Controlling and operating automatic and manual storage areas with one system – this is reality at SchwarzwaldEisen in Lahr, Baden. This is made possible by two Kasto solutions: The Kastologic warehouse management system and the Kastologic mobile app. The steel trader thus simplifies and accelerates his processes, minimizes the error rate and can trace all batches without interruption.
“We live steel”: Under this motto, Schwarzwald-Eisenhandel GmbH & Co.KG – or SchwarzwaldEisen for short – has developed into the leading steel trader in Baden. The roots of the company, which is now run by the fourth generation of the family, go back to 1870.
Since 1966 the head office is located in Lahr, SchwarzwaldEisen has further locations in Freiburg im Breisgau, Bad Säckingen and Karlsruhe. With subsidiaries in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Switzerland, the specialist is now also active nationwide – and new branches are being added all the time. The group handles approximately 120,000 tons of material per year.
“We are consistently focusing on organic growth and a decentralized organization,” explains Dr. Steffen Marco Auer, who, together with his brother Ingo Wolfgang Auer, heads the fortunes of SchwarzwaldEisen as Managing Director. “Instead of one large location, we operate several regionally active stores that are close to the customer and therefore able to deliver quickly and flexibly.”
Functioning communication between the individual field offices and well-organised logistics are important prerequisites for the operation of such a network. “We therefore try to set up all branches according to a similar principle in order to be able to apply proven processes and technologies across locations and to keep interfaces as low and uniform as possible,” continues Auer.
Preferred partner for storage technology
This approach is also evident in the storage technology. Here SchwarzwaldEisen trusts in Kasto Maschinenbau GmbH & Co KG as preferred partner. At the headquarters in Lahr, for example, a Unicompact 3.0 automatic long goods storage system has been ensuring fast and efficient storage and retrieval of profiles, pipes and solid materials up to six metres long for around eight years.
SchwarzwaldEisen offers its customers a range of around 10,000 articles, mainly structural steel, stainless steel and aluminium. “Of these, about 70 to 80 percent of the orders are machined material,” reports Managing Director Auer. This is prepared in our own machine park according to the customer’s wishes and then dispatched.
In case of long goods, the Kasto system provides the required articles with a storage and retrieval machine (SRM) with short access times according to the “goods-to-man” principle at one of two retrieval stations. Sheet metal, on the other hand, is stored in a separate, manually operated storage area.
“Our customers expect us to make fast, error-free and traceable deliveries,” says Steffen Auer, outlining the challenges. “To ensure this, we rely on simple, clear and reliable control of our entire material flow.” SchwarzwaldEisen relies on the eNVenta merchandise management system (MMS) across all its sites.
The warehouse in Lahr is connected to it via a specially created interface – just like two other automatic Kasto storage systems in branches in Karlsruhe and in the Westerwald. “This ensures uniform order management and high inventory transparency,” explains Auer.
The MMS transmits the respective order data electronically to the Kastologic warehouse management system, which in turn initiates the removal of the required items from storage at the corresponding location. All processes can be traced back seamlessly, operating and allocation errors are virtually eliminated.
Manual storage was prone to errors
In the past, things were different in the manually operated and paper-guided sheet metal warehouses, recalls Auer: “Due to the large variety of articles, mix-ups sometimes occurred here, employees took the wrong sheet metal or the wrong quantity, for example – and in the end, the customer may not have received what he had ordered.” It was also not always easy to find the required goods in the long rows of shelves.
Those responsible at SchwarzwaldEisen were therefore looking for a way to also integrate these storage areas into the intelligent electronic control system. “We compared two competitors for this and decided on Kasto pretty quickly,” explains Auer.
The spatial proximity to the saw and storage technology specialist, which has its headquarters in Achern, a few kilometres away, was not the only reason. “Of course, it is advantageous to work with partners in the region who can also be on site quickly if necessary,” the managing director emphasizes. “Equally important to us, however, was Kasto’s extensive technical expertise and willingness to address our specific situation on an individual basis.”
Together with the steel trader, the Kasto experts analyzed the requirements at the location and in the entire company in detail and developed a solution to map all warehouse areas in a uniform and consistent control system. Among other things, we use Kastologic mobile, a platform-independent and mobile variant of Kastologic.
The software makes it possible to use the most important functions of the warehouse management system on portable devices such as tablets and smartphones – independently of permanently installed control panels, such as those in the UNICOMPACT automated warehouse. “This allows us, for example, to control the long goods warehouse flexibly and independent of location,” explains Steffen Auer. “But more importantly, we are now able to manage our manually operated sheet metal warehouses with Kastologic as well.”
Order and article data always at hand
Thanks to Kastologic mobile, warehouse employees have access to order and item data at all times. When retrieving the sheets, the system guides the user to the appropriate storage location and specifies the required quantity.
The storage compartments are equipped with QR and barcodes. If the user scans this with his mobile device, he can, among other things, confirm the withdrawal or trigger a reorder if the stock is running low. All information is available in the warehouse management system and thus also in the merchandise management system – tailor-made interfaces make this possible.
“The result is a uniformly controllable and seamlessly transparent material flow,” Auer sums up. “We have fewer picking errors, can work faster and more efficiently, and can easily track and trace individual batches.”
With the new warehouse management concept Kasto was able to score at SchwarzwaldEisen not only as a machine supplier but also as a solution provider. “We got a customized, software-based system from Kasto that works completely independently of the existing warehouses and can be scaled as needed for additional locations – a remarkable achievement,” Auer finds.
The concept is convincing all along the line – so well, in fact, that SchwarzwaldEisen intends to apply it at its other branches in the future. “As I said, we try to simplify and standardize processes wherever possible and avoid superfluous interfaces,” says Auer. “This helps us to become even more efficient and transparent across locations as well.”
If, for example, an ordered item is not in stock at a particular branch, it is quickly located in the system and can possibly be delivered from another location. “At the end of the day, it’s not just us who benefit from this organisation, but above all our customers – that’s the main thing for us,” the managing director enthuses.
The service is also convincing
Another advantage of the Kasto system for those responsible at SchwarzwaldEisen is its high availability. “Both the warehouse and the control system can be maintained remotely. If necessary, Kasto can access the software at any time and rectify faults quickly and easily.”
However, the close proximity means that the service experts are also on site at short notice – “an additional bonus that not every manufacturer can offer,” says Auer. The good partnership with Kasto, in addition to the convincing technology and the attractive price-performance ratio, was therefore decisive for continuing on the path taken together. “We are completely satisfied with the cooperation and convinced that both companies will benefit from it in the long term.”
Kasto in brief
The Kasto Group, based in Achern, Baden (Kasto Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG), specializes in sawing, storage and automation technology for long metal products and sheet metal. The company is a global market and technology leader for metal sawing machines, semi-automatic and automatic long product and sheet metal storage systems, automatic handling equipment for metal bars, sheets and blanks, and the associated software. With more than 175 years of experience, Kasto is one of the oldest family-owned companies in Europe. 170 patents, more than 140,000 sawing machines delivered all over the world and more than 2,200 installed automatic bearings testify to the company’s success. In addition to a branch plant in Schalkau, Thuringia, Kasto has subsidiaries in England, France, Singapore, China, Switzerland and the USA as well as sales and service partners in many other countries.