Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Features Automation in Action Operations
A look at Festo’s new Mason Regional Service Center


Nov. 10, 2016 – Last month, I joined a select group of Canadian trade journalists and attended my first ever Festo International Press Conference where we were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the new $70 million distribution and manufacturing centre in Mason, Ohio.

Boasting a “highly automated” order picking system, the new Regional Service Center (RSC) allows Festo to triple its capacities, said executives, enabling increased flexibility, improved services and plenty of space for future growth. In particular, the RSC will support “expected growth” in Mexico, which is “becoming a recognized hub for the automotive industry,” they said.

Location, location, location
The geographical location of the new RSC was “carefully chosen” in an effort to bring about a “significant optimisation in the supply chain area,” said company representatives. “On the one hand, the region offers all kinds of talent thanks to its wealth of technical universities and colleges. On the other hand, the numerous highway connections, several airports nearby and a DHL distribution center provide an excellent infrastructure,” according to a company statement.

The centre has Foreign Trade Zone status, which makes it faster and more efficient to support customers in North America — in fact, Festo executives said the facility can serve 70 per cent of the market in one day (a 10-hour truck drive), from New York, N.Y., in the East to Chicago, Ill., in the West, from Toronto, Ont., in the North to Atlanta, Ga., in the South.

“As regional and U.S. sales continue to grow, this Regional Service Center will provide a strong product supply backbone for the North American market with best in class supply chain performance,” noted Yannick Schilly, head of product supply NAFTA and RSC Mason.

Facility features
Offering a storage capacity of 65,000 bins, the warehouse system — implemented by Witron, a designer and supplier of fully automated warehouse and logistics systems — features the capability to pick and pack 1,000 items per hour through the seven pick workstations and the corresponding, downstream packing stations.

The stations were developed according to “strict ergonomic specifications,” said Festo. Every workstation can pick up to four customer orders at the same time. Moreover, a pick-by-light system and an integrated scale ensure a very high pick quality, noted the executives, adding that “it is possible to pack a total of up to 10,000 order lines without any errors at a peak day and ship them in a timely manner.” A 10-aisle automated storage retrieval system (AS/RS) with 73,000 locations, designed for different tote sizes, provides the picking and packaging area with goods over a conveyor system network. Integrated sequence buffers promise a sequence-friendly provision of the ordered goods at the workstation and an optimal workload of the pick and pack locations, while decoupling the AS/RS stacker cranes from the picking sequence.

Connecting logistics and assembly
Another unique feature of the Mason RSC, said executives, is its link between logstics and assembly. “The customized products are assembled at the place close to logistics. Because all sales parts are stored or delivered here, assembly with its workstations has direct access to all components and minimal supply channels. Employees can thus respond immediately to specific customer requests and have the ordered products assembled and ready for shipment as quickly as possible,” they noted.