Biltema’s inventory has impressed Nordic shoppers for many years now. No matter if you are shopping for your home, garden, car, motorcycle, camping trip, office or caravan, chances are you will find what you are looking for at Biltema. Having several hundred thousand items in stock at any given time it is natural that some need to be treated with care. Items like paints, solvents, pressure vessels, flammable liquids or explosive products. Biltema wanted to create a safe solution for handling such products while also making the handling of other goods faster and more efficient. A conversation was initiated and a fully automated pallet handling system spanning two floors seemed to address Biltema’s concerns and provide the desired outcomes.
Flow and Automation
Each morning long rows of trucks arrive at Biltema’s storage facilities ready to unload their cargo. The pallets need to be unloaded efficiently, safely and swiftly. Easier said than done, with hundreds of trucks waiting for their turn and with limited space to maneuver. Issues and bottlenecks can arise in many different ways. In addition, most facilities span at least two floors so unloading can be quite time consuming.
“The logistical concerns are of course important but our focus was always increasing safety. One of the questions we had to answer was how to safely and efficiently unload vast quantities in the morning and then potentially have to ship out the same goods that same afternoon,” Erik Dahllöf explains.
To achieve an optimal flow the system handles the pallets from start to finish. After being unloaded from the truck onto a conveyor belt the pallets are automatically transported from the loading docks on the ground floor to the second floor for unpacking. The flow is designed to be one-way in the morning and then reversed in the afternoon. By reversing the flow in the afternoon the goods can be safely and efficiently transported back to the loading docks where new trucks are waiting to transport the products to Biltema stores and into customers´ hands.
In the past in-house staff had to handle incoming pallets which often led to bottlenecks. By building a fully automated solution the drivers can unload directly onto the conveyor belt without delay, five pallets at a time.
Up Top and Preventive Measures
One of the desired outcomes was to move all hazardous goods such as spray cans, flammables, solvents and paints to the second floor. However unlikely, in the event of a fire or an explosion the force would be directed upwards. If needed, it is much easier to evacuate from the ground floor. With the new automated solution the hazardous goods till always be where it is supposed to be.
In addition, at one of Biltema’s many facilities, we have helped introduce yet another safety feature. There is a water-filled pond next to the building and the water can now be used in the event of a fire. To facilitate the feature, we installed a 70 cm high protective wall around the lift. Due to this the entire floor can be flooded without damaging the equipment and water entering the bottom floor. A great example of a preventive measure to protect both people and assets.
Results and Looking Ahead
It has never been easier for drivers to unload at the conveyor belt. With the help of an infeeder (UXB), the pallets are automatically lifted and sent further into the system. The pallets are scanned and sent to an MDL – Our self-developed freight elevator – Which then sends the pallet to the second floor for intermediate storage. This is the point at which Biltema’s staff can assume their responsibilities and perform whichever action makes sense for the pallets. Everything else happens completely automatically and even if several trucks arrive simultaneously it is possible to unload rather immediately.
The fully automated solution saves time, money and further increases safety across the board. Biltema’s staff can attend to other matters as the drivers load and unload the pallets. The system itself handles the entire flow.
“This is a great example of investing in safer and logistically smart solutions that serve multiple purposes all at once. I hope this experience will lead to many more opportunities for streamlining and optimizing inventory management in the future,” Erik concludes.