Automated Warehouse

In large, automated distribution centers, properly organizing and sequencing orders is key to making sure products get out the door on time. With so many interactions and dependencies involved in today’s warehouses, a simulation study is an effective choice to understand and help balance these systems.
 

Objectives

  •  to create a working simulation model of the facility* to use as a decision support tool

*the facility was for a highly automated distribution centre of a cosmetics distribution client.

Processes

Bastian Solutions overcame several challenges they encountered while modeling such a complex facility. The model needed to manage 40,000 rows of SAP data and associate this data with elements in FlexSim. This is a fair amount of data to manipulate. To solve this problem, Bastian used FlexSim’s integrated SQL functionality to write a number of queries that made the data meaningful and useable in the model.

They also had to discover a way to replicate the logic of their own Warehouse Execution Software (WES), EXACTA, in FlexSim. The WES is the “brain” of the system, sequencing and regulating the release and flow of orders into the facility. FlexSim’s Process Flow tool was used to replicate the WES logic.


Bastian Solutions was also able to successfully manage communication between the logic created using Process Flow and the 3D space. The 3D component of the model is critical for dimensioning the facility and its conveyors and also to visually validate what’s going on. Bastian Solutions made extensive use of FlexSim’s “Wait for Event” functionality, which they cited as a powerful framework for communication and data transfer between the model’s logic and its 3D presentation.

Results

At the end of a simulation run, the dashboards could help answer the following questions:

  • What is the state of the system right now?

  • What happened throughout the entire picking day?

  • What rates are operators working at, and how much are they utilized?

  • How balanced are the pick areas and pick zones?

 

The model has been a valuable tool for the client to support decisions made in the facility. Since its custom interface has been set up to quickly change dozens of configurations and inputs, this model will continue to produce for months and even years to come. In future phases of the facility’s lifecycle, the client will even be able to adapt this model to investigate material handling system design changes and expansions, adding even more value from modeling and simulation.

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