Samsonite: Quality conveyor equipment for the „Black Label“

TRANSNORM scores with reliability, running smoothness and a user-friendly system design in conjunction with a high level of delivery reliability …

For the conveyor equipment of the fourth stage of expansion of the European distribution centre of Samsonite that encompasses 39,000 square metres in Qudenaarde, Belgium, the Logistics Manager, Germain Ghys, once again deployed Transnorm conveyor and sorting systems, despite other providers being more favourable in terms of price. Quality characteristics such as absolute reliability, running smoothness and a user-friendly system design and construction scored high here in conjunction with a high degree of delivery reliability.

The Samsonite brand is not only globally renowned, but its products are also manufactured in production networks worldwide. At Qudenaarde in Belgium, for example, primarily hard-shell suitcases are manufactured. Based on its logistically favourable location, which is close to the most important road networks, as well as to the international port in Antwerp, this location has been simultaneously expanded into the central distribution centre in Europe over the course of a few decades. At present, there is a maximum storage capacity of approximately 1.3 million pieces available for around 7,100 different model and colour variants of the Samsonite, American Tourister, Black Label, Lacoste and Timberland brands.

From a logistics perspective, Samsonite suitcases are represented by plenty of air in a sophisticated shell. Accordingly, the dimensions of the warehouse lanes and building are equivalent to the area covering more than six football pitches. Based on the size and similarity to a nave bay, the residents of Qudenaarde have given the name "the Basilica" to the high-bay warehouse. The largest warehouse building so far – which is referred to as "The Dome" - was put into operation in 2009. This partial dispatch warehouse alone, with a surface area of 190 by 80 metres, offers space for 11,500 Euro pallets in six double lane racks.

Germain Ghys explained the logistics challenge: “We receive around 1,500 orders from approximately 1,200 customers across all of Europe every day. Up to 40 trucks leave our distribution centre each day, wherein we "transfer" a maximum of 2,300 square metres of warehouse area. These figures confirm that we need absolutely reliable processes and corresponding equipment for this purpose. In the "Dome", where products of the sophisticated "Black Label" brand are stored, we have found an extremely high-performance logistics solution, with which the work of the picker is supported very effectively. This is done on the one hand by the driverless narrow lane stacker and on the other hand by the transport and sorting lines of Transnorm. In the rack complex that is up to 170 metres (!) in length, there are six picking lanes that have been set up, which are equipped with 800 millimetre wide Transnorm belt conveyor routes. In this manner, for the pickers operating on both sides of the conveyor routes, the same short path is ensured from the goods to the belt. The Samsonite products requested are provided on Euro pallets only in the lower rack level – and, in fact, this is done completely automatically. Driverless narrow lane stackers load the racks continuously and also remove the goods based on orders from the back side out of the replenishment lane”.

For the picker, the principle of chaotic picking up proves to be particularly performance-enhancing. They provide the cardboard boxes ordered out on the warehouse pallet with internal logistics labels and then place them without selection on the belt. The logistics label guides the suitcases on their first journey in the direction of the buyer initially via several hundred metres of conveyor routes: From the lanes of racks via appropriate injection operations to a collective belt and then onwards to the picker and dispatch section. Here, the Transnorm roller conveyor system works like a compact sorting line and distributes the "Black Label" products arriving on the collective belt based on the logistics label to ten specific workstations. The orders are consolidated there and even pre-sorted on the Euro pallets by carrier or freight forwarder.

The sorting line with SmartSortÒ swivel roller equipment represents a sophisticated conveyor-specific building block system. Not only are multiple functions integrated into this but at the same time it cuts back the need for drive energy to be reduced by up to 45 per cent depending on the application. The variant in the Samsonite "Dome" combines an alignment station and five ejecting stations with two target tracks opposite one another as well as a no-reed route in a uniform profile frame on a route of 20 metres. Only three drives are required for this purpose! The motor and pneumatic system disappear completely below the conveyor track and nothing projects outside! In addition, this sorting line is relatively easy to set up – a situation that was very significant for the Logistics Manager. The reason: Transnorm has supplied the conveyor system but the suitcase specialist Samsonite has assembled it on its own! Unusual, at first glance...

"We have not chosen Transnorm based on its lowest price, but on account of the reliability of the equipment and consistent customer-orientation, which has supported us in a flexible manner while setting up our own intralogistics competence. We have not only taken over the assembly of the entire system, in order to save on costs, but to also have our own employees who can understand the system and who can then carry out relevant maintenance or service work on their own at a later stage is important" explained Germain Ghys regarding this procurement decision. "Furthermore, there is no ready-made solution for our large-volume products in any case and we simply need to have complete control every day over all conveyor-related processes". This is understandable given that the majority of the Samsonite dealers receive their goods from the whole of Europe within two days of making the order - a demanding objective, which is enormously important for customer satisfaction, particularly for the "Black Label" products supplied from the "Dome". System shut-down on account of failure should therefore a) not occur and must b) be rectified as soon as possible - and as far as possible by our own personnel. This is also affordable if you a) deploy reliable conveyor equipment with greater service life and this equipment b) is designed to have installation-friendly and maintenance-friendly system construction, which also permits subsequent adaptation/conversion.

Sorting line - no longer a black box

Let us take a look in detail: The TRANSNORM roller conveyor forms the building block basis of the sorting line and it also takes up the freely positionable swivel roller ejector. Both the support rollers and the swivel rollers are driven simultaneously by a flat belt. Only the swivel movement of the rollers is achieved with the help of additional pneumatic cylinders. It is easily possible to make subsequent adaptations on changed goods to be transported or to install additional units. Germain Ghys, who himself was working in the field of automation before joining Samsonite, appreciates this flexibility. And who knows today what the next "Black Label" generation will look like?

However, it is a matter of day-to-day routine for Transnorm to supply components and systems for simple integration by general contractors and end users - for example, with the supply of high-performance components for airport baggage handling systems all over the world where the "Black Label" suitcases run once again over the Transnorm equipment - three times as fast as in the "Dome" but just as reliably...