Versteijnen: 'Deployment Autostore compensates for a shortage of hands'.

Logistics service provider Versteijnen Logistics will implement an Autostore system in its distribution campus this year. According to Managing Director Jorn Versteijnen, the system has come at a good time because of the growing amount of work and time pressure under which it has to be carried out.

With the compact, automated storage and order picking system, Versteijnen wants to achieve a new efficiency gain in its crossborder (e)-fulfilment activities. On the 12-hectare European distribution campus in logistics hotspot number 2 Tilburg, the logistics service provider takes care of the logistics activities for various customers, including workwear manufacturer Tricorp. "A fast-growing customer, for whom we are doing more and more. Without the cut-off times changing," explains Jorn Versteijnen.

In Autostore, 6,000 sku's will be installed.

According to the Managing Director of the family business, the large number of logistics service providers in the region makes it more difficult to find the extra hands needed to carry out the growing amount of work on time. "That's why we've been looking for a solution to make this part of our business faster and more efficient. This solution was provided by Swisslog, as was already known at the beginning of June. At Versteijnen, the system integrator is installing an Autostore system for the storage and picking of - initially - 6,000 SCUs.

No pick-to-light or shuttle

According to Versteijnen, serious alternatives were hardly available. "We consciously wanted a goods-to-person system and, for example, no pick-to-light solution or a shuttle system." The storage system from Hatteland, Norway, meets the requirements of the service provider and the product range. Tricorp is the first customer for whom stocks are stored and collected with Autostore.

Versteijnen: 'full omni-channel environment'.

But the logistics service provider has more customers on the Tilburg campus with a large assortment and relatively little stock, for example in the spare parts sector. "This is also a perfect system for those customers. I am convinced that more customers will soon follow", expects Versteijnen, who adds that because of its compact shape, the system can easily be installed in the existing pallet warehouse. "This will enable us to handle both pallet and parcel deliveries for the whole of Europe from a single stock location. With this warehouse, we will soon be 100 percent compliant with omni-channel; we have all the flavours mezzanines, normal racking and Autostore. If a customer comes with multiple distribution channels, we have sufficient solutions for that."

Variable use of workstations

Initially, the goods-to-man order picking and storage system, which will be put into operation in January 2019, has 20,000 totes, 18 robots and 8 workstations. In the base 6 stations are used for outbound and 2 for inbound. "But the system is modular, which means that - if necessary - we also use all stations for outbound," says Versteijnen.

Ensuring safety during construction

The construction of the Autostore installation in the pallet warehouse has already started. A job that Versteijnen - despite the fact that it concerns an existing environment - looks forward to with confidence. "It requires a renovation that is based on a number of requirements. A sprinkler, for example, needs to be properly checked now that the Autostore is built, as does the floor and the electricity supply. We all have to have them modified. In addition, we must guarantee safety during construction. We have already rebuilt so many times here that we now experience this as a standard job. That doesn't scare us anymore."

Automation of the packaging process

The biggest challenge will be IT. Versteijnen: "And this is mainly about bundling the various flows in the warehouse with the help of the WMS and our own techniques. This requires an interface that is fast enough to keep track of everything. This is where the greatest complexity lies. The same will soon apply to the optimisation and fine-tuning of this system." After the installation of the Autostore, Versteijnen plans to automate the packaging process later on. "Think of investments in automatic roller conveyors and the automation of packing lists and stickers. We will address this later next year. The main thing now is to get the Autostore up and running at the beginning of January."