The transportation-and-warehousing industry has the third-highest automation potential of any sector, according to McKinsey Global Institute. As part of this sector, with a strong focus on e-commerce and a willingness to invest, we spoke with Anton Tschurwald, Vice President Retail Solutions at KNAPP AG, about an automated solution designed specifically for Radial’s client and the future of automation in logistics and e-commerce.
Joanna Stankiewicz: Hello Anton. You represent KNAPP AG, which offers efficient and intelligent solutions for the automation and digitization of production, distribution and point-of-sale. How did it start?
Anton Tschurwald, KNAPP AG: KNAPP was founded in 1952. Ing. Günter Knapp started with 2 employees with the manufacturing of special machines. Thus, the first automated picking machine for pharmaceutical wholesale was born. Today, KNAPP is a strong and innovative technology partner. Our key to success are flexible and scalable logistics concepts consisting of intelligent technologies, such as automated storage systems, transport systems or robots with integrated artificial intelligence and suitable software solutions. We have already worked out pioneering concepts with a wide variety of partners from core industries and implemented customized and flexible systems.
Joanna: What kind of industries do you work for? Do you often cooperate with fulfillment and e-commerce companies?
Anton: Worldwide, numerous customers from the healthcare, fashion, retail, food retail and industry sectors rely on our experience and innovative strength. In the last few years, the demand for e-commerce and omni-channel solutions has increased. This trend is well in favour of KNAPP’s core competence – coming from the pharmaceutical wholesale sector, the rapid fulfillment of small orders and the handling of peak situations is in our DNA. We have already implemented warehouses for well-known companies such as EDEKA, Woolworth, Marc Cain, Würth and Parfums Christian Dior, covering the most diverse logistical fulfillment requirements with our solutions.
Joanna: Our companies have worked together on an automated solution that you designed especially for doTERRA, one of our key clients, our key client, a worldwide brand of natural essential oils. The solution is used in our warehouse in Poland.
Anton: Yes, your company contacted us directly regarding this matter. Following the initial introductory meeting, we exchanged information about your requirements and our solutions. This very quickly led to the first concept design. After agreeing on the design principles, we followed up with a series of workshops to go into every detail – this makes the difference between a good and an excellent solution for the customer. Radial wanted to have a very fast picking system, low failure rates and manual packing stations. That’s why we worked out our proposal with a Centra Belt System combined with the fast mover picking machine SDA, a flow rack area for runners and for the packing area a series of ergonomic packing stations. Actually, the first concept draft was quite a quick shot.
Joanna: Our client and we are very satisfied with the automation. Could you describe its’ capabilities?
Anton: These automated picking systems take care of order processing. By combining the Central Belt System with the fast-mover picking machine (SDA), transfer stations and tailor-made software, Radial profits from a state-of-the-art system for automatic order fulfillment – all from a single source. All orders are picked into a tote, starting at the SDA area, moving forward to the fast-mover area where the products are directly picked from flow racks. After picking, documents are fully automatically inserted into the tote, it is transported to one of the 40 packing stations. At the packing tables the goods are packed into a shipping carton, which is sorted automatically according to shipment. The empty picking tote is directed to the tote buffer and used again for the next orders.
Joanna: The process of designing the solution is full of challenges. How do you remember it?
Anton: Our Central Belt System is a comprehensive solution for distribution centers that provide rapid, automatic picking and inventory turnover rates. This particularly relates to items typical to the cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors. It is a very proven solution, where we have had many successful installations. In terms of the collaboration, it was the first project that we realized together with Radial. In fact, we realized very quickly that the teams fit together well, decisions were made quickly, and all challenges were mastered promptly and sustainably.
Joanna: What distinguishes this solution?
Anton: The automation solution is state-of-the-art technology and corresponds to other highly automated fulfillment concepts. In this solution the packing process is not fully automated simply because of ROI calculations but also to ensure full flexibility in packaging processes. Automated packing is of course an option where appropriate.
Joanna: The world market is changing to become more automated and robotized. What technologies are KNAPP working on nowadays?
Anton: The current challenges, such as complex customer requirements, rising cost pressures and personnel shortages, are increasing the trend towards full automation in logistics. With intelligent automation solutions, KNAPP wants to make value chains more efficient. Robotics, and the sensible use of artificial intelligence, hold great potential to support the future of logistics. Autonomous mobile robots, pocket transport systems or intelligent packaging systems also continue to push automation forward. The focus therefore remains on the development of digital solutions and revolutionary systems that connect all levels of the value chain.
Joanna: In your opinion, what will be the future of automation and robotics for e-commerce fulfillment?
Anton: Whether online or offline, store replenishment or e-commerce businesses all pursue the same goal: to make their customers happy. A stellar shopping experience for customers includes quick, error-free and very convenient delivery. KNAPP can help to fulfill their customers’ wishes even when lacking resources. That’s why we think that the future will be zero or one-touch fulfilment, automated picking directly into the shipping cartons, no paperwork at all and a highly automated returns handling process.
Joanna: Anton, thank you for sharing your knowledge and perspective. Your insights have provided valuable understanding, and we’re grateful for the time you dedicated to our conversation. We’re looking forward to the advancements in this dynamic field and excited about the possibilities ahead!
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Anton Tschurwald, Vice President Retail Solutions at KNAPP AG, started his professional career in the field of mechanical engineering and automation in 1992. In 2001 he joined KNAPP and quickly advanced to management positions, being responsible for concept development and sales for turnkey intralogistics solutions. Since 2013 he has been responsible for sales, engineering and project management as the appointed Vice President of the Business Unit Retail Solutions. He’s driven by: #passion4retail.
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