With a broad range of high-class products, top customer service and an extensive network of modern stores, Rossmann is one of the leading companies in the German drugstore market. The retail chain's 1,200 stores across Germany offer 17,500 different SKUs, a network that requires the support of an elaborate logistics concept in which both the technology and staff of its new distribution centre in Landsberg play a vital role.
With its new distribution centre (DC) located in Landsberg, Germany, Rossmann aims to guarantee goods availability for its stores as well as processing incoming orders as fast and efficiently as possible. It achieves this thanks to an automated high bay warehouse and a semi-automated order picking facility featuring TGW technology.
The high bay automated pallet warehouse, with its minimised footprint acts as a bulk store and also supplies the picking zones. Seven rail running stacker cranes are used to store and retrieve the goods. To ensure high performance, each of these handling machines is equipped with two telescopic forks that can take two pallets from the conveyor system in the pre-storage area at the same time and deposit them in the rack. The warehouse is highly flexible and the configuration can be adjusted to optimise the available storage space; goods can be stored either single deep in four rack lines on 22 levels or in three rack lines providing double-deep storage on 19 levels. The compact high bay warehouse, which is approximately 100 metres long and 37 metres wide, accommodates about 37,000 pallets.
Large-volume items and goods with very high throughputs – such as current special offers – are picked directly from the pallets and consolidated in roll containers for delivery to the stores. Empty roll containers are supplied to the picking personnel via an automated conveyor system and a high-performance belt lift on two of the three picking levels. Each operator picks up three roller containers using an order picking truck and drives through the picking aisles, consolidating the corresponding consignments.
The pallets are presented in the picking aisles on flow racks. The shallow angle of the racks allows the first pallet to roll down on the roller tracks to the picking face at the front of the rack, allowing re-filling of the rack from the back. Empty pallets are withdrawn from the shelf and deposited directly on the roller track below it.
Fully Automatic Pallet Supply
The picking aisles are supplied with goods using automated storage and retrieval machines. Four stacker cranes are responsible for supplying these pallets, returning the part-emptied pallets into the high bay warehouse and then disposing of the empty ones. Each stacker crane has two load handling devices. The first has a pivoting roller conveyor design, which enables it to transfer palletised goods from the conveyor system to the corresponding gravity flow rack. The pivoting design allows precise adjustment to match the inclination of the storage lane, thus ensuring gentle handling of the goods.
Beneath the roller conveyor is a telescopic fork, which serves as a second load handling device. It retrieves empty pallets from the locations below the gravity flow racks and hands them over to the conveyor system in the pre-storage area for stacking. By supplying the lane with goods and simultaneously removing the empty pallets it can achieve an extremely high availability.
Overhead Monorail System
All the operational areas in Rossmann's distribution centre are centrally connected by a high-performance overhead monorail system, which comprises 32 separate carriages each one equipped with its own drive. Riding on a 440 metre long overhead rail the carriages transport the pallets through most of the DC, connecting the goods receiving area with the high bay warehouse and pallet picking zone. Up to 400 pallets per hour are transported to their required location by this system.
Items with lower throughput rates, as well as single deliveries, are not best suited to being picked from pallets. So the incoming load is repacked from the pallet into storage bins in the repacking area. This concentrates the largest possible range of items into the smallest possible space in the pick face. The high-performance conveyor system transports the repacked goods into the automated small parts (mini-load) warehouse, handling two large or four small totes of the same content simultaneously. Order picking is carried out between the rack aisles.
The repacking area houses 20 semi-automated repacking stations on one level. Operatives transport the pallets to the corresponding repacking station by means of hand pallet trucks, placing them on a lift table. The operative can adjust the height of the pallet to personalise and optimise the ergonomics of transferring the goods from the pallet into the totes.
Two sizes of red storage totes are used in the system, with the appropriate sized tote to suit each item presented automatically to the operatives. The large tote has a base of 600 x 400 mm, and the smaller tote has dimensions of 400 x 300 mm. Both types have a recess at the front to aid the picking process.
Tote Conveyor System
The TGW multi-level conveyor system handles up to 2,000 totes per hour and connects the repacking area with the nine aisles of the automated small parts warehouse, the zone-to-zone picking area in the new and old buildings as well as the completed order tote area.
Automated Small Parts Warehouse
The automated small parts (mini-load) warehouse has two functions: to serve as a buffer warehouse between the goods receiving or repacking area and the picking system, and to provide stock replenishment for the pick face locations.
Four 15 metre high TGW Stratus stacker cranes supply the 22,760 storage positions in the buffer warehouse. Each crane is equipped with two TGW Combi Telescope C load handling devices, installed next to each other, which enables it to pick up two large or four small totes simultaneously. Goods always arrive at the repacking area as single SKU totes, Gravity flow racks are installed to the left and right of the machine operating aisles and are fed with goods by the stacker cranes.
The required goods are picked and retrieved at the front side of the flow rack by the picking operatives and combined with the in store pick consignments.
Order Picking In The New Zone-To-Zone Picking System
Grey collapsible boxes with dimensions of 600 x 400 mm are used as order totes. They are particularly suitable for the supply of goods to the stores, because they can be transported and stored folded when empty, which saves space. The boxes are automatically assembled by an in-line machine at a rate of 600 boxes per hour. Boxes are identified with a barcode label and are allocated to a store order for picking.
The conveyor system, which is designed to handle 1,200 totes per hour in this area, automatically supplies the required order totes to the 36 order picking stations located on two levels of the zone-to-zone picking system. As soon as a tote reaches the appropriate picking station it is diverted from the main conveyor line onto the parallel roller conveyor that constitutes the picking station zone. A pick-by-light display informs the picker of the quantity he has to pick from each particular storage tote. Once all the required SKUs have been deposited into the order tote, it is pushed back onto the main conveyor line and automatically transported to the next pick zone. This highly efficient order picking process has led to greatly increased picking speeds and optimised utilisation of available storage space.
Goods are delivered to Rossmann's retail stores in roll containers. Up to 1,200 order totes have to be packed into the roll containers in the two goods despatch areas located in the old and new building. Full pallet loads are consolidated with the roll containers at the despatch area. An average of 7,000 roll containers leave Rossmann's DC every day for distribution to stores across Germany.