Shell Warehouse Management System

From the smallest to the biggest...

The SLC's warehousing operation covers 9,300m2: this comprises a 10,240 pallet capacity High Bay warehouse with five aisles, two manual pick areas, two dynamic picking stores with storage for 345 pallets, an automated pick face and a 16-aisle load assembly area. SLC delivers its product range direct to automotive and industrial customers, from vehicle engine oil for car-makers and consumers through to hydraulic and cutting fluids for major customers in railway management, steel manufacture, aviation and marine industries.

The facility runs a five-stage process that encompasses product blending, packaging, warehousing, allocation and delivery, operating a two shift system, Monday through Friday, with all elements geared to respond to real-time fluctuations in customer demand. SKUs produced range from small half litre packs of lubricant right through to 1000 litre intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) and bulk products delivered by tanker.

The High Bay aisles are serviced by Demag narrow aisle stacker cranes - the order picking areas and load assembly areas run by additional Demag cranes and manned forklift trucks. An automated conveyor system and two circuits of automatically guided vehicles connect the High Bay to all other warehouse areas.

Two narrow aisle stacker cranes service the dynamic picking store, manned fork lifts with radio data terminal (RDT) control in the manual picking area. Additional automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) with bespoke AGV control systems handle goods movements in the receipt, filling and rejection areas. Barcoding is used extensively, controlling product movements by zone. The facility typically ships out around 280 tonnes of finished product in up to 30 loads each day.

From legacy to next generation...

The task facing the SLC's Technical Services team was to move this well-established, highly automated and fast-moving site seamlessly from a legacy Hewlett-Packard management system onto a future-proofed next-generation platform that would last a minimum of 10 years without major upgrade. It would have to be easily integrated with Shell's existing and planned scheduling and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems - plus be installed and tested in parallel to allow Shell to switch over from old to new in one move with no interruption to service delivery. In addition, likely future on-site requirements would include a barcoding-by-product methodology plus options for web-enablement.

24 years of award-winning excellence delivering strategic supply chain software and integration solutions.

Bridging between systems...

Shell's Autostore installation interfaces directly with the SLC's plant administration system (PAS) and ERP system and connects to all on-site MHE (mechanical handling equipment) and FLTs (fork lift trucks) via RDTs (radio data terminals) running across a wireless network. SLC's PAS system in turn connects out down the supply chain.

This system layout gives the SLC warehouse management team a real-time view of SKU levels, their past and present positions and planned future movements, plus the ability to manage picking on the fly. For business management, Autostore gives an instant picture of held assets plus all relevant data on stock coming in from the manufacturing areas of the refinery and outbound finished goods.

Autostore acts as the lynchpin between the ERP system and PAS sub-system: customer orders come into the ERP system and are then scheduled and allocated by PAS. Autostore is integrated up the chain with PAS and down the chain with all on-site handling systems - where it executes each order while simultaneously feeding back real-time management information.

One of the most challenging aspects of the project facing Shell was the high level of integration involved - from individual AGV and MHE control through to transparent, fault-free connection to Shell's major corporate systems. To that end, Autostore is designed not only as an enterprise WMS but also as a very powerful piece of middleware that can sit in virtually any section of a given IT systems layer.

After buttoning down integration, there was the issue of system testing and introduction as the extent of the operation made for an elaborate handover. Through a period of 20 consecutive weekends, the Shell team worked with the on-site Autostore development team to bring the system online in different operational areas for live testing.

Right first time...

Each time, Autostore was integrated with different areas of the legacy system and given a thorough shakedown. Each Monday morning, Shell's team would then switch back to the legacy system safe in the knowledge that each Autostore module worked as it should. User acceptance has been 100 per cent and within two days of the final switchover from legacy to full-time Autostore operation,the SLC handled one of its biggest days of the year - 260 tonnes for domestic delivery alone - without a hitch.