There are companies that have enjoyed global value for a long time. The Villeroy & Boch brand, rich in tradition, is certainly one of these, not only the high quality of their beautiful and delicate products, but also through the international distribution of their merchandise. This presents both manufacturing and logistic challenges.
Jean-François Boch and his three sons founded a company for the manufacturing of ceramics, mainly crockery, in the Lorraine region of Germany in 1748. The company grew quickly, in part due to its ability to innovate. For instance, the Brindille decor, still available today, was developed in 1770. Nicolas Villeroy began manufacturing stoneware in 1791. He was able to succeed with engraving using copperplate, which was a great advantage.
In 1843 the two businessmen joined forces and as a result, the range of products and production sites continued to expand. Tiles, bathroom fixtures and glassware were added. Today, the leading market position of Villeroy & Boch, or V&B for short, rests on its ability to be innovative, aware of life- styles and oriented to consumers, still among the most important characteristics today. With products in the bathroom, tableware and tiles divisions, it is represented in 125 countries and has numerous production sites in Europe, Mexico and Thailand, employing about 7,400 people worldwide. The headquarters of the corporation is still located in the former Benedictine monastery at Mettlach on the Saar River, purchased by Jean-François Boch in 1801. As demand for the products continues to grow, so does the challenge for logistics. For one thing, the merchandise is extraordinarily diverse, ranging from forks to bathtubs, and at the same time, delicate pieces require a large amount of care. Then there is the time factor, which plays a very important role today.
Enormous flow of goods demands flexibility
Near the corporate headquarters in Mettlach, there is a very large high-rise warehouse in Merzig where shipments from the center are made to places all around the world. This means an enormous flow of goods within a very short time. Reliable maintenance and flexibility in the flow of goods is therefore an indispensable condition.
V&B has been working with two different picking systems for almost seven years. During this period, they were able to test anew the design and planning of an installation each day and, at the same time, directly compared the two different systems. While the traditional order picker collected the merchandise from the shelves in the usual way, the new installation, comprising Interroll components, completed the task autonomously: The tower-high, intermediary storage was automatically filled with orders which were then executed by the order picker.
Simply put: In the old variation, the processor comes to the merchandise, and in the new system, the merchandise comes to the processor. This means less time collecting, shorter processing times, and a happy side effect: less use of space and energy. Less use of space and energy. The time factor, above all, was a serious criteria for choosing, explains Michael Dietzen, Head of Technology in the tableware distribution warehouse:
The prerequisite was that the merchandise gets to the customer quickly. In the already existing installation, everything tended to drag because of the whole concept; with the new installation, speed has increased by about a factor of 10 in the meantime.
Merchandise reaches the customer faster, and the entire motion sequence is improved.