Movu provides KDL with automation

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A Movu Robotics atlas pallet shuttle system gives leading logistics service provider Kris De Leeneer (KDL) approximately 45,000 storage locations and the capacity to manage a potential throughput of up to 11,000 pallet movements a week. Importantly, this automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) fulfils KDL’s need for flexibility by allowing pallet throughput to be increased simply by adding more shuttles, while the modular rack can be extended to increase capacity to help futureproof the facility.

This project represents the first Movu atlas system for the third party logistics (3pl) market. The solution meets the issues of 3pl industry by providing flexible in product handling and throughput. In this sector it can be hard to foresee accurately future business levels, types of customers, the resulting throughput and number of pallets required, so flexible intralogistics is a must.

Better, bigger and easier

Founded in 2001, KDL is geared to helping its clients boost their supply chain management and move their businesses forward. The Movu atlas shuttle system plays a vital role in fulfilling these aims, sits at the heart of KDL’s new state-of-the-art 10,000 square metre Distribution Centre (DC). Opened at the end of 2022, the DC is located in Lokeren, Belgium. Being next to the highway, where land is more expensive, KDL wanted to go with height for storage to minimise the building’s footprint.

For its customers in the Chocolate Industry, stock may include ingredients and primary goods for chocolate making through to bars and boxes of chocolates, numbering as many as 1000 SKUs depending on the stock profile.

The new DC is designed to assist KDL in further improving its service for customers and to provide room for expansion of its own business. It not only centralises all logistical services on to a CO2-neutral site, but also reflects the company’s vision of the future: ‘better, bigger and easier’.

Realising the vision

Helping to realise this vision, the Movu atlas shuttle system was installed in summer 2022 to provide a high density, multi-pallet position AS/RS. Without the need for lift truck aisles, the atlas system maximises storage capacity on a given footprint, while also removing manual handling, helping to reduce both personnel risk and picking errors.

Movu designed a system comprising a 28 metre high atlas rack comprising ten levels, with a footprint of 60 x 100 metres to accommodate the 45,000 locations. Pallets are moved and organised within the rack on a fleet of 20 Movu atlas pallet shuttles. These self-powered robotic carriers transport pallets on the rails of the rack’s storage lanes, where the pallets are housed, and on the rails of the main lane that runs across the storage lanes. Movu WES software manages the shuttle traffic within the rack, issuing orders from KDL’s Warehouse Management System (WMS). Movu has also provided an app that allows authorised operators to control the system from their smart phones.

Next to the atlas installation is the DC’s dispatch area and three mezzanine levels, each having an area of approximately 2,000 metres square, which are served by elevators and used for processing the goods. Movu collaborated with Ceratec to provide integrated in/outbound zones, advanced conveyers and turntables. Together, these systems offer a seamless flow of goods from storage to the dispatch area, where there are ten loading docks.

The operation

Trucks bring in and pick up goods 24-hours a day via the facility’s covered loading docks. After inspection and identification, pallets are placed on the internal transport system. The Movu atlas shuttles deposit and remove pallets via three lifts. KDL’s extensive Warehouse Management System controls the orders for put-away, pallet picking and replenishment.

The atlas shuttles transport a range of different types of goods that KDL manages for its clients. Pallets ­– which can include a mix of standard industry, Euro and plastic pallets – are weighed before entering the atlas system so that KDL knows what it is storing. Pallets with a loading of up to 1000 kg are stored on first two levels, with units up to 850 kg housed on the levels above.

On the mezzanines, teams perform value added services such as packaging, labelling and assembling. All pallets, including those for piece picking, are brought in or picked up by the shuttles. The system has 150 pallets per hour going in and the same figure going out.  When goods are ready to go they are temporarily put into storage or taken immediately to the shipping zone.

Abundant flexibility

The inherent flexibility of the Movu atlas system was a key advantage for KDL over a stacker crane-based AS/RS. With a stacker system, if one crane is out of action, the pallets in that aisle cannot be reached. It is also hard to reconfigure to meet changing requirements and is less environmentally efficient – a heavy crane takes more power than the lightweight shuttle to transport each pallet.

With Movu atlas, however, shuttles can easily be added or removed as demand requires. A swap facility allows the shuttles to change levels automatically so if, for example, there is a large number of pallets on one level, a shuttle can be brought in from a less busy level to improve its throughput.

The rack is currently 40% occupied, giving plenty of space for new customers but the Movu system also contributes the facility’s futureproofed design. A rear wall in the DC can be removed, if required, to allow an extension to the modular rack and the addition of more shuttles. The site has room to potentially double the capacity to 90,000 pallets in the future.

Stefan Pieters, CEO of Movu Robotics, says: “This project is a great demonstration of bringing easier automation to all warehouses. The atlas shuttle system offers a flexible, scaleable, modular approach to automation. It is quick to install, simple to integrate and easy to reconfigure or expand with minimal impact on ongoing operations.”

Kris De Leeneer, CEO of KDL said: “Having made the decision to introduce automation into our new DC, and after looking at other solutions, we were attracted to the flexibility offered by Movu’s atlas system. It allowed us to optimise floor space as well as to handle more pallets than we ever could manually. Furthermore, atlas is an efficient and scaleable automated warehousing solution that can adapt to our requirements due to its modularity and the ability to add shuttles as required.”

He added: “Movu Robotics is a neighbour in Lokeren, and we talk the same language. Having been a long-term customer of its parent company stow Group, we have a trust relationship – it really understands our requirements. That is why we decided that Movu was the company to design, install and maintain an automated storage and retrieval system that would meet our needs into the future.”