Custom-designed warehouses allow for easy access to products of all shapes and sizes.
Continuous motion
BY Lauren Duensing

ailored warehouse automation plays an important role in a profitable business. Every warehouse’s storage needs are different, so attempting to stack products into a one-size-fits-all system typically isn’t the best choice for long-term organization and productivity.

David Veldung, president of Fehr Warehouse Solutions, says that a typical concern he hears from companies who are researching a custom warehouse system is regarding the investment cost.

“We can help with determining the ROI for such a system, which typically is about three years. Also, the integrating from the software side into the existing ERP or MRP software often is a concern—but is not a problem for us. We evaluate material flow as well as conduct analyses to determine the optimum storage size,” he says.

Tracking tubes
Fehr recently installed a honeycomb shelving system at Fischer Stainless Steel’s San Luis Potosi, Mexico, facility. Fischer has been producing stainless steel tubes since 1969, when founder Hans Fischer built his first tube mill in his hometown in Germany’s Black Forest. The company is headquartered in Germany and operates production facilities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, Austria, South Africa and China. Fischer-manufactured tubes find their way into applications for the automotive, architectural, agricultural, food processing and health care industries.
Honeycomb system brings material in and out without damage
The San Luis Potosi facility produces stainless steel tubes from ½ inch to 10 inch, primarily for automotive exhaust systems. “Fischer, like many companies, had issues with damage on its thin-wall products, due to handling,” says Veldung. Company executives also were interested in improving first-in, first-out practices and material tracking and traceability.

The honeycomb concept is ideal for large quantities of bar, rod, tube and sheet materials. According to Fehr product literature, the system works according to the principle of exchangeable cassettes and makes optimum use of the available space “thanks to a minimum approach dimension, even with cassettes of different dimensions.”

Times two
Originally, Fischer was considering “only one installation, but shortly after starting the first project, the benefits were so overwhelming that a second system was purchased,” Veldung says. “We conducted several meetings with the customer in Mexico as well as at the company headquarters in Germany to capture all the requirements and details. We also scheduled detailed kick-off meetings and multiple site visits during the realization of the project to ensure we met and exceeded the customer’s requirements.”
Fischer’s honeycomb warehousing systems each have approximately 1,900 storage locations and are engineered to handle material up to 28 feet and 6,600 pounds per storage location, Veldung notes.

“Both systems have 10 inbound and outbound stations. Fischer produces directly from their pipe manufacturing lines into the cassettes (load carriers) and then the product is stored in the shelves. After that, they select product from the system to automatically feed their saws and lasers.”

Once a system is installed, Fehr ensures that clients have ready access to training, spare parts and information about optimum usage of the system and best practices for life cycle management. “We conduct a training for the operators on the warehouse management software, which is very user-friendly and intuitive. Only very little training is required,” Veldung says.

Proper storage reduces the likelihood of material damage.
He comments that the software itself uses an algorithm to optimize storage capability, making it unnecessary for a human to keep track of everything and ensure the system stays organized.

“The new honeycomb storage will reduce material damage by up to 90 percent and can guarantee traceability and first in, first out of material,” Veldung says. It also eliminated the need for manual material transportation and ensures that material shows up on time to the machines. “There are no more wait times or searching for material or heat numbers, which gives Fischer much higher throughput with fewer people.”

Fehr Warehouse Solutions, Charlotte, North Carolina, 706/666-8448,

Fischer Mexicana SA de CV, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, +52 48 246966,