Blechwarenfabrik Limburg opts for Industry 4.0 in its new warehouse

Key to the production of 100 million packs a year

Video transcription

We’ve automated goods management, from product entry to order dispatch. In partnership with Mecalux, we’ve built the most modern metal packaging plant in europe.

Cristoph Weber Technical Department Leader

In recent years, German company Blechwarenfabrik Limburg, a leading European producer of metal packaging, has been committed to an Industry 4.0 model.

In digitising its centres, the business has incorporated the latest technology on the market, enabling it to produce more than 100 million packaging units a year.

Our former facility was automated to a certain degree, but nowhere near the level of this plant. Semi-finished parts were supplied to the production lines on demand and manually, and materials were delivered via forklift. The problem was that manufacturing was divided into different levels within the facility. And that made our intralogistics operations all the more complex.

Cristoph Weber Technical Department Leader

This solution, designed by technicians from Mecalux and Blechwarenfabrik, involved three main challenges: to automatically connect the production and logistics processes, provide total traceability of raw materials and finished products, and efficiently manage waste.

Running a project of this scale isn’t exactly easy. Anyone who’s ever done it knows what it involves. You have to take into account a multitude of details. Most importantly, the transfer of all operations from the old centre to the new one should be planned to a t.

Cristoph Weber Technical Department Leader

With a surface area of over 63,000 square metres, the new facility connects the manufacturing and storage processes.
Combining these two operations perfectly syncs and controls all parts of the centre, namely:
-the automated storage and retrieval system for raw materials, measuring 11 metres tall, 100 metres long and with capacity for 2,500 pallets;
-the AGVs that handle and move the goods;
-the production lines;
-and the clad-rack warehouse for finished products, which stands 31 metres tall, 96 metres long and has capacity for 18,000 pallets.

The AS/RS for raw materials stores the different types of sheet metal supplied to the production lines. The two stacker cranes employed in this AS/RS have been adapted with a safety system in the form of a clamp holding the sheet metal from slipping, ensuring efficient goods handling.

The clad-rack warehouse for finished products consists of 4 double-deep aisles operated by stacker cranes.

This automatic solution from Mecalux increases Blechwarenfabrik’s productivity with combined cycles that reduce handling times and eliminate potential problems arising from manual management. The clad-rack warehouse also makes maximum use of the facility’s height capacity.

Proper organisation of all the areas was made possible by integrating a WMS that communicates constantly with all the facility's software, particularly with the company's ERP system and MES. Easy WMS, the warehouse management software from Mecalux, receives the production and logistics requirements. It then orchestrates all movements of raw materials, semi-finished and finished products, and waste.

Mecalux’s Easy WMS acts as the brain of the facility, covering all of Blechwarenfabrik’s needs.

Easy WMS works continuously during the production centre's round-the-clock operations. It provides tight control of the goods, ensuring full traceability from the entry of the raw materials to the dispatch of the finished products.

the entire process — from the acceptance of raw materials in the receiving department to the dispatch of final products by the shipping department, with their shipping order, delivery note and invoice — is carried out thanks to two systems: our ERP and easy WMS. And to organise our intralogistics operations — i.e., to supply our production lines — we use other software programs. These include our MES, PDC and quality management system, all fully integrated. These programs make up our warehouse’s software network and map its processes.

Uwe Wonsack Director of Operations

The minute the raw materials enter the logistics centre, the operators record the goods, and Easy WMS intervenes to identify the products and change the type of pallet carrying them. The software assigns the raw materials an ID code and verifies that they are apt for storage in the AS/RS for pallets.

48 hours before the start of the manufacturing process, the MES sends Easy WMS the production orders and their start date. This way, the Mecalux software knows which SKUs to reserve for manufacturing the new products and automatically removes them from the AS/RS 24 hours before the start of production. Simultaneously, Easy WMS reports the remaining stock.

Once the raw materials leave the AS/RS, the AGVs pick up the pallets and move them to the racking, where they remain until they are requested by production line 1: sheet metal coating. Once this process is finished, Easy WMS gives the sheets a new ID code.

Throughout the metal packaging manufacturing process, Easy WMS assigns a new ID code to each SKU used in a production phase.

After this operation, the AGVs collect the pallets to store them on a rack until they are required for the colour treatment and printing processes.

Sheets that are not needed for manufacturing are returned to the AS/RS for raw materials.

When the printing process calls for coated sheets, the AGVs pick them up and take them to the appropriate production lines.

When the first two processes of coating and printing have been completed, the AGVs move the semi-finished products to the racking. They remain there until required by the sheet metal cutting line. Once cut, they’re ready for the final process. Easy WMS stores the sheets in a racking unit that runs along one of the walls of the facility.

When the cut sheets are requested for the final canmaking process, Easy WMS instructs the heavy-load AGVs to lower the indicated sheets from the upper levels. Then, a light-load AGV picks the pallets from the lower levels and leaves them in locations on the floor next to the production lines.

In this area, work is done following the FIFO method. Each raw material or semi-finished product has a pre-defined location based on the production line it will supply.

Light-load AGVs also transport the top and bottom lids from the AS/RS for finished products to the locations next to the production lines.

Once all processes have been completed and the finished product is obtained, a palletising robot loads them on pallets automatically.

The AGVs then pick up these pallets and move them to the conveyors leading into the automated clad-rack warehouse.

After passing through the stretch wrapper, Easy WMS checks whether any pallets have an immediate release order. If not, they will be stored.

Picking tasks are also carried out in this area. For example, some orders are supplemented with top and bottom lids.

Once Easy WMS has managed product outflows from the clad-rack warehouse, the operators load the pallets onto the lorries.

Different types of waste are generated throughout this industrial process.

The Mecalux software also manages metal scraps. The light-load AGVs collect the containers located at various points in the facility and recycle their contents.

For Blechwarenfabrik, minimising the environmental impact of its production and logistics processes is a strategic priority, underlining the company’s dedication to sustainable industry.

Yes, the software is structured; it’s modular. The developers adapted it perfectly to our requirements, and we were able to directly clarify any difficulties or questions that arose during the implementation process. This made us realise that we were on the same page, that we were working towards a common objective.

Uwe Wonsack Director of Operations

With this new centre, Blechwarenfabrik Limburg has strengthened its commitment to a sustainable and digitised industry.

Mecalux has led this project for the German company, implementing automated solutions and Easy WMS software, a core element capable of harmonising a complex industrial process with efficient, sustainable management and complete traceability.

Mecalux was the only end-to-end provider capable of carrying out our intralogistics project. We worked hand in hand to achieve a mutual goal. This is the only way to implement a successful project.

Cristoph Weber Technical Department Leader

By relocating our centre and making the decision to fully automate it, Blechwarenfabrik Limburg, along with our partner Mecalux, have managed to take not only one step forward but perhaps five or six at once. We’ve built a complex in which we’ve integrated a clad-rack warehouse, brought our logistics operations in-house and designed the movements of the AGV system. Each of these solutions could actually constitute a project in itself, but we made them all happen at once, in a single endeavour. And this, in retrospect, is our most outstanding achievement, the greatest reward we’ve obtained.

Uwe Wonsack Director of Operations