viastore systems replaces WMS at WIKA during ongoing operations
Ability to deliver safeguarded, basis for growth established
Delivery reliability is a focus issue at WIKA, a global leader in pressure, temperature and fill level measurement technology. When the company decided to replace its old, discontinued warehouse management system with the new WMS from viastore, maintaining the ability to continue to deliver goods to the customer quickly and on time, was a key requirement. viastore renewed the operational heart of the warehouse by installing its viadatWMS that had been configured to meet all the individual requirements of WIKA – during normal ware house operation.
“We are known for our high-quality devices. Our demands in terms of logistics are equally high,” emphasizes Michael Werner, Head of Logistics at WIKA Alexander Wiegand SE & Co. KG. The company is headquartered in Klingenberg, near Frankfurt and currently employs 7,900 staff. Every day, around 200,000 units leave the company’s production facilities all over the world. “We need a highly available logistics system to be able to handle this,” he says. For years, delivery reliability has been a key focus at WIKA. “For our logistics system alone, the delivery reliability target is at over 99 percent,” Werner sums up.
9,500 different items in stock
The core of WIKA’s logistics processes is a distribution and production warehouse, consisting of a six-aisle mini-load automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) with 48,000 storage locations, a two-aisle automated pallet storage system with 1,036 storage locations, and a small manual storage section. Approximately 9,500 different items are stocked throughout – from seals weighing only a few grams to heavy equipment weighing several hundred kilograms. The warehouse is directly linked to production; the same blue containers employed for storing goods in the AS/RS are also used for transporting the required items to the production area via conveyor system lanes. The majority of purchased parts and raw materials are delivered in these plastic totes by external suppliers or other WIKA subsidiaries. The AS/RS is connected to 16 mini-load and 3 pallet-load pick stations, where the finished parts are prepared for shipping and the required items are put together.
Support for existing warehouse management system discontinued
To manage all logistics processes, WIKA previously used a warehouse management system that was closely linked to the ERP system Microsoft Dynamics AX (formerly Axapta). In late 2012, however, the provider announced it would discontinue its support for the system. “So we had to look for an alternative,” says Michael Werner. A journal which listed 120 providers of warehouse management systems proved helpful. However, the number of potential suppliers for a new WMS decreased rapidly, as the WIKA experts presented their list of requirements. “By the time it came to the question of integrating the system into our SQL servers, most suppliers had to admit they were at their wits’ end,” recalls Klaus Grosch, IT Application Development at WIKA.
WIKA contracted viastore SYSTEMS to implement the new WMS as viastore was one of the few suppliers that could work with WIKA’s SQL servers. The international company with headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany is a leading provider of turnkey intralogistics systems and software for industry and trade. The viastore WMS is especially suitable for both conventional and automated warehouses. Furthermore, viastore has many years of experience in the reconstruction, modernization and retrofitting of existing logistics systems – even installations from third-party providers. This made viastore the obvious choice.
Required: a flexible, adjustable system
A major reason for selecting viastore was the high level of flexibility that this WMS offers, explains Uwe Fersch, Technical Manager for Warehouse and Shipping Logistics at WIKA: “Our conditions and flow of goods are subject to constant change. Therefore, we need a flexible system which allows the rapid adjustment of all the processes, from goods receiving to shipping, so that we can achieve our high aims in terms of delivery reliability.” In addition, the software was expected to have as many of the functions as possible integrated that WIKA had in its list of specifications. This also included communication with the existing ERP system. “Hardly any providers were able to set up a solution on our ERP system,” says IT expert Klaus Grosch. Here the viastore WMS offers a distinct advantage due to its software architecture, as Markus Müllerschön, Head of IT Consulting at viastore, explains: “We have localized all operating system and database accesses in our own viastore class library. This enables us to support a range of very different databases and operating systems. We maintain this library on a permanent basis. If the operating system or the database are discontinued, we simply replace this library with the latest version and run the system on a new platform. This means we could even operate the WMS on platforms that do not even exist today.”
Tailored to individual requirements
The viastore WMS offers an extensive range of standard functions for managing different types of warehouses. However, when it comes to integrating the system into existing logistics processes, then individual configurations are inevitable. At WIKA this was the case right at the start of the material flow, in goods receiving, says Volker Ahrens, who implemented the configurations in the WMS for viastore: “As the conveyor loop between pick stations, goods receiving and the automated storage/ retrieval systems (AS/RS) turned out to be a bottleneck in times of high warehouse utilization, we integrated limiting parameters in the WMS that enables the number of outbound processes and also the number of inbound processes in goods receiving to be adapted to the system performance.”
Additional configurations to the WMS were also required regarding the posting of products after picking. Usually the WMS reports the inventory level to the parent ERP system, as soon as the respective container is placed on the conveyor system. At WIKA, how ever, the WMS holds back this information. It is only when the container actually reaches the storage location on the rack that the inventory level is confirmed to the host system. “In this way we can still change orders during processing,” explains Klaus Grosch. “If the goods were confirmed in the host system beforehand, however, we would not be able to make any more changes via the ERP system, for example in the event of differences in weight or wrong containers.” The underlying reason is that at WIKA the containers running back to the system are checked once again on scales when they have been placed on the conveyor system at the pick stations. As a result, it can quickly be verified if the correct number of items was retrieved. In the event of an error message, the respective container is diverted and transported back to the pick station. Wolfgang Schindler, Head of IT at WIKA Germany, adds another reason for the deferred inventory reporting to the ERP system: “With large piece quantities for which we require several containers, if feedback was given from there to the host system for every container, we would all of a sudden have a large number of partial deliveries, and thus also several delivery notes.”
Further adjustments to the WMS were required to illustrate the processes at WIKA. These include an inventory function, where containers are transferred from the warehouse to the conveyor system scales, the printing of certificates and reports for the packed items at the pick stations, and the buffering of delivered goods in the warehouse depending on the available capacity in Quality Assurance as well as the supply of production and pick stations with empty containers.