Automation is a continuous process.
Belgian parts distributor Shake-Hand automated its manual storage and picking process five years ago, installing an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) from material handling equipment manufacturer Kardex. The project helped Shake-Hand maximize storage space, move higher volumes of product through its facility, and reduce picking errors—all thanks to the installation of two Kardex Compact Buffers, which are vertical buffer modules (VBMs) that function as mini-load systems for storing, picking, and buffering small parts. Essentially, the enclosed system houses bins and trays that are retrieved by an automated crane that delivers the products to a pick station. Such systems are designed to both automate picking and maximize vertical storage in a building.
The system was a game-changer, according to Shake-Hand, and it wasn’t long before business growth caused the distributor to go back to Kardex for an upgrade that would accommodate even higher volumes and the need for more storage.
Family-owned Shake-Hand supplies standard machine parts to the mechanical engineering industry, serving customers in Belgium and Luxembourg. Company owner Niek Lerou said the initial Kardex project in 2018 proved so successful that it was only natural to return to the well for an expanded solution when his business started to ramp up even more. Together, Kardex and Shake-Hand decided to install upgraded VBMs that would provide much-needed additional storage capacity while adding full-box picking capabilities to complement the original system’s single-item picking capabilities.
In the end, Kardex added three upgraded compact buffers to the facility’s existing solution. The new VBMs, which can extend out to roughly 65 feet in length and up to 128 feet in height, are integrated with the two original VBMs to form a system powered by Kardex software.
“The new and existing units are connected to the Kardex warehouse management software, Kardex Power Pick System, and create a fully integrated, efficient, and accurate intralogistics solution,” according to a joint statement from the companies describing the project. “The existing units are used to pick small parts, while the new extended units are used to pick full cartons.”
The full cartons are stored in Kardex VBM boxes in two different heights. The Power Pick System can consolidate picks from the existing small-parts picking zone and picks from the new full-carton picking zone.
“The extended Kardex Compact Buffer was just what we needed to optimize our full-bin picking,” Lerou said in the statement. “With its dimensions of up to 20 meters [66 feet] long and 12 meters [39 feet] high, we can use it to maximize our existing space and increase storage capacity.”
The upgraded system was installed last year and has doubled storage capacity, drastically reduced picking errors, and set the stage for future growth.
“We have worked with Kardex for five years and have seen excellent results from the Kardex Compact Buffer,” Lerou also said. “We are very happy with the solution and how it has fulfilled our business needs. With our business growing, we knew we could count on Kardex to help once again.”