Hello future, in Frankfurt

Together with the company GRENZEBACH, BLG LOGISTICS yesterday presented the robot-assisted storage and picking system "G-Com" at BLG's Frankfurt logistics center. G-Com is an innovative, dynamic, and scalable order picking system.

BLG LOGISTICS is the first company in Europe to opt for one of the most advanced storage and picking systems currently in existence. "G-Com" from the company GRENZEBACH Automation GmbH is a highly dynamic and scalable order picking system that has revolutionized intralogistics in the Frankfurt logistics center of BLG LOGISTICS. From now on, the employees in the picking area for returned goods no longer have to go to the goods – the goods come to them.

G-Com is based on the basic concept of a mobile picking warehouse – a fully-automated system brings the racks to a pick station. The transport vehicles used for this ("carrys"), which have a low overall height, pass under the mobile shelves, lift them, and transport them via a defined route to the pick station. The route planning is carried out by GRENZEBACH's IT solution "Flottenmanager" (fleet manager). At the pick stations (called "stargates“), pick-by-light and put-to-light technologies lead the employees through the picking process.

"You only buy what you need"

In the logistics center at Hanauer Landstraße, Frankfurt, there are 800 racks and 75 carrys, and the goods are picked to five "Stargates". For BLG LOGISTICS, the scalable storage and picking system works according to the principle "you only buy what you need" and it can be dynamically adjusted to changing market conditions and customer requirements. If the order volume increases, for example, either more transport units can be added to increase the performance or additional racks can be installed to increase the capacity. The number of carrys is based on the number of stock placements and removals per hour and per day. Other factors are the planned number of shifts per day, the size of the warehouse, the average transport weight, and the number of putaway and removal bins.

In BLG's Frankfurt logistics center, the system size was determined based on simulations before putting it into real operation for the first time. G-Com functions as a warehouse for returned goods there and is designed to deal with five figures a day, depending on the season and quantities of stock being placed and removed. Together with the consulting and software company inconso, whose IT system knows where each rack is and which articles it contains, new applications also had to be created for the existing warehouse management system. The functionality of G-Com closes the gaps with automated pallet storage (high-bay warehouse) and automated package storage (automated small parts warehouse) to achieve automated single item storage (G-Com).

Fit for new customer requirements

The automated storage and picking system allows various possible applications in the modular system. Already equipped with the standard components, G-Com offers a flexible system with which very different strategies and concepts can be implemented individually. Using storage principles that are adjusted to the product range and the specimen order, the packing density and hit rate can be optimized, which would be inconceivable in a manual warehouse. This results in a competitive advantage in the form of process costs, throughput times, and investment, which is scalable for the customers using these individually implementable storage principles. G-Com can be installed quickly as needed or integrated into existing systems.

These advantages impressed BLG LOGISTICS also. The logistics specialist is gearing up for new customer requirements in the eCommerce area. As existing logistics solutions are often not directly applicable to new general conditions, leading eCommerce companies focus on innovative concepts. Additionally, in times of multi-user concepts, relatively short contract durations and volatile customer demand, logistics is ever more difficult to calculate. However, modular robot-assisted storage and picking systems such as G-Com allow companies to react to different customer requirements at short notice.

Unburdening the operators

By using G-Com, BLG LOGISTICS is also reacting to the challenges in the skilled labor market. Demographic changes mean that the average age of employees is increasing, with higher physical and mental demands at the same time. G-Com creates stationary ergonomically-designed jobs, supports and unburdens its operators in different ways, and minimizes unproductive activities such as searching or walking long distances. In another area also, the Frankfurt logistics center also shows the courage to embrace the new when it comes to ergonomics. To transport the shipping packages, which can sometimes be large and heavy, the employees have the use of 40 electrical pull assistants from the Dutch company MOVEXX. The machines provide a back-friendly way to handle the picked boxes and are easy to use.

G-Com has been in development by GRENZEBACH since 2013, with marketing starting at the beginning of 2014. The company had previously built up its own expertise in the area of automated guided vehicles (AGV) through acquisition of the company SNOX from Antwerp and other activities. GRENZEBACH supplies other innovative systems for intralogistics – the driverless transport system for goods movements in production "G-Pro", gripper and robot systems, and material-handling cells.

© Tristan Vankann
G-Com is based on the basic concept of a mobile picking warehouse – a fully-automated system brings the racks to a pick station.