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Steered into an orderly course

Conveyor technology replaces material flow supported by industrial trucks


When Grimme Landmaschinenfabrik identified opportunities for improvement in intralogistics at its Damme site, the company turned to AMI Förder- und Lagertechnik GmbH with the task of tapping into the optimization potential. With the help of a conveyor system installed under the hall ceiling of the logistics center, which was integrated during ongoing plant operation, the internal material flow could also be adapted to the increased performance requirements.

With more than 150 machine types, Grimme offers an extensive and broad product range in potato, beet and vegetable technology. In vegetable technology, both Grimme and its subsidiary ASA-Lift build a variety of innovative machines for harvesting onions, beet, chives, fennel, peas and lettuce, for example.

One production site of the family-owned company, which was founded in 1861, is located in Damme. The agricultural machinery manufacturer also operates a logistics center there, which supplies production and ensures the spare parts service for end customers. The logistics center has space for around 64,000 items, including small parts such as rubber rings and screws as well as larger components (hydraulic pumps and cylinders, etc.). In line with this heterogeneous product range, a high-bay warehouse for pallets and pallet cages as well as a container mini-load warehouse form the technical backbone of the logistics center.

The components and consumables arriving from suppliers at the Damme site, stored in the corresponding load carriers, were previously transported to the respective storage areas by industrial truck after the incoming goods inspection. However, this has been different since April of this year. This is because the conveyor technology installed by AMI went live at that time.

The path to greater efficiency leads under the hall ceiling

Before the new conveyor technology was ready, Grimme's general requirement had to be put into practice. "Under no circumstances," says Fernando Charbonnier, Head of Logistics, Grimme Landmaschinenfabrik GmbH & Co. KG, Damme, "to sacrifice the valuable infrastructure of the hall floor for the purposes of internal logistics. We also needed a higher material flow capacity".   

This statement was also the starting point for the brainstorming and planning of a material flow organization with the appropriate conveyor technology to meet the requirements and the rejection of an AGV-supported material flow.

"With our proposal for conveyor technology under the hall ceiling, Grimme's requirements could be put into practice and at the same time the integration of an AGV system into the material flow course, which had been under discussion, was off the table," says Sven Jesberg, sales technician at AMI Förder- und Lagertechnik GmbH, describing the concept development phase.

The result of the subsequent planning was a roller conveyor system with a total length of approx. 200 m for transporting almost 400 containers per hour and four lifts integrated into the conveyor system. These take over the automated vertical transport from the respective starting point to the conveyor system under the hall ceiling. In this way, the floor space in the logistics center could be used for value-adding processes and an efficient material flow could be implemented.

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Arranged under the hall ceiling, the conveyor technology connects different areas within the Grimme logistics center in a space-saving and effective way

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Lifts integrated into the conveyor system

However, the entire conveyor system, including the lifts, had to be installed first. Grimme's requirement here was that ongoing operations in the logistics center were not to be disturbed or even interrupted under any circumstances. A requirement that AMI project manager Christian Seiler had to fulfill without any ifs or buts. "With a detailed planned organization, we were not only able to ensure the smooth execution of the assembly work, but were also exactly on schedule as required by Grimme." 

The starting point of the conveyor system implemented in this way is the workstations in the incoming goods area, while the destination points are located in the pre-zone of the high-bay warehouse and the mini-load warehouse. Furthermore, AMI's conveyor technology (as seen from the high-bay warehouse or miniload) connects the assembly area with components and the picking and dispatch areas with goods.

The articles, which are stored in containers, are transported to the conveyor system under the ceiling and back down again at the corresponding destination points via lift systems integrated into the material flow, which were also part of AMI's scope of supply.

Conveyor technology supports business success

The investment in the new conveyor technology was made necessary by Grimme's continued commercial success. The Big5 innovations presented at Agritechnica 2017, which were well received by the market, also contributed to this. The Ventor 4150 self-propelled potato harvester and the EVO 290 trailed potato harvester generated high demand. The service packages for self-propelled harvesters, which even include wear parts in the highest "Protect" configuration, are another milestone.

This sustained positive development was not without the aforementioned effects on internal logistics and led to the design and implementation of the conveyor technology under the hall ceiling, including the connection via lift to the respective workstations and processes. In its entirety, the conveyor technology makes a significant contribution to the objectives defined by the system operator, for example in terms of flexibility of use, efficiency and system performance. According to the plant operator, the new conveyor technology also meets the requirements in terms of standardizing workstations in order to make better use of human resources.

A project with prospects

To keep the project manageable for everyone involved, the agricultural machinery manufacturer decided to gradually implement optimization potential that had already been identified in advance. Now that AMI's conveyor technology has been running stably for around six months, the implementation of a buffer conveyor line is on the agenda for the future. This conveyor technology must also be installed under the hall ceiling during ongoing operations in the logistics center. There are also plans to automate some of the sorting processes that are currently still carried out manually. At the moment, parts destined for production in particular are still mainly picked manually by employees. In addition to Grimme, the project also offers AMI corresponding prospects.

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