Next level automated warehousing
Optimizing warehouse operations lays the foundation for improvements over the entire supply chain. Automated warehousing increases efficiency, reduces costs, and allows simplified material flow.
Recognizing where delays occur in a typical pulp and paper supply chain is the first step in increasing efficiency. The supply chain can be split into three distinct steps: Firstly, production at the mill where goods are buffered, sorted, and stored at an on-site warehouse for shipping. If the warehouse at the mill cannot handle the volume, a typical solution has been to add distribution warehouses in between, multiplying costs and complexity.
Recognizing where delays occur is the first step in increasing efficiency.
The second step is movement and transportation of products from the mill to customers. This typically involves trucks or rail transportation. Thirdly, products are received and buffered at the end customer’s warehouse or a port warehouse for transport overseas.
We know that transportation of goods can take less than half of the total time of the supply chain process, and that opportunities to reduce this time further are limited. This means that the biggest potential for time savings in the supply chain occurs at turnaround points where goods are loaded, unloaded, and stored. For example, trucks often have to wait many hours prior to loading, especially at warehouses that see dozens or hundreds of trucks a day. Establishing satellite warehouses only pushes the problems further down the chain.
Bottlenecks and the biggest potential for time savings occur at turnaround points.
Slow turnaround is affected through the combination of manual and automated systems. While production is generally fully automated, warehousing operations are often manual in nature. The clamp trucks that are used require space to operate safely, and moving rolls takes time. Inventory control is complicated due to the multiple handling steps needed in manual operations, such as storing, pre-staging, and truck loading. Furthermore, rolls may be damaged over multiple clampings, and bottlenecks are formed both where goods enter and shipments leave the warehouse.
At Pesmel, we see the solution as an extension of automation to the warehouse side. In addition to practical benefits, this is a cost-effective alternative. Automated warehouses offer higher storage density and automatic handling, thereby allowing centralization of warehousing operations and simplification of overall logistics.
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) have been used in paper mills since the 1970s, mainly applying overhead cranes (OHCs) instead of clamp trucks. Although these systems can increase pile heights and storage density, OHCs have limitations. Higher sorting and handling capacities are needed for mixed inventories and improved turnover times.
To remove the limitations associated with OHC-operated warehouses, high-bay rack warehouses turn vertical roll piles to a horizontal position. Using rack storage stacker cranes which can handle mixed products, the handling capacity is multiplied several times over. Damage to rolls or pulp bales is eliminated because no clamping is involved.
Because modern warehouses are automated, they can be fully integrated into the logistic process. Normally, a centralized shipping warehouse is situated directly after the mill’s production lines. Sorting instructions are given automatically and in real-time. Goods enter the warehouse in random order as they are produced and stacked. When required, they are sorted and moved to the relevant loading bays according to truck arrival times. Similar processes can be used in combined intermediate and shipping warehouses.
Automated warehouses can be fully integrated into logistics processes, thereby reducing costs and improving volume.
Warehouse automation is not a perfect solution for big units and volumes only. It can be adapted to suit any size of existing warehouse, which means that capital spending on new construction is reduced while storage volume can be dramatically increased.
Automation and data sharing
One of the biggest plus points of automated warehousing is its contribution to automation and data sharing throughout the supply chain. Instructions, reports, and other data can be shared and utilized for improved management and control. Both the mill production and ASRS operations benefit as inventory control is automated, and handling and storing of different stock keeping units is more efficient. The supply chain becomes more flexible, agile, and transparent through integrated data exchange.
For mill operators, enhancing operational efficiency means improving competitiveness. Today, Pesmel embraces the concept of industry 4.0 through expertise in integrating and connecting data in mill environments, helping customers reduce their costs without compromising on efficiency or safety.
Improved warehouse logistics through automation
Pulp mill case
When Pesmel’s customer required a new warehousing solution for their pulp production facility of 1.3 million metric tons per annum, an automated pulp shipping warehouse was the answer to their logistics challenges. The customer’s previous manual warehouse was ineffective, with a storage density of just 2.5 tons per square meter, requiring six trucks in five shifts to move a maximum of 900 tons per hour. Pesmel’s 14-level automated high-bay warehouse solution resulted in immediate improvements. Firstly, storage density was multiplied fourfold to 10 tons per square meter, with a correspondingly smaller footprint. Also, two automated stacker cranes handle 1,000 tons per hour without needing to maintain clamper trucks.
Immediate cost and time savings
Finally, automated inventory control connected the entire supply chain. Goods are partly shipped by train from this facility, and turnaround times were cut to one third thanks to the automated warehouse, cutting rolling stock investment by half. Truck loading turnaround times were reduced to just 30 minutes. Pesmel’s automated warehousing solutions helped the customer to achieve significant and immediate reductions in costs and time, while improving the overall efficiency of their supply chain.