CB has replaced its 30-year old custom-made system with Astro WMS from Consafe Logistics to make optimum use of the capacities of its high-bay storage warehouse. The implementation was performed on schedule, without a glitch and within the set budget. Even the planned afterlive-support was hardly necessary.
CB’s high-bay warehouse had used the same warehouse management system since its start. The tailor-made solution was written in COBOL, a programming language that dates back to the 1960s. “Over the years, the system was optimised regularly. However, in the past ten years no one would dare touch the system, as they lacked technical knowledge, explains Peter Coenen, CB’s Project Manager. The system did work and therefore there was no business case to replace the solution.
CB announced a new strategy in 2013, triggering the business case for a change to Astro WMS. The logistics service provider was already a market leader in media logistics and they targeting two further sectors to enable further growth: fashion and healthcare.
Consafe Logistics presented a good plan. And they delivered. The implementation of the high-bay warehouse was within budget.
This meant that the high-bay warehouse had to accommodate clothing and medical aids as well as books. “The COBOL system had been created to work with ISBN numbers. We need more item information such as shelf life in the case of medical products, and clothing sizes for fashion products. We also wanted to store several items in one storage location, which was not possible with the COBOL system. It was not possible to make changes to the old system, so we had to replace it“, explains Coenen.
The high-bay warehouse has run on Astro WMS since summer 2016. Astro WMS was purchased in spring 2014 to replace three existing WMS.
The implementation of the high-bay warehouse system is a highlight of the Astro WMS rollout for all warehouses at CB, a project which is scheduled to take a total of five years. “When we selected a new WMS for our operation, we took the high-bay warehouse into consideration . What are the implications of replacing our system with a new one? What input was required of us? Consafe Logistics presented a good plan. And they delivered. The implementation of the high-bay warehouse was within budget“, says Janssen, Chief Information Officer at CB.
Integration with WCS
The high-bay warehouse consists of five aisles and five pallet cranes that continuously move pallets. A roller conveyor transports pallets between the high-bay warehouse and the eight order pickstations. Most products are packed into boxes and shipped to customers.
The other products are placed in yellow containers and are used to replenish the pick areas of the manual part of the warehouse where orders are picked using 24 high reach order pick trucks.
Coenen: “First we had to map out how the existing system worked. More than 95 percent of functionality was translated into Astro WMS. Then the system was integrated with the warehouse control system (WCS) of Viastore, the crane supplier who had adapted the control system in the high-bay warehouse two years earlier.”
Astro WMS is a leader within operations . This system defines which picking stations the pallets will be assigned to and reports this to the WCS. As soon as a pallet arrives at the appropriate order pic station, Astro WMS receives a notification The system outputs the number of pieces to be picked on the terminal.
The integrated weighing control system checks whether the picker has picked the right amount. A packing note and shipping label are printed for customer orders. The picker closes the box and places it on the removal track. Replenishment order items are placed in a yellow container in the manual pick area storage.
Astro WMS is an intelligent system that enables CB to make optimum use of the capacities of the high-bay storage warehouse. The system uses an ABC classification when assigning items to one of the 23,000 storage locations. Fast moving goods are placed at the front and slow movers stored in the back. Astro WMS ensures optimum distribution of the workload throughout the aisle by not storing all fast movers in the same aisle. “Where there are several pallets containing the same item the system distributes pallets to various aisles. This does not mean that Astro WMS always takes a different pallet. We want to avoid ending up with a partial pallet in every aisle“, explains Coenen.
Staff also benefit from the new WMS. Picking terminals are clearer in telling pickers what to do. “The old terminals provided much more information, such as customer data, which was not relevant for order pickers. Now terminals only display information that is necessary for the picking process. This gives better focus“, concludes Coenen.
Once we decided we wanted to make use of this extra tool, it was configured within a few days and ready to use.
Tool for adjusting operations
There are now two large screens at order pick stations that show progress based on information from OpView, Consafe Logistics’ business intelligence tool. The high-bay warehouse supervisor has access to OpView, receiving more information to help manage operations. He sees exactly how many orders have been processed and how many are still waiting. If operations are behind schedule he can allocate additional order pickers or move customer and replenishment orders to make up for the lag.
The decision to implement OpView was taken when the project had started. “Once we decided we wanted to make use of this extra tool, it was configured within a few days and ready to use.” Says Coenen.
The entire implementation was very successful. Go Live was planned for May 8 at 5 pm at the latest, but the tests went so well that the system was Live at 8 am.
“We had planned a two-week period of after-live support, but we hardly had to use it“, Janssen recollects.”
“A perferctly attuned team”
Janssen attributes implementation success to the sophisticated roadmap CB and Consafe Logisitcs agreed upon. Astro WMS was first implemented at the warehouse area for educational books, which was controlled by an obsolete system with high maintenance costs. Healthcare customers were transferred to Astro WMS In the next phase.
“We started with two projects to achieve direct cost savings and require functionalities that were missing. We became a perfectly attuned team during these projects. We knew each other very well, which enabled the third project to be completed in an exemplary fashion.
Besides the architecture of the application and experience in the three markets in which we operate, successful implementation experience was a key reason in opting for Consafe Logistics. This was an absolute necessity as a day-long standstill in the high-bay warehouse is simply not an option.”
Now that the high-bay warehouse is running on Astro WMS, CB has begun preparing the implementation of Astro WMS for the envelope line. All orders consisting of just one item are automatically packed per order on this line. Then focus will turn to the logistical heart of CB: The manual pick area . “We had to implement the high-bay warehouse first as the manual pick area is replenished from there. Now this is completed we can take the next big step. The manual pick area is an operation consisting of more aisles, more people and more complexity.
Just like the high-bay warehouse we want implementation to be completed by summer, in order to be ready for autumn, when volumes will increase again.”
Integral logistics services in the fields of media, fashion and healthcare
Number of employees
Number of books shipped per year
Consafe Logistics solution
More about the customer
CB has over 140 years of experience as an integrated logistics service provider. CB offers logistics services, e-commerce logistics, financial services and information and communication services. CB serves the entire Dutch and Belgian markets with an extensive distribution network. CB is active in the media, healthcare and fashion industries. CB has around 800 employees and generated sales of EUR 113 million in 2015. For more information visit www.cb.nl.