Custom furniture fitting specialist, Blum, has consolidated its Australian distribution into one warehouse with a Swisslog automation solution designed for operational efficiency, reliability and optimum storage utilisation.
Blum is renowned for its high quality fittings and soft close mechanism found in many major furniture brands. The company’s successful business model has achieved strong growth in Australia, so a new warehouse was required to simultaneously satisfy current logistical requirements and facilitate growth into the future.
Blum is already mature and experienced with warehouse automation, having built several successful facilities in Europe. Swisslog worked alongside Blum to actively contribute to the design process of the new site and refine its layout to best achieve Blum’s goals.
The new warehouse, including 32-metre tall clad racking, is situated in Hoxton Park NSW, and was first built in 2010. Since then, additional Vectura stacker cranes and software upgrades have been added progressively, so that Blum could continuously expand to meet growing customer demand.
Vectura Crane technology delivers reliability, storage capacity and potential for expansion
After identifying Blum’s need for a high-density automated warehouse that could easily be expanded in the future, an ideal solution was proposed, incorporating Swisslog’s Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) Vectura crane technology, pallet cranes, ProMove conveyors, pick stations, and intelligent SynQ Warehouse Management System (WMS) software.
Blum managing director, Brett Ambrose, says Swisslog’s Vectura pallet crane technology was the natural fit for Blum, due to it providing the required storage density within a reduced footprint.
“The flexibility of the solution allowed for future expansion as we were able to add an additional two cranes after initial installation, due to business growth. The second phase of this project was planned to go live in 10 months, but Swisslog was able to do this in just three months, with minimal disruption to warehouse operations,” says Ambrose.
“The goal for Blum was to consolidate our existing warehouse distribution while achieving operational gains. We chose Swisslog due to the trust in the brand and team to work as our partner to meet our automation needs,” he says.
Swisslog head of customer service, Australia and New Zealand, Franz Wiebe, says the system was designed from the outset to meet Blum’s growth requirements.
“When we initially installed three Vectura cranes, we achieved over 9,000 pallet locations. As demand continued to grow for Blum’s high-tech intuitive furniture fitting mechanisms, Blum and Swisslog worked together once more to further expand the automated warehouse. The new expansion extended the warehouse to over 15,000 pallet locations.
“Swisslog worked collaboratively with Blum to ensure they had confidence in our solution and that their requirements were met. Ergonomic pick stations were designed to pick from product pallet to order pallet, handle quantity picking, and allow for negative picking to take place. Weighing scales have been integrated to validate the pick accuracy of these stations.”
A “perfected motion” solution
Blum’s furniture fittings and advanced opening and closing mechanisms are all aimed at “perfecting motion”, which is a concept Swisslog took to heart when designing the layout and structure of the warehouse. The warehouse looks after the storage, management, and distribution of Blum’s products on-site in an efficient system that delivers 100% accuracy.
Wiebe says that “most importantly, Blum and its customers benefit from the extended automated facility in a number of ways, including 100% inventory accuracy, full order delivery, and increased capacity. This provides Blum with the ability to exceed customer expectations.”
Intuitive SynQ software optimises material flow
To enable the latest Swisslog technologies to deliver their full potential gains to Blum’s operations, Swisslog’s intelligent SynQ WMS software was deployed to manage the process from start to finish.
The intuitive user interface is simple to follow for all users, enabling increased pick efficiencies and allowing for new employees to be trained quickly.
“SynQ constantly monitors the whole process, to ensure the most efficient methods are being adopted for storage, despatch, order sequencing, pallet movement, material flow and truck loading,” says Wiebe.
SynQ’s AutomationManager function displays outfeed pallet information on a user-friendly interface so that Blum’s warehouse workers can quickly and easily see all the information they need about any product or order.
SynQ’s Single Point of Control (SPOC) provides standard, easy-to-use screens across the platform, so operators and managers have a familiar and consistent way to interact with the system across operations, and across a broad range of devices.
Energy-efficient cranes delivered ahead of schedule
The second phase of Blum’s warehouse expansion plans involved adding two additional Vectura cranes to extend pallet locations from 9,000 to 15,000. It was originally scheduled for 2022, but due to higher than anticipated customer demand, installation commenced five years earlier and was completed over just three months in 2017.
“This brownfield modernisation further increased efficiency, storage capacity and inventory control at the Blum site. This high-quality system provides reliability, requires less maintenance, and has an energy-efficient design to optimise Blum’s energy consumption,” says Wiebe.
Swisslog’s Vectura cranes have a lighter crane weight with a sturdy single mast design that allows them to operate with a 20% lower energy consumption compared with traditional cranes, providing an additional cost saving, and contributing to Blum’s sustainability goals. Additionally, all cranes were factory commissioned before being delivered to Blum, which reduced installation time on-site.
“With decades of experience in pallet crane technology, Swisslog factory commissioned all cranes before shipping them to Blum, to prove their reliability in service. Each crane can accommodate different pallet heights and completes 32 double cycles per hour to optimise warehouse efficiencies.”
Ambrose was impressed with Swisslog’s global credentials and collaborative approach to finding the right solution for Blum.
“Swisslog secured the project against strong competition. Their teamwork stood them apart from other providers, along with their ability to demonstrate strength in depth both locally and internationally. Swisslog has many years of reliable pallet experience, so we trusted their technology. Since installation, productivity has increased, with efficiency and throughput optimised,” he says.