Huisman has been using SattStore since 2008 to manage the parts used in the production of huge plants for the offshore industry. And over the last four years, the warehouse management system (WMS) from Consafe Logistics has certainly delivered its money’s worth. SattStore allows Huisman to grow by 40 per cent annually, whilst stock levels are decreasing. Logistics Manager Gert Geeve: "Because parts are now available on time, even production planning has improved."
The plants that Huisman is building at Wiltonhaven in Schiedam are exceeding all expectations: cranes that are dozens of metres high, with which ships can lift loads of up to 5,000 metric tonnes into place, huge drilling plants which the offshore industry uses to drill for oil or gas, and pipelay systems with giant reels on which metre-thick steel pipes are rolled as if they were so much thread being wound on a spool. “Each plant has an average of 40,000 unique parts”, says Gert Geeve when describing the challenge he faces as Logistics Manager at Huisman. Until 2007, all the parts were stored in a warehouse that Geeve describes with the term ‘old school logistics’. In a leaky old building with crumbling walls, everyone just ran in and out to get what they needed, so that any form of stock control was impossible. In addition, the building was too small. “The storage capacity of 1,250 pallet locations was highly inadequate. We just couldn’t move the stuff fast enough”, relates Geeve, who has been working for Huisman since 2007.
Selection within a week
Huisman decided to build a new warehouse that was to meet at least one condition: it had to be an automated warehouse. "Management liked the sound of that", says Geeve, who then quickly went about finding a warehouse designer and a WMS provider. The Logistics Manager had very little time to do this. The lack of space meant there was a pressing need for a new building and the drawings for the new premises were already ready.
Huisman found a partner for warehouse equipment in Lalesse Europe and a concept for the new warehouse had been designed within a week. The concept includes a pallet crane fork to serve 2,755 locations spread across three aisles. Opposite the automated pallet warehouse is a mini-load system with 1,120 storage locations. Parts that do not fit in the automated pallet warehouse or the mini-load system are stored in conventional pallet racking or on the ground using an overhead crane.
The selection of the warehouse management system (WMS) also took place in record time. In less than a week after initial contact, Huisman had been sufficiently impressed by the qualities of SattStore, the WMS from Consafe Logistics. "We were looking for a WMS that could control both the pallet and the mini-load crane, that could be duplicated in our facilities in China and the Czech Republic and that could bring stock reliability up to an acceptable level. Consafe Logistics fulfilled these conditions and was fortunately able to put things practice quickly."
The new WMS was launched on March 1, 2008, at the same time that the new warehouse was completed. This had been preceded by a lot of hard work. Every item had to be counted and given a barcode. Simultaneously, Huisman created a general ledger in which to record which parts were in stock for each project. "It showed that our stock reliability lay at forty per cent. However, thanks to all the preparatory work, we were in a strong starting position for the launch of the WMS."
Huisman now has a watertight process. People no longer run in and out to get parts themselves. "Our colleagues from production used bring their AutoCAD drawings to the counter to tell us which parts they needed. Now we ask them to send in a digital picklist with the parts that they need. We will then ensure that these parts are in the right place at the right time. They therefore no longer need to go to the counter." Having learnt through trial and error, Geeve now makes the various production departments sign for receipt of their parts. "It can sometimes happen that parts still go missing on the production floor, causing the necessary discussions that then ensue. We can now prove that [the part] has been delivered", says Geeve.
Tracking & tracing
The system is adjusted so that the WMS translates the pick orders received by the warehouse into specific transport orders for the cranes. In other words, SattStore keeps a record of which item is at which location and indicates the route a crane must take in order to put away or retrieve stock. In fact, Huisman uses SattStore not just as a WMS, but also as a warehouse control system (WCS).
An important role is reserved for the serial shipping container code (SSCC), a unique barcode label for each pallet. The operator in charge of rigorously checking all goods entering the warehouse sticks one of these labels onto each pallet. After scanning the barcode label, the pallet is entered into the WMS.
The operator in charge of storing the pallet then uses a forklift truck to place the pallet on the loading route of the automated pallet warehouse. By then rescanning the barcode, the pallet is linked to the storage location, to which the crane them delivers it. Upon retrieval, each pallet receives a completely new SSCC label, which is linked to the order and the buyer of the goods in question.
The SSCC label is also very important for the mini-load system. Each article arriving here is linked to a tray by scanning the barcodes on the item and on the tray. Again, during order picking each individual item receives a new SSCC label, which guarantees the tracking and tracing of each item.
Thanks to the WMS, Huisman now has much better stock control. Missing parts are no longer an issue, meaning that buyers are no longer forced to buy ‘substitute’ parts. This means that Geeve will no longer be sitting on left-over stock when the missing parts resurface. And because parts are now available on time, even production planning has improved.
As well as stock parts, stock consumables have also decreased. What used to happen was that welders would remove welding wires from the warehouse without booking them out. Because Huisman had no overview of the actual stock, the welding wires were re-ordered too late, with the result that all of a sudden they would run out. Very large bulk quantities had to be purchased immediately to prevent similar problems from happening. "We have now stopped ordering whole trailers of welding wires. That just wastes more working capital", says Geeve.
"The result is that Huisman now has 10 million Euro less of stock parts lying around than a few years ago. This performance is all the more remarkable given the tremendous growth that Huisman has achieved. Turnover is growing by 40 per cent every year; in 2012 it was 88 per cent. And yet stress is simply non-existent. The process runs smoothly. Everything is still ready to go right on time," says Geeve.
Powerful and scalable
Geeve is extremely satisfied with the way in which the WMS functions, as the figures show. "The stock reliability in the old warehouse was 40 per cent, but not it is hovering around 99.6 per cent. And we’re not even half way there yet."
The WMS also allows Huisman to grow, almost without limit. The 88 per cent growth in 2012, for example, was achieved without needing to employ any extra people. "The system is powerful and fully scalable. The only limiting factor that we have is the physical storage capacity, not the WMS."
Meanwhile, SattStore is also up and running in Huisman’s facility in China. The company also has plans for a facility in Brazil, in which the WMS could also play a role. In addition, Huisman, now AEO certified, also intends to link a bonded warehouse module to the WMS. Geeve: "When we started, management did not know what a WMS was, or if it were needed. However, the system is now in place, and not without success."
More about the customer
Huisman is a global company with extensive knowledge and experience in the design and manufacture of subsea drilling, lifting and pipelay plants for large on and offshore companies. Huisman was originally founded in 1929 as a steel construction company and joined forces with the engineering company Itrec in 1987 in order to develop products entirely in-house, from concept through to delivery. Huisman has a production facility in the Czech Republic and in Chinese Fujian. In Brazil, Huisman is building a fourth production facility. In addition, the company owns offices for sales, development and service in Rio de Janeiro, Singapore and Houston.
Read more at www.huismanequipment.com