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  4. fi Series Case Study: Gebrüder Schuon Logistik GmbH

Gebrüder Schuon Logistik GmbH

Cloud Services and More: Schuon Logistik
Points the Way

Industries:

  • Transportation & Travel
  • Retail/Wholesale

Offering Groups:

  • Scanners

Solution Areas:

  • Imaging Solutions

Regions:

  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Switzerland

Challenges:

  • Handling high volumes
  • Accurate scanning of barcodes

Benefits:

  • Lower costs
  • Scan-to-Cloud
  • Efficient delivery process
  • Good deal of user acceptance

Scan-to-Cloud a Major Component of Logistics

Schuon Logistik logo

It’s fun to shop. Take the Jones family, for example: they’ve just ordered a new refrigerator. But how does their appliance get from the factory to the Jones’ kitchen? The Jones family doesn’t think about the processes involved; they just want their refrigerator delivered as soon as possible. This is where logistics services like Gebrueder Schuon Logistik GmbH (Schuon Brothers Logistics), situated in the town of Haiterbach in Germany’s Swabian region, enter the picture. The company has 75,000 square meters of warehousing space and room for 150,000 pallets. Its staff of 75 moves 4,000 pallets and 8,000 packages every day. Its clients consist of mid-sized companies as well as global manufacturing and trading businesses. For example, Schuon works with eBay PowerSellers or with such traditional enterprises as publishers clearing house Koch, Neff & Oettinger, for which Schuon organized transportation of the most recent Harry Potter book to bookstores.

In its capacity as a fulfilment provider, Schuon is in charge of the entire fulfilment process from warehousing and order picking, through transportation, to delivery. It goes without saying that none of this would be possible without modern IT and an intelligent material-flow system.  Being one of the largest providers of logistics services, Schuon is always on the lookout for better service, optimized processes, and lower costs. Cloud computing, intelligent order picking, scan-to-cloud and Kanban technology are just a few of the magic words here. Fujitsu document scanners play a major role in order picking as they allow Schuon to integrate paper-based information into digital processes and then link it to its logistical processes in the cloud.

Schuon shows how cloud services can support internal logistics

Optimum warehouse utilization, less time spent searching, less distance travelled, efficient internal transport, completely documented logistical processes – none of this would be conceivable today without logistics software. However, licensing fees for this sophisticated software represent a major cost factor. Rigid pricing models are thus seldom appropriate. Logisticians think and calculate in terms of processes – what it costs to store a pallet or pull an order – and expect their software to perform accordingly. The flexible software-as-a-service model from the cloud delivers just the kind of use model they are looking for.

Schuon recognized the trend early and now avails itself of cloud computing. It previously utilized the "ix4” material-flow system by Swiss company LogistikBroker in the usual way, i.e. Schuon purchased the licenses. Now, however, Schuon has switched its first large customer Bachmann – sole agency in Baden-Württemberg for a well-known manufacturer of refrigerators – to a cloud basis. The rest of its customers will follow suit in the months to come. At that point, for the fulfilment process Schuon Logistik will no longer rely on license-based software. Instead, it will employ Intralogistik Cloud Services by LogistikBroker, one of the first cloud services for the logistics business, based on the Microsoft Windows Azure platform, and it will do so purely on an as-needed basis.

“Logistics is a very seasonal business, subject to fluctuations. Sometimes you need more, sometimes you need less software. The cloud allows me to adjust to fluctuations better,” explains Horst Schuon, owner and General Manager of Gebrueder Schuon Logistik GmbH. “The cloud makes me a lot more flexible,” he adds.

The cost structure of cloud computing suits the business better, which is another factor that speaks in favour of the model. There are no more software licensing fees to pay for nor are there any expenses for purchasing and servicing the necessary hardware infrastructure. Schuon also benefits from a transaction-based cost model. “I only pay for what I use.” Schuon affirms. “It’s the solution of the future. Whenever I get new customers, the cloud will give me more flexibility. I don’t need any licenses, nor do I need any hardware, and I can bring a new customer on line in two or three days,” Schuon says.

Order picking gets smart. “Back to Print”

Schuon is also pursuing new paths when it comes to order picking. Instead of costly barcode readers, the company employs classical document scanners. What at first glance might appear to be a step back to the days of paper, is actually progress. The order pickers work with “intelligent” lists and the fi-6130 document scanner by Fujitsu that reintegrates paper into the digital process chain at the touch of a button.

Here’s how it works. Barcodes adhere to the pick lists. The codes contain all the information needed to fill the order. What did the customer purchase? To what address should it go? Each barcode stands for a definite workflow function, perhaps for a posting, a notice to a customer or a particular shipping mode. The system generates the picking lists directly with the barcodes the moment the order is initiated.

Scan-to-cloud in order picking

Warehouse workers pick an item off the shelf and trigger workflow actions with the help of barcodes. The procedure is simple: workers simply mark the barcodes or peel them off and stick them onto the package. The barcode method allows warehouse workers to decide how to ship the item to customers, for example. In the final step of the fulfilment process, workers sign the pick lists and scan them. Doing so returns the paper document to the digital logistics process. Thanks to scan-to-cloud technology, the scanned information enters the cloud, after which everything proceeds in digital fashion. The logistics software generates a ticket for the package, the customer automatically receives an e-mail with the shipping number and, once the order has been completely processed, the entire matter is filed.

Fujitsu Scanner fi-6130The Fujitsu fi-6130 scanner easily manages 3,500 to 4,000 pages per day.


Scanning unlimited: the fi-6130 by Fujitsu

Some 3,500 to 4,000 packages leave the warehouse of Schuon Logistik in this fashion every day. That places demands on document scanners, of course. Schuon, in talking about his requirements, says, “For one thing, it has to handle high volumes. For another, we need a high-precision device because we’re reading barcodes. The more accurately it works, the better we can process the data.” “We had another manufacturer’s scanners before,” says Schuon. “The performance just wasn’t there.” Schuon is completely convinced by the Fujitsu scanner’s performance. “When you see how a little machine like that can easily handle 3,000, sometimes 4,000 pages a day, that’s pretty amazing.”

Quick and easy training are still another advantage of this method. Hartmut Krueger, Project Manager and consultant at LogistikBroker, says, “This solution has encountered a good deal of user acceptance.” The Fujitsu scanner adds to the equation because it is so easy to operate. Just insert a document, press a button, determine where you want to send it, and you’re done. Still another advantage for Schuon is that, “We don’t have to keep any costly equipment. We don’t need to have ten barcode readers in the drawer that all need to be configured. We’d also need a WLAN infrastructure for the warehouse.” Instead, all Schuon needs is a single document scanner and a PC with an Internet connection. “I’d say conservatively that the solution with the document scanner costs only a quarter of what using barcode scanners would cost,” says Schuon.

Im LAgerOrder pickers select items from warehouse shelves and trigger workflow actions with the help of barcodes. (Credit: Gebrueder Schuon Logistik GmbH)

Kanban tickets steer intercompany processes

Enter Stickel forwarders from Nagold, Germany for the final act, namely delivery of the refrigerator to the Jones. Stickel delivers 50,000 premium refrigerators annually and also avails itself of cloud services from LogistikBroker. Stickel and Schuon have no problem working together thanks to cloud technology. They use what are known as Kanban tickets to map the various steps in the transport chain. Kanban, or ticket in Japanese, stands for a Japanese system for steering production and logistics processes flexibly in decentralized fashion. Kanban tickets trigger upstream processes, assuring that there is sufficient inventory on hand to replace goods that have left the warehouse. The procedure serves to reduce inventory and enhances delivery capability.

To the cloud at the touch of a button

Intelligent pick lists in conjunction with the Fujitsu scanners see action here as well. Schuon attaches a Kanban ticket to every refrigerator that exits its warehouse destined for Stickel. All a worker has to do there is tear off the bottom half of the ticket, sign and scan it, and the transport chain between the two businesses has been mapped. Stickel also uses a document scanner by Fujitsu for scanning to the cloud. The information contained on the Kanban ticket triggers downstream processes in the logistics software in the cloud, such as an inventory update. The intercompany cooperation is also watertight from a legal point of view because all parties involved can retrace who signed and scanned the pick lists.

To sum it all up, the cloud computing project based on Microsoft Windows Azure has made Schuon Logistik a leader in its field. Cloud computing in combination with scan-to-cloud plus direction of intercompany processes via Kanban tickets opens new doors for the logistics industry. Customers also benefit from an efficient delivery process. Hartmut Krueger concurs: “Logistics companies all over the world can use this solution.”

Kanban ticketEvery barcode triggers an action. (Credit: Gebrueder Schuon Logistik GmbH)
Kanban ticketInformation contained on the Kanban ticket triggers downstream processes in the logistics software in the cloud. (Credit: Gebrueder Schuon Logistik GmbH)