistics in Sachsenheim?
Juergen Wels: In the past, we had distributed our spare parts logistics to nine different sites in the greater Stuttgart area. With the growing spare parts business we had reached the limits in terms of scalability in this structure and additionally had to recognize enormous control efforts and numerous cross traffic between these individual sites. All that brought disadvantages with respect to costs and capacity as well as service losses in our network. Due to this reason, we decided to consolidate our spare parts business under one roof in Sachsenheim.  

Logistik Heute: What role does the spare parts center in Sachsenheim play for after-sales structures at Porsche?
Wels: The business with Porsche spare parts constantly grew in the past years and is meanwhile contributing a large part to our revenue. Due to this reason, we expanded our after-sales structures in the area of parts service throughout the world and opened new warehouses in the United States, China, England, and Italy. With these measures, we also prepared our international sectors for the expected future growth and created both new processes and new infrastructures. The largest single component in this reorganization of our worldwide after-sales network is the logistics center in Sachsenheim. It supplies all Porsche retailers with spare parts, as well as our ten regional warehouses all over the world. The closure of existing storage sites also required a new distribution of our internal and external activities. Operational core services like receiving, storage, picking, and dispatch processes were completely transferred to the Porsche Logistik Group that was specifically established by Porsche. Whereas packaging services were handed over to special enterprises and integrated directly into the optimum process flow of the warehouse.  

Logistik Heute: Is there any primary logistics approach that Porsche adheres to within its different company sectors?
Wels: The technical equipment of our vehicles and the variety of parts are constantly growing - and this is reflected of course in the requirements for our logistics processes. In production logistics, we are successfully using the demand-related and synchronized provision of parts according to the flow principle of a tight production - and this for many years now. This distribution principle can be transferred to after-sales logistics by means of various adjustments as well. We can create synchronized customer-order related material flows and we are able to make our logistics network structures more efficient. For Porsche, this is a new approach in the after-sales parts distribution with regards to maximum process performance, enthusiastic customers, along with high cost-efficiency and motivated employees.  

The Porsche spare parts warehouse Sachsenheim in figures:

Total spare parts warehouse:

  • 2,798,616 square feet floor space
  • 1,215,245 square feet total building size
  • more than 85,000 material numbers
  • approx. 70,000 storage locations in manual areas (medium-sized parts, large parts, special areas)
  • approx. 100 forklifts with radio frequency 


  • 170,000 storage locations 
  • approx. 50,000 material numbers 
  • 12 aisles, 13 m height, 53 m length
  • 16 pick locations, peak performance 1,600 order lines per hour
  • 8 packing locations
  • 1 I-Point, 1 outbound location

Dr. Ing. h.c. Porsche AG, the manufacturer of premium sports vehicles located in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, has its origin in an office for engineering and vehicle design  founded in 1931 by Ferdinand Porsche in Stuttgart. Since 2002, the enterprise has a second plant in Leipzig. 

Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, achieved an operative result of 1.51 billion Euros in the first nine months of the financial year 2011, and exceeded the comparable previous year value of 1,21 billion Euros by 25 percent. In the reporting period, the revenue of Porsche AG grew by 20 percent to a value of 7.93 billion Euros. Sales increased by 26 percent to 85,872 vehicles sold. Deliveries increased by 31 percent: From January including September 2011, Porsche sold 90,972 new vehicles to customers. The number of employees as of September 30th, 2011 amounted to 14,346 staff members, which is nine percent higher than the closing date December 31st, 2010. 

Witron Logistik + Informatik:
WITRON Logistik + Informatik GmbH, founded in 1971, designs and realizes customized logistics solutions and material flow systems that generate sustainable competitive advantages for their clients. WITRON handles the critical elements of its projects, including logistics design, information and control technology, mechanics design and production, as well as functional responsibility, as a general contractor for logistics. Using its experience from the realization of more than 2,000 logistics projects, WITRON lays the foundation for a decisive competitive edge with its designs. Another important factor for client retention and long-term partnerships is WITRON's use of individual service and operator models tailored precisely to the requirements of its clients. In addition, WITRON leverages its experience covering the entire project life cycle in order to improve its solutions and develop new ones based on market needs. 

The WITRON Corporate Group has 1,400 employees worldwide. WITRON’s annual revenue in 2011 amounted to 200 million Euros. Other branches are located in Rimpar (Germany), Arlington Heights/Illinois (USA), Toronto (Canada), Venray (the Netherlands), Stoke-on-Trent (UK), Madrid (Spain) and Strasbourg (France).