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Employing 1,700 people at ten sites, Schlüter-Systems KG is the world's market leader for system solutions covering all aspects of the installation of tiles and natural stone. What started out as a small business has become a global player. This dynamic growth – particularly on the US market – has also increased the demands placed on logistics processes in warehouse management. That is why Schlüter has been pushing ahead with the digitalisation of its warehouses throughout the group over the last few years. Within that process, the system provider relies on the LFS warehouse management system from EPG - Ehrhardt Partner Group. At its new warehouse in Dallas, Schlüter has been using LFS from the very start, with great success: “Looking at the two warehouses in Reno and Plattsburgh for comparison, we expect a 20 percent increase in efficiency,” says industrial engineer, Christopher McLear, LFS Blueprint Project Manager at Schlüter USA.
Decoupling mats for the tiles on balconies, Schlüter rails in different materials and sizes and drainage systems – delivering more than 10,000 system solutions, Schlüter has opened new sales markets and constantly expanded the logistics infrastructure to supply them. The new Texas warehouse will stock around 8,500 items over an area of more than 37,000 square metres. The warehouse employees process almost 13,000 orders and supply 1,100 customers in just one quarter. The warehouse successfully fulfils its two main tasks, which is firstly to maintain reserves and ensure availability, and secondly, guaranteeing that goods can be delivered quickly and cost-effectively.
New warehouse in Dallas
In Dallas, incoming goods initially go to the main storage area, where they are put away. Once the order has been received, the products go on to the bulk picking area. “At order picking, we have a mixture of fixed points and dynamic bins, depending on the product and speed. This involves picked items going through two different packaging processes, depending on the shipping method”, explains McLear. Parcel orders are directed to a consolidation area, depending on where they were picked. Orders received by 10 a.m. leave the distribution warehouse on the same day. The storage system is designed so that orders of different sizes can be moved immediately to their destination in the warehouse.
The old warehouse management system reached its limits
As Schlüter's old warehouse management system quickly reached its limits in the face of rapid growth, the company was looking for a perfect-fit solution for the Texas warehouse. The new system had to meet the specific requirements of the sector for the US market and had to improve Schlüter's processes in general. The aim of introducing the LFS warehouse management system was to improve pick-and-pack strategies, optimise the material flow and design its processes more efficiently. Using LFS, employees are now able to pick with pick-by-voice and store several items in one bin at the same time. “In the past, we were mainly using paper for warehouse management. LFS now gives us more transparency, an improved material flow and the ability to measure warehouse utilisation more precisely”, explains Carsten Fuhrmann, IT Project Manager at Schlüter-Systems.
New “Cartonization and Palletization” tool
The two companies successfully launched with LFS within nine months of the blueprint phase, working with international teams. In the process, they also developed the new “Cartonization and Palletization” tool, which allows warehouse employees to pick and pack goods in parallel. A third-party shipping solution specifically intended for the US market was also successfully integrated. “This has been flawlessly implemented, even though the shipping solution was not part of the blueprint project and couldn't be tested”, says McLear. Another sector-specific feature is the different buying behaviour of customers. The site sees both smaller and very large traders who want to buy material pre-sorted. “It used to be very difficult to meet all the customer requirements with a single solution. As LFS is a modular system, we can now provide a range of solutions”, explains McLear. The strategic partnership is set to continue at other US sites in 2021. “Long-term global partnerships with software providers are a key to success for Schlüter-Systems,” says Michael Rapp, Head of IT at the Schlüter Group. A new logistics centre is to be completed at the German headquarters in Iserlohn by the end of 2022 at the latest, where, once again, all warehouse processes will be managed using LFS.