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Gieseke cosmetic GmbH's product catalogue runs to almost 400 pages covering all aspects of hairdressing needs – from hairpins through to complete hairwashing systems. The delivery time for the more than 13,000 referenced items is a maximum of 24 hours from receipt of order. An outstandingly efficient warehousing solution is essential if this company, which is one of Germany's largest wholesalers for the hairdressing industry, is to meet all its customers' requirements in terms of punctuality and delivery reliability. That is why, in January 2010, this traditional family business opened a newly constructed logistics centre in Wedemark, approximately 20 km north of Hanover. Optimum process flows in the warehouse are ensured by the LFS warehouse management system supplied by Ehrhardt + Partner (E+P). The use of this system, in combination with Pick-by-Voice and radio data technology, has speeded up picking operations in the new warehouse by approximately 30 percent compared to the previous site.
What is more, the fact that all the company's employees are now able to perform goods receipt and picking tasks simultaneously represents a great boost to efficiency. Gieseke cosmetic is one of the largest wholesale suppliers to the hairdressing industry in Germany. In addition to its mail order business, the company also runs a total of 15 "Care for Hair" call-and-collect shops in Germany and Austria. Founded in 1983, the company has always been receptive to new technologies. Consequently, as early as 1993, long before it had become established practice in the sector, all the company's sales representatives were equipped with mobile data terminals in order to reduce delivery times to 24 hours from receipt of order. Nowadays, Gieseke employs more than 70 sales representatives. In January 2010, the wholesaler launched operations at a newly constructed logistics centre with storage space of more than 4,500 sqm in the town of Wedemark near Hanover. 13,000 items are stored here. Thanks to the excellent project management provided by E+P and the speed with which the stocks could be entered in LFS, the move to the new warehouse was completed in a single weekend. "Reports in the trade press had drawn our attention to the Pick-by-Voice technology and we wanted to make use of this in our new warehouse," recalls Hendrik Rumpfkeil, the director responsible for logistics at this family-owned company. A logistics consultant provided support during the selection of appropriate vendors and, following a comprehensive analysis of the company's requirements, identified three suppliers for Gieseke cosmetic to consider. "After visiting a reference installation where picking was also performed using Pick-by-Voice technology, we finally decided that LFS was the best option," explains Rumpfkeil. E+P not only deployed the LFS warehouse management system in the new warehouse but also provided Gieseke with 30 Pick-by-Voice devices, 14 MDEs and ten radio data access points. E+P also assumed responsibility for installing and interfacing Heidler shipping software.
Picking with route optimization
To make the best possible use of Pick-by-Voice and the route optimization possibilities for pickers that this technology offers, the warehouse was subdivided into five different areas containing both shelving racks and pallet stores. This subdivision was mapped to the warehouse management system to ensure that each of the 90 warehouse personnel receive only those warehouse admission and picking orders to which they are assigned at any given time. This makes sure that employees in the company's extensive warehouse only need to travel limited distances and can navigate more quickly in their warehouse area. In addition to this, the new warehouse possesses a Kardex shuttle for the storage of slow-moving items, extremely small goods and particularly expensive items. LFS administers this separate warehouse area using a simple but effective access restriction policy. The shuttle, which is interfaced to LFS, only moves those trays to the withdrawal position that contain items which the corresponding employee needs for his or her current picking task. This mode of restricting access to particularly expensive items – in the case of Gieseke cosmetic, hairdresser's scissors worth 600 euros, for example – has helped keep inventory differences for such items at a low level.
Complex flow of goods
Multilevel transport technology connects every area of the warehouse to the goods receipt sector, the upstream and downstream picking areas and the packing and dispatch stations. Items arriving from goods receipt or one of the picking areas via the transport technology are loaded onto the employees' hand trolleys following a corresponding Pick-by-Voice instruction and entered in the shelving or used to continue picking operations already commenced in other warehouse areas. The employees place fully picked orders on the conveyors which then automatically transport them to the packing and dispatch stations. Manual transport devices on which employees can handle four containers at a time are also used during picking. On the basis of the container barcode, LFS can identify whether the load is to be admitted into the stock during the next step or is to be used for picking. During this operation, LFS controls the picking jobs in a way that ensures that as the containers become empty on the trolleys, the employees handling them can use them directly for the next picking job. This means that employees never transport empty containers through the warehouse and that optimum use is made of the available transport resources. When containers reach the packing area, LFS instructs the Heidler shipping system to print a shipping label and triggers a notification to the parcel service. "Managing this interaction between picking and the transportation of the picked items or goods for admission on the multilevel transport technology was one of the most complex tasks we faced in this project," explains Marco Ehrhardt, Managing Partner at Ehrhardt + Partner. "Thanks to the outstanding efficiency of the picking process, we can deliver more than 98 percent of all ordered items within 24 hours," adds Hendrik Rumpfkeil.
Improved picking quality
Rumpfkeil goes on to explain that another advantage for Gieseke lies in the improved quality of picking. This is ensured by the fact that the warehouse personnel have to confirm each operating step individually when working with LFS and the Pick-by-Voice technology. "Initially, the changeover to Pick-by-Voice and the parallel processing of multiple orders represented a considerable challenge for our employees. However, after a brief familiarization phase, our staff now use Pick-by-Voice intuitively and the picking quality has improved noticeably compared to our former site," explains Gieseke's Managing Director, Rumpfkeil. The number of delivery errors has fallen accordingly. In addition, thanks to the extensive analyses and reports it provides, LFS permits a detailed evaluation of the employees' working processes and performance. "In this way," emphasizes Rumpfkeil, "we are able to optimize our processes on a continuous, ongoing basis."