In just six months, the software manufactory Dr. Thomas + Partner has realized and installed a warehouse management system (WMS) for the new logistics center of EF Parts & Logistic Service s.r.o., Bratislava, a company of the Emil Frey Group. The WMS is internationalized to the Slovak and English languages and enables lean, clear handling processes with great speed and high productivity. The system can control multiple warehouse management systems via middleware and is easily expandable..

The warehouse is a facility with an area of around 12,000 square meters in hall seven of the P3 logistics park in Lozorno, around 25 kilometers from Bratislava, Slovakia. At present, exactly 361,852 parts are held in stock, which are delivered centrally from France.

The logistics center supplies automotive dealers of the French PSA Group in Eastern Europe with spare parts. The range includes parts for Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Vauxhall vehicles. Initially, retailers in Slovakia were supplied; since October, Hungary, Croatia and the Czech Republic have been added.

The articles are stored and staged in different types of warehouse: On the one hand, in the narrow-aisle warehouse served by Toyota Material Handling ‘BT-Vector’ narrow-aisle forklifts (man-down); on the other hand, in the high-bay warehouse with narrow-aisle forklifts (man-up). The warehouse structure is standardized and homogeneous; corresponding warehouse coordinates are equipped with several ident features simultaneously: Code-128 and Datamatrix barcodes as well as generic check digits. These enable receipts during picking via pick-by-scan, pick-by-voice or vision methods.

Expandable logistics system for the automotive and spare parts trade

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The materials handling technology also includes the two lifts that connect the three levels of the small parts warehouse in the distribution center. For smooth and fast intralogistics processes, the order picking bins are transported between the levels using the pass-on principle. Finished picked bins are conveyed to the goods issue area where they are sorted by destination country.

TUP received the order for the implementation of the warehouse’s logistics software on 01 March 2017, with two implementation stages defined. The first stage of implementation took place on July 03, 2017. By this time, everything had been implemented concerning goods receipt, transport management, warehouse management, and equipment and inventory management; at the same time, the warehouse was filled with the parts delivered from France. Stage two of the implementation took place on September 04, 2017, with the ‘go live’ of the other TUP modules order and tour management, picking management, goods issue, and returns and inventory management. Thus, TUP was able to complete the project within six months.

Internationalization of WMS software for Eastern European countries

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This very short implementation time was also helped by the fact that TUP was able to draw on a current comprehensive logistics system as a basis, which the software specialists had previously implemented for EF Logistik GmbH (EFL), also a company of the Emil Frey Group. TUP has been working with this company since 1992.

The highly complex system had been rolled out successively at twelve EFL locations in Germany, starting on July 01, 2016, until June 2017. The Emil Frey Logistics System (EFLS) performs both cross-site global data management and the complete autonomous administration and control of each of the 12 auto parts centers with the leanest possible data sets. All warehouse locations are coordinated in a central dialog system; new clients can be added in a very short time.

A new feature at the logistics center in Bratislava, in addition to other adaptations that the dynamic software manufactory TUP continuously carries out as part of its ongoing development work, is internationalization for the Slovak language. This is also interesting for future customers from other countries, because as this enables the software to be easily made available in the respective national language. For example, in the dialog system of the logistics center in Lozorno, the appropriate national language is stored in the profile of the employee in question. When the employee logs on to the system, communication for the picker automatically starts in Slovak, for example. The German- or English-speaking control station personnel are nevertheless able to switch between the languages ad hoc at any time.

Middleware as a central data hub

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Übersichtsgrafik: Kommunikation zwischen ASFI, EFIT, EPALOS und dem TUP-WMS
Overview graphic: Communication between ASFI, EFIT, EPALOS and the TUP-WMS (German)

The system landscape of the new logistics system and the communication channels are complex. The software receives the orders from the customer’s ERP system. The ‘EFIT’-named system stands for Emil Frey IT and is an EF in-house development. However, TUP uses middleware and thus software capable of controlling different warehouse management systems to communicate and pass the data to the client’s system. Although the new logistics center is currently only one WMS, if the customer wants to install additional systems in the same country or in other countries in the future, they can be easily controlled with the middleware that is now installed. The name for the middleware is EPALOS, which stands for ‘EF Parts & Logistic Service’. Thus, EFIT transmits the order data to the EPALOS middleware, which forwards the data to the TUP.WMS. EFIT in turn receives the order data from different importer (ASFI, EFIT, CARE – see figure) and dealer systems one transmission stage before.

 

ASFI importer system and paperless order processing

The importer system ASFI (Application System for Vehicle Importers) used at Emil Frey for the vehicle trade was designed by TUP as early as 1998 and has been permanently developed further. However, the WMS is not directly connected to the ASFI, but communication runs via the ERP system EFIT and EPALOS to the WMS.

For example, the order data from the Slovakian retailers that is continuously received via the TUP-ASFI system is transmitted via EFIT and EPALOS to the TUP.WMS in the logistics center in Lozorno and displayed in the dialog system. The employees receive the picking orders displayed on the mobile data terminals or on the forklift terminals. The software for the data and forklift terminals are of course also internationalized and were also developed by TUP.

Paper is not used for order processing, so delivery bills are also made available electronically and can thus be passed on to the retailers straight away. The same data communication channel is used to feed the goods receipt advice data of the parts permanently delivered from France into the system and transmit it to the warehouse management system.

As the last step for the time being, TUP’s material flow controller (MFC) was put into operation in mid-November. This was initially done in the picking areas, but the TUP.MFC (material flow control), is able to control the inventory from goods receipt through all picking areas to goods issue.

Powerful material flow control

The TUP.MFC uses the in-house protocol specification called TP-RADT (TUP Reliable Application Data Transfer) and couples the programmable logic controller (PLC) of the materials handling technology installed by Smartlog using the standardized TP-RW method. This abbreviation stands for ‘TUP Directional Guide for Flat Materials Handling Technology’, a proprietary development of Dr. Thomas + Partner. “Thus, the entire logic of the material flow remains with the material flow controller and the PLC system can be controlled without its own routing capability.

As far as the special challenges for Dr. Thomas + Partner in connection with the realization of the logistics software are concerned, the internationalization of the system in Slovak and English is primarily worth mentioning here, as well as the very short realization time of six months for the software and the possibility of controlling several WMS via the middleware. The user is also on the safe side in the future in terms of IT technology for extended requirements. In addition, EPALOS, as the communication center of the TUP software, gives it the ability to act as a multi-warehouse system. The company also continues to have a multisystem-capable Java framework as a dialog system that can visualize multiple systems simultaneously.

The fact that TUP provides its customers with a pilot system in advance also made a significant contribution to the short implementation time of the software: EF Parts & Logistic Service s.r.o. had the pilot system well in advance, was able to run through all the processes together with TUP and was thus certain that the system met its requirements.

User-friendly system that can be mastered quickly

Decisive for the precision and efficiency of the daily logistics processes are also quick teachability and easy operability of a system. The day before production started, the employees got to know the system and were able to familiarize themselves with it in exercises. The TUP system is designed to be so user-friendly that they immediately understood how it works. Thus, a few hours of training were enough, which overall means a great advantage for the customer.

As the experience so far shows, the system has been running productively, reliable and stable since the beginning of July 2017 with the first phase and since the beginning of September 2017 with the second phase. There has not been a moment where our software has faced any downtime in the warehouse so far. Small change requests from the customer, such as in the layout of the delivery bills, were quickly incorporated by TUP’s development team during implementation.

Thus, EF Parts & Logistic Service s.r.o. has an internationalized system that is as reliable as it is future-proof and can be expanded to new tasks with manageable effort and a short time requirement.

Ideal – especially for the demanding and complex tasks in the automotive and spare parts sector.

By Reinhard Irrgang

Press release “New TUP-WMS in Slovakia” (German). (PDF)

Images “New TUP-WMS in Slovakia”. (ZIP-Ordner)

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