“Nothing is so good that it can’t be improved.” Viessmann has been acting according to this motto since the 1960s. And with success: many innovations brought to market by the company, which was founded in 1917, are today considered technical milestones in heating technology. With 27 production companies in eleven countries, sales companies and representatives in 74 countries, and 120 sales offices worldwide, Viessmann is internationally oriented. 55 percent of sales are generated abroad.
Global hub Allendorf (Eder)
The heart of Viessmann’s finished goods logistics worldwide is the goods distribution center in Allendorf (Eder). It covers 17,000 square meters over three levels. The logistics center is operated by Viessmann Logistik International GmbH. As far as it makes sense, all flows of goods converge there. 22,000 different items, from sealing rings to block-type thermal power stations, are stored in the WVZ. From here, the heating technology specialist handles deliveries to all regional warehouses worldwide and exports, as well as room tours, special deliveries and parcel shipments. In addition, customers have the opportunity to pick up their ordered goods here themselves. Viessmann traditionally relies on the two-stage sales channel; the goods go directly to customers, i.e. to heating contractors. Upon request, the heating technology manufacturer even delivers the materials directly to the construction site. In doing so, the company guarantees the fastest possible processing. For parcel shipping, this means that almost 100 percent of orders are next-day orders. Every day, the WVZ handles stock replenishments for regional warehouses worldwide. “Delays or even failures in the WVZ would jeopardize the entire customer supply. The heating engineer would then be left without material at the construction site and would have to send his people home. That’s why we place extremely high demands on the reliability of the automated logistics system in Allendorf. An availability of almost 100 percent is mandatory,” reports Peter Löwer, Head of Distribution Logistics Germany at Viessmann Logistik International GmbH.
In constant search of improvement
The logistics infrastructure at the Allendorf (Eder) site consists in detail of a high-bay warehouse (HRL) with 60,000 pallet spaces and 19 storage and retrieval machines (SRM) as well as an automatic small parts warehouse for 21,400 containers with two SRM. One of the three German regional warehouses is located next to this complex. The sensitive point is the conveyor bridge that connects the HRL, which was commissioned in 1998, with production. Failures of the conveyor system, which is around 270 meters long, would cause a backlog right into production. In addition, the close cycle of the regional warehouses and the central position of the WVZ make preventive maintenance of the goods distribution center inevitable. Viessmann is therefore constantly trying to improve its storage and conveying technology. “We are constantly thinking about whether something can be done better or faster, or maybe even omitted altogether. The good process is the one where you can’t leave anything out,” says Ulrich Albrecht, Head of Maintenance at Viessmann Logistics. A total of seven employees are responsible for this task. They are supported by TELOGS GmbH, a maintenance specialist based in Wettenberg near Giessen.
Maintenance at choice
In TELOGS, the company found a partner nine years ago that shares the challenge of continuous improvement. What began with individual maintenance contracts for various areas was gradually expanded into a full-service maintenance contract at a fixed price. This includes the 21 SRMs, the pallet conveyor system and the conveyor line connecting the WVZ and regional warehouse. By choosing different modules, Viessmann put together an individual service package at a fixed price. The budget is managed by TELOGS. For the maintenance of the SRM and the conveyor technology in the HRL, the heating technology specialist opted for the complete service. This includes preventive maintenance and inspections of the SRM and pallet conveyor technology as well as a regular inspection. TELOGS specialists are called upon primarily when there are planned operations that require special tools or a larger deployment of personnel. For example, the specialists are on site twice a year for four weeks for maintenance of the SRM and for inspection of the drive technology. Due to the high workload, work on the plant can only be carried out outside operating hours – i.e. on Saturdays and Sundays or at night. In doing so, the technicians have to organize themselves in such a way that normal operation is possible again the next day. If the service provider has replaced wear parts or checked and maintained the SRM, he documents this in the TELOGS maintenance database. The customer and supplier thus have a common database that is always up-to-date and can be accessed anywhere via the Internet. In this way, any weak points in the technology can be reliably identified and optimization potential can be made visible. In addition, TELOGS is also responsible for spare parts management. If unexpected technical faults occur, the maintenance service provider is on site within a contractually agreed period of four hours for the repair.
Foreign eyes see more
“TELOGS plays an important role for us as an external consultant. Together, we think about how we can detect and eliminate malfunctions faster and better, and how to minimize downtime as a result,” Löwer describes. At regular intervals, the customer and service provider organize joint training and qualification measures; these are intended to develop new impetus for optimization measures. This also gave rise to the idea of decentralizing the supply of spare parts in parts. So now there are motors for the RBG in the HRL directly at the aisle on trolleys. In addition, TELOGS developed a concept for modernizing the PLC controls in the WVZ.
Through preventive maintenance and a continuous improvement process, Viessmann, together with TELOGS, was able to increase the availability of the plant. This results in increased delivery quality or an improved delivery service level – and at plannable costs. Unplanned repairs are now a rare occurrence. In addition, the heating specialist has been able to reduce its own organizational effort, as TELOGS has taken over important areas such as spare parts management. “We don’t believe that anything in this world is perfect and therefore want to constantly improve. From external partners, we expect agility and the willingness to get involved. With TELOGS, we have found such a service provider and that is why we believe in our partnership,” is Peter Löwer’s summary.