Warehouse automation wasn’t an obvious choice for Davcor, a small company selling locks. But it turned out to be the right decision.
The directors of the Davcor Group, an Australian-based company that designs, distributes, and manufactures locks, weren’t sure their size warranted the installation of a high-end warehouse automation system. However, choosing the AutoStore system, empowered by Swisslog, was a decision they’ve never regretted.
The company, which has been around since the mid-1980s, has always been automated to an extent. But when their warehouse had to move, it was time to upgrade their automation system from the one they’d originally designed.
“It was fairly daunting because we’re a small company. We’re only 62 people. The number of picks we do a day (around 1,000) doesn’t really suit a lot of the high-end automation systems,” says Marc Cohen, Managing Director of Davcor.
“It was such a big decision for us, and I wanted to make the correct decision,” he adds. “The more I looked, the more I kept coming back to AutoStore.”
The system they had designed themselves used conveyors, sortation, and forklifts along narrow aisles. It was pretty complex and required a fair amount of maintenance. The conveyor carousel was massive, and the whole system broke down from time to time.
“We had to move our warehouse, and that was when we decided to install the AutoStore system,” says Cohen. “We worried initially that the whole thing might be too complex and the cost too high for us, but then realized that a company is never too small to automate.”
Their implementation timeline was only four months as their old lease was running out, and they had to construct a new warehouse and install the AutoStore system during this brief period. “Believe it or not, it was done on time.”
“The major feature of any system has to be return on investment. And our return on the AutoStore system has been fantastic. The system is far easier [to use] than it looks. And, in terms of ‘Could we afford it?’. Well, in the end, could we afford not to do something like this?”
Davcor processes about 400 orders a day, and their AutoStore system does around 1,200 picks and 200–300 put-aways per day. But the system can do up to 600 picks in an hour if working at full capacity.
“Customers have learned that the system can pick at any time – not just during office hours. So, we often get late-afternoon orders, as customers know they’ll still get their goods on time,” says Cohen.
The AutoStore Robots work 24 hours per day. When an order comes in, the robots start picking through the bins (or totes), bringing the required ones to the top. When the pickers at the ports select an order, the robots can drop the bin to them straight away.
The one thing Cohen advises other customers to do is always to get more bins. “However many totes you get, you’re going to need more.”
He mentions the advantage of putting away stock to an empty bin, as it means there’s always an automatic and continuous stock-take going on.
The AutoStore system has turned out to exceed Davcor’s expectations regarding cost savings, benefits to staff, and general ease of operation.
“Our return on investment was quite remarkable. It was under two years. We hadn't planned for that, but we got a few advantages that we hadn’t counted on,” adds Cohen.
A significant reduction in stock losses and keeping exact track of stock were two of the major advantages. In addition, there’s been a considerable saving in their energy bill, and the company also ended up using a lot less space, which has translated into lower overheads.
“Our energy bill went down from around $9,000 a month at our previous premises to around $1,200 a month in the new warehouse. That’s almost 85%.”
The installation of the AutoStore system has also benefited the staff enormously.
“The biggest advantages are in terms of work health and safety – touch wood, we haven't had an injury in four years as a result. There’s no lifting or bending, [and] your port is at the perfect height to pick and put away. It's not as tiring. [Our employees] don't have to walk around a huge warehouse as much,” adds Cohen.
Unlike with the old system, a new employee can learn the system in under a day. So, training costs are low, and there are minimal operational interruptions.
Another benefit is that the system is more robust than anticipated. “We've almost never had a complete breakdown. We’ve had components wear out, as happens with all equipment, but they were fairly easy to change.”
Cohen adds that the Davcor team can do almost 90% of service and maintenance themselves. But their AutoStore dealer is within easy reach to help with more intricate repairs.
“The major feature of any system has to be return on investment. And our return on the AutoStore system has been fantastic,” Cohen concludes. “The system is far easier [to use] than it looks. And, in terms of ‘Could we afford it?’. Well, in the end, could we afford not to do something like this?”
Dutch company Beekman B.V. had to choose: either move to bigger premises or upgrade the automation of their existing warehouse. They decided on the AutoStore system.
Warehouse automation was an obvious choice for Elektroimportøren, sellers of electrical equipment, helping them double and redouble their turnover in six years.
AutoStore can fit any warehouse or fulfillment center. Make yours the next.