Bergfreunde is increasing picking efficiency by more than 400% with the help of AutoStore by Element Logic

Despite having become one of the largest online outdoor specialists in Europe, Bergfreunde is still looking for new peaks to climb. And with a state of the art AutoStore system from Element Logic, the German company is setting its sights on new heights.

Clothes, shoes, outdoor equipment, in addition to climbing gear and other special equipment – Bergfreunde has it all. Having started their business in 2006, they currently offer more than 150.000 items from more than 750 different brands through their successful online store, and they continue to grow. With a sales increase of roughly 30 percent per year in 2017 and 2018 respectively, the ability to scale operations has been crucial – and will be for the years to come.

“With our tremendous growth we are dependent on a flexible and efficient storage system, which is why Bergfreunde.de has chosen AutoStore. Scalability, space efficiency and high performance were decisive factors for us. All our expectations on AutoStore and Element Logic have been more than fulfilled and we never regretted our decision”, says Ronny Höhn, Managing Director at Bergfreunde.

Thomas Klein and Ronny Höhn from Bergfreunde and Michael Kawalier from Element Logic i front of AutoStore grid
A STRONG TEAM: Thomas Klein (left), Logistics Manager at Bergfreunde, Ronny Höhn (middle), Managing Director at Bergfreunde and Michael Kawalier (right), Managing Director Sales at Element Logic Germany

In August 2016 the company opened a new logistics center with a total space of 10.000 m2.  The focus is on the self-sufficient AutoStore system, which was originally designed for a size of 1.800 m² and since then has been extended several times.

“The friendly market environment offers sustainable growth opportunities in upcoming years. We are planning further automation of logistics to increase efficiency gains”, Höhn continues.

Sorting in a high-density warehouse

At Bergfreunde’s logistics center in Kirchentellinsfurt south of Stuttgart, currently 80 robots are racing over the 3.000 m2 system, moving 94.000 bins stacked in 16 levels. A total of 21 ports are available to move items in and out of storage. Divided by two shifts, more than 100 employees handle up to 200.000 items per workweek, taking care of incoming goods, returns and shipping. Bergfreunde.de store an average of three «Stock Keeping Units» (SKUs) per box.

“We are one of the very few AutoStore users in Europe that do not store our items in a sorted way. When people hear that, they look like they’re about to get a heart attack. But I can confirm that it works well. On the other hand, we have no choice: We can`t accommodate 200.000 bins and then only store two or three items per bin”, the company’s Logistics Manager Thomas Klein explains.

Several AutoStore red line robots moving fast on a grid
ON THE JOB: Today 80 AutoStore robots are constantly racing across the 3.000 m2 system, moving 94.000 bins

The new AutoStore CarouselPort 3.0 series

At Bergfreunde’s warehouse, the new AutoStore CarouselPort 3.0 series has already been installed, which is significantly more ergonomic than the previous version.

“This reduces signs of fatigue and makes the working environment more comfortable for the employees”, says Michael Kawalier, Managing Director Sales at Element Logic Germany.

Next level carton handling

In addition to all of the AutoStore components, Element Logic has also delivered and installed other equipment in the Bergfreunde warehouse to expedite handling. This includes automatic carton erectors, automatic carton infeed and outfeed, and final shipping sortation.

More specifically, this means that the order pickers automatically get ready-erected cartons delivered to their picking station. Upon completing the order-related task a delivery note with service information is automatically printed and attached to the carton. At the same time, the package receives an ID label. Afterwards on the conveyor belt, the parcel is automatically closed, weighed, optimized in volume, labeled and handed over to the shipping department.

“With these additional elements, we significantly accelerated the process in the warehouse and noticeably increased the performance of the picking employees”, Kawalier says.

Conveyer belt with boxes on the move going into and out of the AutoStore facility
INTELLIGENT CONNECTION: The conveyor technology is integrated into the overall system and leads through the AutoStore tunnel.

On average Bergfreunde’s employees are now completing 175 picks per hour. Before switching from shelf storage to Element Logic’s AutoStore-based intralogistics system, they could only do 45 picks per hour in comparison.

Bergfreunde has also opted to let Element Logic be responsible for the maintenance of their intralogistics system. The Service-Level-Agreement also includes hotline service, spare parts supply and other services. This allows the company to focus singlehandedly on their day-to-day business operations.

Warehouse worker at AutoStore picking station
READY-ERECTED CARTONS: The pickers now average 175 picks per hour, thanks to the ready-erected cartons they get delivered to their picking stations.

Reaching a new peak in logistics in 2020

With the positive growth forecasts Bergfreunde is looking at now, their directors have already identified the need for another expansion of their logistics space in the near future.

“AutoStore requires about 10 percent of air in the system to be able to work properly, and we are already below 9 percent. That means that the air is slowly but surely starting to get tight again”, says Ronny Höhn.

The solution is to build a new logistics hall in the immediate vicinity of their existing warehouse. Here, an additional 10.000 m2 of space will be added by mid-2020. The new hall will contain the inbound area and the returns handling, as well as an extension of their existing AutoStore system.

“Adding an extension to an existing AutoStore system is extremely easy. In this specific case, we can connect the two storage units directly via a grid and rail for the robots”, Kawalier ends.

With the help of Element Logic, Bergfreunde has been able to increase the picking efficiency by more than 400%. In addition, the lead time from customer order to handover to the sender has been reduced to less than 3 hours. Today, the company processes more than 15.000 orders on peak days. The investment in the warehouse automation project paid off for Bergfreunde in less than two years.

Facts and figures:

  • Bergfreunde is a leading online mountaineering retailer in Europe (founded in 2006)
  • Turnover in 2018: 85,8 Million Euros
  • Logistics center with a size of 10.000 m² south of Stuttgart, Germany
  • 3.000 m² footprint of the AutoStore system
  • 80 AutoStore robots
  • 94.000 storage bins
  • 21 automated carousel ports

 

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