“We want to be not only the best materials seller for our customers, but also the best supply chain manager,” explains Martin Stillger, Spokesman of the Executive Board of thyssenkrupp Materials Services. “In Rotenburg we are demonstrating what is now possible in the modern materials business thanks to automation, digitisation and artificial intelligence: We connect production machineries of all generations, automate order processes, analyse materials flows and forecast our customers’ materials requirements. Our new logistics site is therefore an important milestone in the implementation of our future strategy ‘Materials as a Service’.”
The largest mill-independent materials distribution and service provider in the western world has invested around 60 million € in the new logistics site. This makes it one of the biggest projects in recent decades and points the way to the future of the materials business. The warehouse layout of the site has been completely redesigned. The entire process chain has a high level of automation and digitisation, increasing productivity and offering customers more and more individualised services. The concept is to serve as a blueprint for other sites in the future.
Logistics process completely rethought
The layout of the site is aligned with the optimum flow of materials and no longer has to take into account the ideal loading sequence of the trucks, as was previously the case. Driverless transport systems move the provided goods directly to the truck, which is loaded in bays at ground level. The time-consuming process of moving from one loading point to the next in the hall, which was common in the past, is no longer necessary. As a result, several trucks can be dispatched at the same time. “This now not only allows us to process orders better and more closely to demand, but at the same time ensures more efficient processes, shorter downtimes and ultimately greater productivity with increased safety for employees,” explains Dr. Tobias Hegmanns, Chief Operating Officer of thyssenkrupp Schulte.
What is already common standard in other sectors is a novelty for materials trading: As the goods can be up to 20 m long and weigh 10 t, only the automation of the systems and the driverless transport systems have made it possible to implement the concept economically. The traffic in the storage and processing areas, which is reduced to a minimum, also reduces the risk of occupational accidents, and creates increased protection for employees. For customers, the new logistics centre not only offers a wider range of materials, but also a more extensive processing portfolio. From cutting and sawing to foiling, individual services are realised in a short time.
Holistic digital integration of the material flow
The site is digitally integrated and connected along the entire supply chain. Orders are processed digitally and paperlessly and can thus be ideally planned and tracked. The inhouse-developed IIoT platform “toii” is the heart of the digital processes at the site. By connecting the plants digitally, data is exchanged directly without any manual intermediate steps. As a result, the materials flow is controlled more efficiently and in line with demand. In addition, automation increases plant utilisation by smoothly coordinating the modern processing stations. The data analytics platform “alfred” ensures that supply flows are optimally coordinated on an ongoing basis. Based on intelligent, self-learning algorithms, it permanently analyses the processes – from incoming goods and inventory management to order storage and delivery.
Role model for sustainability
Sustainability also played a decisive role in the planning of the new site – both in construction and supply chain management. The installation of a photovoltaic system will take place in the coming months. In the first stage, the aim is to generate electricity for the logistics centre. In further expansion stages, electricity will also be generated for other sites of thyssenkrupp Materials Services. The area has its own rail line, which will be used three times a week to deliver materials by climate-friendly train track in the future. Order entry and processing will be mostly paperless. The new logistics concept also facilitates to plan routes, reduces downtimes, and significantly increases the utilisation of truck capacity.
What potential the Rotenburg concept can hold for Materials Services is illustrated by one figure: the company currently has 500 trucks on the roads every day in Germany alone. The goal is to further reduce the number through more efficient and demand-oriented planning.
(Source: thyssenkrupp Materials Services)