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BEER PRODUCTION DID NOT STOP FOR A SECOND WHILE THE SOFTWARE WAS BEING REPLACED
We changed the automated warehouse software in the largest Slovene brewery Pivovarna Union. Now the warehouse is managed via the state-of-the-art Atlas WMS.
The company Pivovarna Laško Union is the largest beer producer in Slovenia, as well as bottling a number of other beverages. Since 2016, the company has been a member of the Heineken brewery family. The Ljubljana warehouse of end products at Pivovarna Union is a Westfalia automated warehouse with three high-rack lifts and a depth of up to 16 pallet positions (i.e., high-density multiple deep system). The latter is connected with the production line via a complex system of conveyor belts and trolleys. The output side of the system is composed of a number of dispatch tables where automated trolleys prepare goods for dispatch.
Obsolete software posed a risk to the brewery
The original WMS, MFS and PLC software was obsolete and therefore posed a significant risk to the smooth operation of the factory, having already caused numerous cases of production downtime.
On the basis of our references and experience, Pivovarna Union decided to entrust us with the replacement of their software with our Atlas WMS solution. Simultaneously, we renovated the steering equipment, which was implemented by our partner Asit. One of the goals, which we not only aspired to but were also obliged to achieve, was raising of the security standards to comply with the latest European security provisions.
We linked our Atlas WMS with SAP via the IDoc interface. At the entrance, SAP announces the SSCC codes of the pallets that are coming from the production line. For the purpose of exit logistics, SAP transfers the dispatch orders to Atlas; this is implemented according to an adapted FEFO method. For each pallet with an SSCC code, Atlas WMS manages the stock and the “best before” date. In addition to the standard Euro-pallets, the factory also stores Dusseldorf pallets that are half the size of the former, whereby one carrier pallet can hold two low pallets, each with their own SSCC code.
Analytics ensures smooth processes
The most demanding challenge was to replace the software in such a way that the production process was not allowed to come to a standstill at all, not even for a moment. The new software was first tested on a simulator, and later was also tested live during weekends and holidays. After every test, we switched the system back to the old software.
Smooth processes are also enabled using analytics, which now closely follows every device and records the times when they are working, when they are idle, or when there is an error. This gives the brewery an accurate insight into which parts of the warehouse are under the greatest burden. Errors are recorded on all devices, which enables timely servicing checks, as a maintenance worker is notified immediately of frequently recurring errors in a certain device. In addition, the warehouse now uses Atlas WMS Web visualisation that shows the state of the system on large screens in a graphic manner. The visualisation makes it possible to graphically enlarge an area where, for instance, an error has occurred.
Automation for greater accuracy and speed
Goods dispatch is now executed via fully automatically processed dispatch orders, which has sped up the work of the storer – instead of the numerous clicks that were necessary before (sometimes up to 60 clicks), all that is needed now is a single click.
Upon entering the warehouse, every pallet is scanned and compared to the data in the SAP system. If the data do not match, a notification on the type of non-compliance found is issued immediately, or the pallet in question is rejected. In addition, Pivovarna Union now closely monitors the delay times in the dispatch of goods on exit lines. The delays are recorded on a meter that is visible to every forklift driver – for (self-)control and as additional motivation. We have also ensured that the steering of automated devices, such as lifts, cranes for loading, trolleys, etc., is more optimal and consequently more efficient.
The successful change of software had no effect on thirst
Soon after bringing the new software into use in June 2017, Slovenia was hit by a heat wave, which represents the highest annual production peak of the year for every brewery. This is the time when the factory must work without any interruptions, 24/7. Despite the fact that this was very stressful for the warehouse, there were no delays in the goods dispatched at Pivovarna Union. The thirst of all lovers of Union beer was therefore quenched in time.
CELEIA DIARY NOW WITH A NEW UNRESTRICTED PICKING SOLUTION
We have completed yet another successful project – this time in the Slovene food processing industry. We have implemented Atlas WMS at Celeia Dairy and developed a tailored unrestricted picking solution that is perfect for companies with fast-paced operation.
Since 1962, Celeia has been very active with buying-in, collecting and processing drinking milk, as well as with the production of various fermented products, semi-hard cheeses, butter, whey concentrate, etc. Marketed under the Zelena Dolina (Green Valley) brand, their products can be found on the store shelves of large traders, and the company also supplies them to schools, kindergartens, homes for the elderly, and other organisations. As quality represents a core value to Celeia too, it was easy to find a common language with them and to install Atlas WMS in their warehouses in Arja Vas and Izola so that it now efficiently supports their processes.
Improved Flow Overview with Atlas WMS
Celeia decided to set up an IT system because companies working in the food processing industry need to fulfil increasingly stringent requirements of large traders for the consistent meeting of the required shelf life dates, stock management by batches, and accurate control across the entire production chain. With the help of Atlas WMS, the company has established greater order in their warehouse, the goods dispatch system has become more transparent, 100 percent traceability can now be ensured, and manual copying of entries has been replaced with hand-held terminals, which relieves pressure on employees and reduces the time required to perform otherwise time-consuming work.
Unrestricted Picking for a Fast Dairy Plant
We have also developed an unrestricted picking system that is tailor made for companies with a fast pace of work. This solution is especially appropriate for warehouses with little space and a fast flow of goods, where establishing precise order requires a great deal of effort, and where standard automatic rearrangement is not always possible because the selected stock is not easily accessible, as it is, for instance, stored behind other palettes. Unrestricted picking, however, enables the selection of the most appropriate stock on the spot within the set requirements, such as the shelf life of a product; workers simply choose the most appropriate stock themselves, pick it and make an entry in Atlas WMS.
Smooth Operation without Interruption
When implementing the Atlas WMS system, we also successfully tackled the issue of the modus operandi typical of this industry – short shelf life of products, spatially limited warehouses, and above all the fast pace of work, as their production lines operate practically without interruptions 24/7.
A HI-TECH CHEESE PRODUCTION PLANT IN ISRAEL SUPPORTED WITH OUR KNOW-HOW
Tnuva, the largest food corporation in Israel, has built a new high-technology plant for the production of cheese in Tel Yosef, with fully automated production, warehousing and dispatch.
Epilog contributed to establishing the plant. We implemented a central information system specifically tailored to the company’s needs, which coordinates the work in the logistics part of the plant, taking care of the warehousing, dispatch and internal logistics. A series of conveyor belts, lifts and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) take care of the transport of finished products, i.e., blocks and slices of cheese. The entire process is supported by high-performance information systems and software managing their operation, and our Atlas WMS package is responsible for the coordination and exchange of data.
Atlas WMS Ensures Smooth Running
Atlas WMS is responsible for all of the logistics in the warehouse: it allocates transport orders to AGV units in an optimal way, takes care of the automatic replacement of empty containers to where palettes are located, and manages the transport of palettes and packaging material according to process requirements. In addition, it makes sure that the automated high-rack warehouse of empty containers is used in an optimal way. At workstations around the plant, it enables users to interact with the system, to control and visualise automated devices, and to have an overview of the current and past stock.
Automated Guided Vehicles under Control
During the project, we developed a number of new technological solutions and upgrades. Tnuva is the first project in which we have controlled the operation of AGVs, giving us an opportunity to acquire valuable experience and knowledge about how automated guided vehicles function. We also successfully implemented links to numerous devices, lifts, robots, and transport lines that were new for us.
Additionally, we developed a new method of data exchange with Manufacturing Execution System (MES) where message structure is formally defined using standard definition language (XML) that allows us and our partner to independently test data and structure accuracy.
A new visualisation platform was created for an overview and visualisation of the situation in the warehouse. It works as an independent online application and enables the monitoring of the situation via an online browser. This application has also been adapted for mobile phones.
100 Suppliers from 10 Countries Participated in the Project
According to Tnuva, the new Tel Yosef plant, one of the most advanced in the world, represents a milestone in promoting the Israeli and international food industry. At the opening ceremony, Anat Gross-Shon, Manager of the Milk Business and Marketing Division, said: “The advanced technologies in the new plant will enable us to further diversify products and expand kosher certifications, and will serve as a platform for creating differentiation and product innovation, which will become evident in the coming year.”
The importance of this plant is further demonstrated by the impressive figures presented on the company’s website: they cut approximately a billion slices of yellow cheese a year and produce around seven million chunks of cheese a year. The technical side is no less interesting, as the project saw the participation of 100 suppliers and contractors from 10 different countries, together boasting some 230 years of cumulative engineering experience.
A Complex Project in the Food Industry Completed with Distinction
Despite the fact that, until now, we have not implemented many projects in the food industry, we enthusiastically and successfully tackled new processes and terminology in this line of work, as well as the specific features of kosher food. The project was also rather demanding in terms of the coordination of work, as we not only worked with Tnuva but also with companies such as IHS, Matrix, E&K, and others. Another challenge, which during the project turned into one of the most valuable experiences, was the different cultural environment.
Equipped with expertise on the operation of AGVs, the food industry and the Middle East, we are now ready for new achievements and challenges in the developing activities and in culturally different, yet interesting markets.
SUCCESSFUL DIGITALISATION OF ACEROS LEVINSON IN MEXICO
For the first time, Epilog has flown across the ocean with our solutions: to Aceros Levinson, the largest distributor of special steels, metals and engineering plastics in Mexico. In this company, which has been operating in this area for over 30 years and employs more than 200 workers, we successfully installed the Atlas WMS system in March 2017.
The company was looking for a system that would make it possible to trace their stock in real time. With Atlas WMS, in their warehouses they now have a complete and accurate overview of the current stock of individual pieces of material, as well as their sizes and location. By the beginning of 2018, they will have installed the system in a further eight warehouses around the country.
Better Organised for Easier Sales
The deployment of the Atlas WMS system has yet another positive effect: the company’s warehouses will be much better organised. Until now, sawing residues (offcuts) have posed a major challenge, as sometimes the pieces are too small to be kept in warehouses or too large to be discarded. Atlas WMS enables accurate recording and marking of all of these pieces, making the selling of individual pieces much easier.
Aceros Levinson was particularly interested in service support for material for the oil and gas industry. Taking into account their needs, we developed a special module for value-added services that will enable the entering of additional services on work orders, as well as monitoring stock and the condition of the material.
Mobile Application for Delivery Information in Real Time
In the picking process of the material for dispatch, Aceros Levinson now weigh the material and record its weight. The system forwards this information to the ERP system. In this way, they will avoid overcharging or undercharging their customers due to differences in the weight of the pieces. They were delighted with yet another thing: Epilog developed a mobile application AtlasDroid for smart phones with the Android operating system especially for Aceros Levinson, which makes it possible to obtain information in real time on confirmation of the delivery of the material to the customer.
No More Work Orders on Paper
Before Atlas WMS was introduced in the warehouse, the staff on the sawing machines only used paper work orders. As there was not enough space next to the saws to set up computers, we had to find a different solution: we had to remake the mask for recording in such a way that it could be used on tablets, and we added hand-held scanners for reading bar codes. The sawing personnel finally got rid of paper work orders. The new system provides them with more information required for their work, and the warehouse manager has a much better overview, at any time, of how many work orders have already been completed and how many are still open. The company has undergone successful digitalisation.
A Bright Future with Atlas WMS
Aceros Levinson is thrilled with the new system. “In the four short months of our cooperation with Epilog, we have seen a substantial improvement in our stock controls. We are now not only able to see how many kilograms we have in stock, but also what they mean in terms of number of pieces and dimensions. In the past, our warehouse operators needed to have a good personal understanding of where each product was located in order to find it; with Atlas WMS we have the exact location of each piece of stock, considerably reducing the time needed to find any product.”
David Levinson, Administrative Director, also added that they see a bright future with Atlas WMS, as it has helped them to automate processes, improve lead times, shorten both the production time and the time necessary for the delivery to customers, and improve their inter-warehouses logistics.
Their satisfaction is also the result of successful cooperation in the implementation of solutions, during which, amongst other things, we had to overcome a seven-hour time difference, as well as intercontinental differences. We not only organised workshops for their employees, but also dexc testing and training, and we were constantly in touch via video calls.
Additional Business Analytics
What is the next step? Aceros Levinson has already expressed a desire for additional business analytics, i.e., the transfer of data from the Atlas WMS database to Google Data Studio, where they can be used for additional analyses. And Epilog will continue developing the AtlasDroid mobile application for mobile phones.
ATLAS WMS SUPPORTS SAPA’s GROWTH ASPIRATIONS
Sapa Building Systems is one of the largest suppliers of aluminium building systems in Europe and is part of the Norwegian group Sapa. It has subsidiaries in 20 countries worldwide and is recognized as one of the leading European manufacturers of aluminium building solutions.
A large scope of operations usually brings about many challenges. Sapa Building Systems Ltd in Tewkesbury (UK) were faced with such challenges when they aspired to optimise the operation of their warehouses and processes. If, at the very beginning, there was still a hint of doubt on the part of our client about our system and operations, it disappeared practically immediately. In their own words, “When selecting a supplier, there are always concerns about how we are going to get along and whether we would be able to establish a long-term partnership. Very soon our fears subsided as Epilog’s team proved that they are experts in warehouse operations, that they are proactive towards work, and are able to find solutions to problems in an innovative way. They understand operational requirements and offer the client even more than what was agreed. They were very patient and resourceful throughout the process. And last but not least, they adapted to Sapa’s way of work in no time!”
How? By introducing the Atlas WMS system, we have created substantial additional savings in time and money: now Sapa can ensure the traceability of stock, the movement of forklifts has been optimised, the number of pickings of material has been reduced through consolidation, and all paper-based working methods have been eliminated.
Even though Atlas WMS is, in essence, a warehouse management system, we have expanded its application for Sapa Building Systems Ltd. Thus, we fully supported their rolling line process, including the supply and use of material, as well as the handling of products and offcuts. In addition, our Atlas WMS system manages the supply of material for the kit production necessary for the assembly of end products and the delivery of finished kits back to the warehouse.
The picking of material was organized and adjusted depending on the type of material, warehousing type and location (customer or production). The picking process can also depend on priorities on the level of the order item, the shipping date, the route and other criteria, making the operations more transparent and enabling the more efficient organisation of work.
Forklift drivers now have an overview of the requested movements and their order of priority, as defined by the warehouse manager. The Hubtex multidirectional side loader ensures movement optimisation in horizontal racking and organises forklift movements into efficient combinations, resulting in minimizing forklift side/aisle movement changes and other time-consuming movements.
The vertical carousel with accessories, working according to the ‘goods-to-person’ principle, is integrated into Atlas WMS using a TCP/IP interface and external displays with additional information needed for picking processes. In order to reduce the number of incorrect deliveries, Atlas WMS fully manages the shipping area with containers on locations and controls packages and stillages until they are loaded on the truck. With Atlas WMS Dashboard, a web system for the visualisation of key indicators such as total stock, turnover, performance in picks/hour, etc., the current situation in the warehouse can easily be tracked.
Our British mission was successfully accomplished, which is also reflected in the reaction of the satisfied client, Nigel Eley, Operations Director at Sapa, “Since Atlas WMS is implemented we have seen a benefit in stock accuracy, material flow has improved significantly, as well as stock accuracy at location level. We now have a system in place that will support Sapa in its growth aspirations!”
WE HAVE AUTOMATED THE STATE-OF-THE-ART SANDOZ-LEK LOGISTICS-PACKAGING CENTRE
In September last year, Lek Pharmaceuticals, a member of the Novartis division for the production of Sandoz generics, opened a new packaging and distribution centre in Lendava, Slovenia. This centre supplies pharmaceutical products from Sandoz’s factories around the world to more than 60 European and world markets.
Epilog provided the “brain” for the logistics part, i.e., an automated high-rack warehouse with a capacity of 11,000 palettes. With Atlas MFCS (Material Flow Control System) we entirely automated the processes for warehousing palettes of intermediate goods, the processes for supplying the packaging plant with intermediate goods, the warehousing of end products, and the automatic preparation of dispatches. The automated system is made up of three rack-feeders with two tables made by Swisslog; a comprehensive inter-rack transport; two fast trolleys on the same axis, both featuring two tables for the transport of palettes in and out of a remote packaging plant; and an automated system for sorting dispatches into distribution channels. The customer’s ERP and MES systems – SAP and Werum – were connected with Atlas into a single, entirely automated system that does not need to be manned. Lek previously performed all of the aforementioned processes manually, with forklifts, which was very time consuming. Today, this method of work would no longer enable them to keep up with the enlarged capacities of the renovated packaging centre.
A major challenge for us was the extremely short implementation deadline – only nine months from the signing of the contract to the opening of the centre. Before signing the contract, we successfully passed a particularly strict evaluation by the suppliers of the Novartis department for QA. In the implementation phase, Atlas was modified so as to ensure 100% traceability of user interactions in addition to the existing 100% traceability of material flow. This functionality has now been added to our standard implementation.
We are particularly proud that the entire project was successfully completed in accordance with Novartis’s extremely demanding pharmaceutical standards FDA/ GMP/ Part 11.
BELARUS EXPORTER’S CAREFREE WAREHOUSING
The leading Belarus producer of natural dairy products and juices Savushkin Product tackled the challenge of automation of their palette warehouse and streamlining of the logistics of the more than 200 different products that they export to many Asian and European countries.
As the recipient of the prestigious title of socially responsible brand of the year, Savushkin Product is committed to ensuring the naturalness and high quality of each of their products. Savushkin Product operates in the food processing industry, producing sensitive products with very specific demands. In order for their buyers to enjoy the best dairy products, the company needs to comply with numerous strict conditions for preserving quality, from warehousing methods, to appropriate temperature and monitoring use-by dates.
In May 2015, Epilog helped Savushkin Product to achieve the successful launch of their automated palette warehouse by installing our Atlas WMS – Warehouse Management System software solution. Due to the diversity of the products and their distribution paths, 6,720 palette locations needed seamless logistics, and support had to be provided for all of the required processes and specific features that are characteristic of the food processing industry. In addition to the automation of warehousing processes and automated picking, we also optimised the process of the manual overview of smaller work orders and ensured better product loading and dispatch control.
As the company exports more than 200 products under six own brands to countries ranging from Russia to Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Moldova, it was facing the challenges of simplifying processes and improving the identification of palettes, stock and picking locations. At the same time, it wanted to ensure a user-friendly experience based on the successful integration of Epilog’s Atlas WMS system with the external systems of the client’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) systems of the companies responsible for operating individual devices.
The workers also confirmed that this is an excellent solution. We prepared a graphic interface in Russian for them – even using the Cyrillic alphabet – and adapted it in such a way that the user can use the system primarily by scanning.
ATLAS GLOBAL CONNECTS ALL WAREHOUSES INTO AN INTEGRATED SYSTEM AT RICHARD KÖSTNER AG
Towards the end of January, we successfully put into operation the central warehouse of the German company Richard Köstner AG, one of the largest technical equipment companies in northern Bavaria, established as early as 1934.
With our Atlas WMS software, Richard Köstner AG will supervise and manage their warehouses more easily. In May 2014, we successfully put into operation their automated warehouse in Bamberg, Germany, while at the end of January we connected the first of four of their manual warehouses in different locations into an integrated system with Atlas Global. The latter is a module of the Atlas WMS software that now offers Richard Köstner AG one-stop-shop central management of several warehouses in different locations – with a single application and from a single central server. The system provides the company with a simple management process and enables an insight into stock and order status, as well as other important information – for all of the warehouses together, and for each of them individually. Thus all key information is gathered immediately and at one place, which leads to more efficient and transparent operation. With the aid of the implemented system, the stocktaking of the company’s entire stock, which includes around 30,000 items, was a truly simple exercise.
The client’s wish to have a more transparent and simple purchase process posed a particular challenge. This is why the Atlas system was upgraded with a new process that, in addition to the regular warehousing processes (receipt, warehousing, overview of goods flow, packaging, etc.), also takes care of the stock in the individual shop in Richard Köstner AG, and supports the process of picking during the buying process itself. The buyer simply collects the goods in a basket equipped with a special bar code. The selected articles in the basket are 100% traceable, and at the counter the sales clerk links the data on the selected goods with the ERP system by merely scanning a barcode. The ERP system collects the data on the material and quantity, and creates the final invoice. With the Atlas system, the purchase process is thus even faster, simpler and more transparent.
Having introduced Atlas WMS in the central warehouse of Richard Köstner AG and in the first of several warehouse units in different locations, we will proceed to equip other branches with our software solutions in the coming months.
PRODUCTIVITY INCREASED BY 50% AND ERRORS REDUCED BY 99%
With the introduction of the Atlas WMS system in Extra Lux, a Slovene company that has been working in the field of sales of office materials and equipment for some 25 years, we have recently increased the speed of picking and improved the overview of the goods flow, thus significantly reducing potential errors and improving the traceability of the packaged material intended for dispatch.
The company opted for our solution because the existing paper-based working methods did not enable major improvements and faster picking. In addition, the client wished to ensure high efficiency in the case that they expand the scope of their operations.
The predominant challenges for Epilog’s expert team were thus the speed of picking and better supervision of loading onto trucks or vans. Due to the nature of the products themselves (office equipment, small size), the speed of manual picking was already quite high even prior to the Atlas WMS system implementation. In order not to slow down this process through working with WMS, we applied barcodes to the stock, locations and packages for easier identification, and integrated the support for EAN13. The graphic interface was adapted so that it requires as few clicks as possible (users operate the system mainly by way of scanning) and so that its use is as simple as possible for occasional users as well (e.g., students gaining work experience). We also integrated the guiding of warehouse pickers to follow the optimal route.
By implementing the Atlas WMS system, the client improved the integration of reports on completed work and forecasting, which contributes to better organisation of work as a whole. “The productivity itself has thus increased by at least 50%, while errors have decreased by as much as 99%”, Andraž Gruden, Head of IT in Extra Lux commented on the results.
“Epilog’s expert team has fulfilled all of our wishes down to the minutest details. We cooperated closely from the very beginning of the project to the point when the entire process was fully operational. We are certainly going to work together again in the future”, Blaž Dobnikar, Extra Lux’s project manager summed up his satisfaction with the implemented project.
ATLAS GLOBAL SIMPLIFIES MATERIAL FLOW MANAGEMENT IN THE RENOWED SLOVENE COMPANY MDM
We are very pleased that a new Slovene company has joined the group of our partners, who mainly come from abroad. With a 35–year tradition, the company MDM from Ljubljana is an internationally renowned supplier of stainless–steel and aluminium products and semi–products. By implementing the Atlas WMS system in their warehouses, we replaced several partial solutions with a single, integrated solutions.
Atlas WMS supports both the manual and automated warehouses. By connecting to their Navision ERP system, we introduced Atlas WMS through the Global module in all of their business units, enabling them to control everything simultaneously with a single application. At the Sinja Gorica business unit, we also implemented logistics support to the production facility, in the supply of intermediate goods and the transport of end products and scrap from the production line.
Although seemingly routine, this particular implementation was in fact very interesting for us. For the first time, we connected to the automated warehouse of Kasto, a German partner for the sawing and storing of metal bar stock and sheet metal. The fact that part of the retail sales process takes place directly in the company (the function of the material collector in a warehouse) also represented a unique challenge in the speed and ergonomics of the application. At MDM, they are very pleased with the optimisation of all of their processes, and ever since they have managed their warehouses with a single application they claim that Post–It Notes are history for them.