Knoll Maschinenbau: Transparency for AGVs and people

The material flow in the warehouse, production and shipping logistics at KNOLL Maschinenbau GmbH is optimized, efficient and transparent. Behind this are the add-on solutions for SAP from Flexus AG, with which employees,
manual industrial trucks and a wide variety of driverless transport systems can be controlled automatically and centrally.

With Flexus we have found a partner who, in addition to mobile booking in SAP, could offer us further perspectives for optimizing our intralogistics.”

Jonathan Hoffman
process manager
KNOLL machine building GmbH

Springs, bolts, sheet metal, electronic components and much more: For the assembly of modern conveyor and
various parts are required for filter systems, which must be provided in exactly the right quantity and quality at the time of production. Picking errors and delays lead to considerable additional work, loss of time and additional costs. At KNOLL Maschinenbau GmbH, the advantages and subsequent picking and transport orders are therefore controlled centrally by SAP and the integrated add-on solutions from Flexus AG. “The error rate in our production logistics is less than 0.1 percent,” states process manager Jonathan Hoffmann. Thanks to the rapid and reliable replenishment of parts, “the fitters are very productive because they can process their orders without waiting”.

Book paperless instead of paper

The coordinated and transparent processes are the result of an IT project that Hoffmann initiated together with Stephan Hosemann, logistics team leader, in 2018. “Our employees used to use paper receipts for picking, which occasionally caused confusion,” recalls Hosemann. Deviations and shortages had to be noted manually on the shelf and later recorded in SAP, which meant another source of error. The posting and storage of internal goods receipts from our own production had not yet been digitized. Against this background, KNOLL was looking for a mobile solution for the paperless booking of all goods movements between goods receipt and order picking through to handover to assembly.

“We wanted a system that is integrated into SAP and does not create any additional interfaces,” emphasizes Hoffmann, who took a close look at various providers. “In Flexus we have found a partner who, in addition to mobile booking in SAP, could offer us further perspectives for optimizing our intralogistics,” says Hoffmann, who is referring to the FlexGuide transport control system developed by Flexus. The solution is characterized by the fact that it can be used to control all types of vehicles, including tugger trains and driverless transport systems.

“It is only through the combination of mobile bookings and the central control of all transports that we gain complete transparency about what is happening,” explains Hosemann.

All processes are transparent

The conversion took place in two steps. Initially, KNOLL and Flexus concentrated on introducing mobile bookings with the help of FlexMobile and the mobile apps for SAP. Around 30 employees were equipped with Zebra TC 8000 barcode scanners for this purpose. The touch computers have a large display through which the respective Flexus app communicates with the operator.

Mobile Apps at Knoll

Depending on the process, the employee can select the appropriate application in the form of a tile and Start work process. You can choose apps for Goods receipt postings, storage and retrieval, Order picking, inventory, feedback and various Stock management tools. Each movement of goods is acknowledged with the scanner and posted immediately in SAP. “As a result, the current order status is in all areas between goods receipt and picking completely transparent at all times,” emphasizes Hosemann. The employee receives clear instructions on how for example the exact shelf address and the one there quantity of a specific item to be picked. If necessary, the operator can opt out at the push of a button individual items show an image on the display permit. “With this visual support we could increase the quality again and avoid mix-ups practically rule out shelving,” reports Hoffmann.

1000 driving orders per day

After the successful implementation of the mobile apps for SAP, the transport control system for around 1,000 daily driving orders was introduced. These are distributed among 14 forklifts and ants, two tugger trains and a driverless transport system with three vehicles (AGVs) from Safelog, a partner of KNOLL Maschinenbau GmbH. For the open-system FlexGuide, however, the manufacturer does not play any role here.

“Not every driving order can be taken over by each of the devices, but there are major overlaps,” says Hosemann. Therefore, every vehicle reports back as soon as a driving order has been completed. While this happens automatically with the AGVs and tugger trains, it works with the 14 forklifts via tablets that are personally assigned to the drivers. “We know where the vehicles are at all times and have complete transparency here, too,” emphasizes Hoffmann. For each individual driving order, the FlexGuide decides which device should be used to carry it out.

The stored priorities are taken into account, which include due dates, age and distance travelled differ and can be manually overridden at any time. “In this way, urgent orders from the boss can be scheduled or rescheduled and executed at short notice,” explains Hoffmann. Some of the driving orders are created manually by the employees at KNOLL. For this purpose, the terminals of the workers and tablets installed near the around 120 contact points are used. The remaining transport requirements are generated cyclically in the background or created automatically by production confirmations.

Incidentally, train stations without a current assignment are now also ignored by the tugger trains, which thus manage eleven round trips per shift instead of seven.

AGVs for production supply

The three AGVs play a special role at KNOLL one that has been in the extensive production halls for a long time belong to the usual picture. They move in Parallel operation and in the same hall areas as the forklifts and tugger trains. your current positions are permanently recorded and in a 2D cockpit displayed. Based on this live tracking the driving orders are individually optimized by the FlexGuide. The driverless robots can walk-in for everyone transports are used. If a pallet from be taken from a higher shelf if necessary, the FlexGuide sometimes generates two partial orders. The first part then takes over, for example a manual stacker truck that transports the goods on a trolley specially designed by KNOLL parked in a defined ground-level space. From there an AGV shoulders the car and drives it to the destination.

AGV in action at Knoll

The internal transports at KNOLL do not always lead directly to the next production stage, but often to a buffer store. The so-called work-in-process warehouses – WIP for short – are distributed across the production halls and are the same
Production fluctuations between the individual production stages. Flexus has integrated an additional parking space management especially for these WIP warehouses. This means that storage locations that correspond to the stored optimization criteria can be targeted as part of the take-away of materials.

As a further function, the AGVs take on the supply and disposal of empties in production in a dual role. In combination with sensor monitoring from KNOLL, the next free parking spaces can always be identified and
thus avoiding unnecessary distances.

The initial setting of the transport control system with the rule priorities was carried out together with Flexus, with many changes having taken place in the meantime. “We are glad that we can carry out the customizing independently of Flexus and can therefore react flexibly to short-term changes,” says Hoffmann, who works with FlexGuide internal transport: “We now only need seven transporters instead of the original ten,” confirms the logistics manager, who sees himself well equipped with this number of employees for further increases in orders.

Secured metrics

Evaluations at Knoll

With FlexMobile and FlexGuide, KNOLL Maschinenbau GmbH has significantly accelerated and optimized its intralogistics. All processes are now transparent. Order picking runs almost flawlessly and the productivity of the fitters has increased. The transport control system made it possible to save on various journeys and some of the employees. In addition, secure key figures are now available with which reliable forecasts and deadline commitments are possible. No wonder that KNOLL has already decided on the next expansion stage of the solution. In the next step, the shipping logistics will also be controlled with mobile solutions from Flexus AG. The employees are then guided through the loading check using an app, which is then documented with a photo.

KNOLL Maschinenbau GmbH, based in Bad Saulgau, is one of the leading suppliers of conveyor and filter systems for chips and
Cooling lubricants in metalworking. Highly flexible transport systems complement the product portfolio. Complete plants and system solutions with centralized or decentralized functions are realized with a comprehensive product range. The company, founded by Walter Knoll in 1970, is owner-managed in the second generation. The Board is in the hands of Jürgen and Matthias Knoll, the two sons of the company founder.