Normagrup: automation shines a light on logistics
Normagrup is committed to innovation and the most advanced technology with this automated checkout warehouse and Mecalux software.
The best decision we’ve made in recent years, without a doubt. In our production processes, there’s a marked before and after in terms of how we do things now with an automated storage and retrieval system.
We manufacture electrical equipment, mainly four types of products: lighting, emergency lighting, fire detection systems and hospital bed head units.
Founded in 1971, Normagrup is a company specialising in the sale of technical products for the industrial sector in all phases.
Mecalux has designed an automated storage and retrieval system for boxes made up of four aisles measuring 7 metres tall, 33 metres long and 19 metres wide, with double-deep racking.
The AS/RS can store 8,000 boxes in a surface area of just 625 m2..
This system optimises the available space and streamlines raw material storage and handling tasks through automation.
From the start, we’d already planned the entire scope of this project, which we’ve been working towards. That is, at the beginning, we bought 3 stacker cranes for boxes; this year, we purchased the fourth, and next year, we’ll implement the fifth.
The entire project as a whole was planned from the outset. That’s clearly an asset. Another asset is the flexibility of the system, meaning Mecalux was able to adapt to our needs, tailoring its software to our requirements. Other providers had a standard closed system, that they don’t want to touch, and that didn’t work for us. So, flexibility is key, for sure.
We’ve known Mecalux for many years, and we’ve been working with their conventional storage systems for a long time. We were looking for several alternatives, and one of them was theirs. With a project like this, you really have to get down to the specifics when it comes to requirements, and Mecalux has always been able to respond to all our needs.
In this centre, logistics operations start with the receipt of pallets with raw materials.
An operator processes the goods, sorts them, and puts them in plastic boxes. Before entering the AS/RS, the boxes are labelled with all the relevant information and weighed to make sure the theoretical information on the raw material matches the real data.
Once the information checks out, the stacker crane for boxes stores each of the unit loads based on the chaotic storage system.
This solution enables perfect traceability of the raw materials by Easy WMS warehouse management software from Mecalux.
When the production lines order raw materials, Normagrup’s ERP system communicates with Easy WMS to issue output orders for the corresponding materials. This centre's internal logistics processes are carried out via Easy WMS’s management of the autonomous intelligent vehicles, or AIVs. These internal transport elements travel through the warehouse autonomously, following the orders they receive from the Mecalux software. Easy WMS is able to orchestrate all these movements through optimal integration and continuous communication between the two systems.
In addition to supplying the production lines, the AIVs move finished products from the production lines to the miniload system.
Currently, Normagrup performs dispatches manually. An operator puts the goods on the pallets manually and labels them for proper shipping.
The AS/RS for boxes is run by Mecalux’s Easy WMS warehouse management system.
The software manages 700 box movements a day, supplying the production lines and storing raw materials according to preset criteria.
What’s great about Easy WMS is that it’s not hard to use. The data visualisation is quite open and easy to understand. Training people to use it is very straightforward, but apart from that, people don’t actually have to use it — the machines can interact with Easy WMS directly, which is the height of automation. There’s a lot of software on the market with that part restricted.
Easy WMS has given us greater control over product traceability. Now, we can properly monitor our semi-finished products, batches, the FIFO system and, particularly, reverse logistics. We wanted to control not only when material was delivered to the production line, but also when we returned that material to storage, continuing to track it. That was one of the weaknesses of our production system.
One thing that stands out is that now, when you go down to production, you don’t see people running. People are doing their jobs at their workstations. Managing materials was somewhat more chaotic in the past: “Bring this, take that, I need it now…” Especially, “I need it now because I’ve been waiting for an hour.” This doesn’t happen any more. If you go down now, people are doing what they need to do and adding value to the product, not moving it from one place to another. That’s handled by both the AS/RS and the AIVs.
Normagrup has demonstrated its commitment to innovation and state-of-the-art technology with this AS/RS for boxes and the software from Mecalux, a system that has improved management of raw materials, optimised space, and increased the flow of movements.
So, in the end, the intangibles become so tangible that they’re no longer questioned. The savings are so evident that even if you can't put a monetary value on them, you can measure them in other ways that enable us to grow. If we hadn’t implemented these types of systems, working as we’re working right now in this facility would be impossible. First, in terms of space — because, obviously, a system like this lets you compress warehouse space much more, giving you more storage volume. And second, these systems give you speed and flexibility. Absolutely.
I’m a huge fan of this solution. I’m the first in this company to say I’m convinced. It’s something that was very clear to me. With projects like these, management has to see the value in them, and I think our management always understood that it was an effective system.
Let me be clear: going back would be madness. If they gave me my money back for returning the system, I’d never do it. Impossible.