Unilever is known for its future-oriented business approach and the constant optimization of processes. For example, Unilever focused on ergonomic working conditions, fast access times, space savings and flexibility when designing its new ingredients storage area for the mixing laboratory in the company’s development center in Heilbronn, Germany. This was important for its Knorr brand of products: Today three Hänel Rotomat® systems store the ingredients needed for developing soup and sauce recipes, all within an extremely small footprint, and with fast and convenient access.
Space-saving and ergonomic storage with the Hänel Rotomat®
In collaboration with the works physician, the company recently evaluated the work environment in the manual storage area for the mixing laboratory at the Unilever site in Heilbronn. The R & D site-support manager, Thomas Bösch, also manages the mixing laboratory and explains the importance of the evaluation: “The analytic study was focused on all work processes in the laboratory. The entire raw materials warehouse needed to be reorganized for more ergonomics so that employees would not have to constantly bend over or lift items above their heads.” In collaboration with Hänel experts, some 1,300 ingredients such as croutons and spices were analyzed and stored in two variants of special storage bins designed for three Hänel Rotomat® systems. The multifunction carriers in the Rotomat® systems each have 24 single or 12 double-sized bins. All of the bins have barcodes for automatic scanning.
Seamless integration in the host system
The Hänel central controller keeps a record of the bin locations. The modern microprocessor controllers fully integrate the Hänel storage systems in the Unilever host system. Pick and put operations are conducted automatically with barcode scanners. For example, when a bin is returned to inventory, the barcode is scanned and the Rotomat® automatically brings the correct carrier to the access point. Integrated LED indicators at the access point light up to show employees the exact position of each storage bin, thus making the process much faster.
Project manager Thomas Bösch is very pleased with the results: “Thanks to the ergonomic access points,constant bending, stretching and reaching for ingredients are things of the past. Our developers and laboratory technicians now use touch-screen terminals and consoles attached to the storage systems to retrieve ingredients for recipes much faster – and simultaneously. The ‘goods to man’ picking process keeps storage routing at minimum levels. What’s more, these optimized access processes increase overall efficiency and productivity.”
‘The greatest compliment, however, is reflected in the employee satisfaction that comes from working with Hänel systems!