As Germany’s largest manufacturer of built-in kitchens and one of the market leaders in Europe, nobilia builds individually designed kitchens to renowned design standards and to suit all tastes. Each year, more than 727,000 kitchens leave the two plants at company headquarters in Verl in East Westphalia – this represents more than 33,300 kitchen elements every day. Added to this are several kilometres of worktops and 5,000 electric appliances from various manufacturers and in various price classes delivered daily. This logistical feat is made possible by a high level of automation in production and material flows, which continue to be upgraded. In 2008, for example, Kardex Mlog constructed a completely new high-bay warehouse for worktops in plant II, and just a few years later, added a third aisle to handle the increased capacity requirement. Now it was time to update the picking plant for kitchen fronts. This had been installed in 1998 by a third-party supplier with two picking devices, and a third device was added in 2008. Following many years of intensive usage in two-shift operation, initial signs of wear began to appear in the picking devices, rails and conductor lines. In September 2017, Kardex Mlog was awarded the contract to refurbish the plant. Less than a year later, in August 2018, the updated plant was recommissioned with new picking devices and significantly higher throughput. As part of the project, the feed-in to the picking plant was optimised through the construction of additional pallet buffering points in the conveyor system, and the security and access concept was updated.
Customer-specific requirements place high demands on logistics
Whether it be design pieces with smooth surfaces, a country house kitchen with modern wooden decor and structures, or the sleek elegance of classic models – the nobilia warehouse contains front types to suit all tastes. In the catalogue, you will find the simple “Alpine white”, “slate grey”, and the modern wooden decor “Oak San Remo”. “The front allows you to create a myriad of configuration variants. And it is precisely this ability to express their own individual style that attracts customers to our kitchens”, says Rüdiger Sturz, refurbishment project leader at nobilia, “and in this project, we want to create a technological and logistical solution that is in line with this demand.”
Device replacement most economic option
Front picking is at the core of nobilia production and its creation of one-off pieces: Every single nobilia kitchen is individually planned and manufactured. Any interruption to the picking process would have very serious consequences for the company and, for this reason, nobilia quickly decided on long-term security of the plant and spare parts supplies. For economic reasons, the three existing picking devices were not refurbished but replaced. In order to complete the replacement with minimum downtime, the new SRMs were initially assembled and tested at the premises of Kardex Mlog.
Completely new development
The picking devices installed were specially developed for nobilia and consisted of distribution vehicles with lift and on-board channel storage vehicles. “We are growing in line with the requirements of our customers. The new plant means that our picking is now faster and more reliable. This facilitates greater customisation”, says Rüdiger Sturz.
All three devices travel with overlapping work areas in the same aisle. The carrier vehicles are a completely new construction. The top travel speed is 120 m/min, the maximum lifting speed is 0.5 m/s, with maximum acceleration of 0.5 m/s in both cases. Control is exercised by S7-1515 F SPS on the carrier vehicles. During replacement of the existing S5 controls, the application programme was adapted to the Kardex Mlog standard to ensure a software environment fully compatible with the neighbouring plants. The interbus technology was replaced by profinet and profibus components.
The S7 controls on the carrier vehicles also control the on board subsidiary units. The channel storage vehicles with a single-deep telescopic fork reach speeds of 60 m/min (chassis), 20 m/min (lift unit), and 60 m/min (fork, unloaded). The transfer conveyor system was optimised. The speed of the roller conveyors was increased to 0.3 m/s. The overall system now delivers 10% higher throughput compared to before the refurbishment.
Seamless replacement thanks to test operation
The holiday shutdown at nobilia meant that there was only a three-week window for the first phase of refurbishment. To enable real-time testing of the system, the frontend picking devices were fully assembled together with picking aisles in a test environment and the system was tested and optimised over a lengthy time period. “Thanks to the test set-up, when it came to the actual refurbishment on site, we were able to install and commission a working and effective system. Replacement of the picking devices went very smoothly and was completed on time”, says Rüdiger Sturz.