Ahlsell is a leading company in the Nordic countries, the Baltic States and Russia supplying goods and associated services to professional users in the product areas of heating & plumbing, electrical, tools & machinery, construction and refrigeration. In this region, Ahlsell has some 250 stores. Ahlsell’s efficient logistics system with central warehouses at strategic locations throughout Scandinavia forms the heart of the company’s activities. Their stores, industry-leading Online store and large product range ensure a high level of service and reliable next day deliveries to their customers. Thanks to direct deliveries from the warehouse, Ahlsell can ensure that customers receive their goods on time.

In Norway, Ahlsell used to have ten regional warehouses. Order picking in these facilities was based on traditional order picking methods. This type of work can be physically and mentally difficult, making it hard to find and retain good staff and limiting operator productivity. At the same time, customers are demanding that the correct order is delivered at exactly the right time and that order cut-off times are extended. This posed significant challenges to the regional warehouses.

Improving operator productivity and customer service

To improve operator productivity and customer service level, Ahlsell decided to build a central warehouse in Norway, near Oslo Airport, replacing nine regional warehouses. This new central warehouse optimises Ahlsell’s product flows and ensures fast and reliable deliveries. Central stock-keeping creates benefits of scale, which will allow them to offer customers competitive prices. Ahlsell selected Vanderlande Industries to design and build the automated material handling system, including the Warehouse Control System (WCS).

Efficient automated goods receiving: Set up for all other warehousing activties

Incoming goods are de-palletised and placed in multi-compartment product totes at 2 receiving workstations. In the Receiving area, several activities come together, such as scanning, counting and quality checking. Requirements for receiving workstations are constantly increasing to improve efficiency and quality.

High storage density in QUICKSTORE miniloads

The product totes are conveyed to the 5-aisle QUICKSTORE miniload system (automated storage and retrieval system), where they are stored. QUICKSTORE miniloads are characterized by high storage density, high performance, improved accuracy and low energy use. Based on incoming orders, the product totes are retrieved and conveyed to the order picking area.

Goods-to-man order picking concept with PICK@EASE workstations

For order picking the goods-to-man concept with 5 PICK@EASE order picking workstations was selected, because it enables Ahlsell to improve operator productivity and customer service, while keeping operational costs down. The PICK@EASE workstation includes proven ergonomic characteristics. It is designed in a single level layout to minimise vertical arm and shoulder movement. The operator can adjust the workstation platform automatically to his or her ideal height. Operators pick items from multi-compartment totes directly into shipping cartons (pick/pack operation), minimising product handling. A pick pointer and the touch screen indicates from which compartment the operator must pick the products, enhancing accuracy. The operator selects the right shipping carton. Shipping labels are printed and applied automatically before the cartons are sorted and palletised. The warehouse process is controlled by the VISION WCS interfaced with Ahlsell’s ‘ASTRO’ host system.

For more information about order fulfillment systems, visit Vanderlande Industries at www.vanderlande.com.

Vanderlande Industries profile

Vanderlande Industries specialises in designing and building intelligent IT-driven material handling systems and related services, which cover the entire warehouse process, from Goods Receiving to Shipping. The company has successfully automated more than 1,000 warehouses and distribution centres worldwide. Solutions include order picking/order fulfilment systems, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), sortation systems, conveyor systems/internal transport systems and Warehouse Management and Control Systems (WMS/WCS).

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