Eltra is a Temse, Belgium-based wholesaler of electrical, lighting, and DIY products that distributes goods throughout the Benelux region. It also delivers e-commerce orders from its intermediaries with an emphasis on fast delivery.
In 2021, Eltra faced a critical challenge as it reached the limits of its storage and order-processing capabilities. To overcome this hurdle, the company made a strategic decision to relocate to a larger warehouse, covering 11,000 sq. ft. (1,021.9 sq. m). Eltra’s business involves storing inventory for intermediaries and facilitating direct sales distribution.
As a result, it manages more than 6,500 SKUs at any given time that must be readily available for immediate shipment.
Before the relocation, Eltra’s fulfillment operations heavily relied on manual labor, with human pickers storing and retrieving inventory among pallets, shelves within two picking zones, and order-assembly stations. This labor-intensive process involved pickers traversing several miles a day through a complex maze of shelving, often requiring bending and lifting heavy inventory.
Eltra’s primary goal for the new facility was to implement an all-encompassing fulfillment solution capable of boosting productivity in line with its expanding business and the increasing demands of its customers. Moreover, it sought a system that could adapt to its evolving business needs and integrate with its existing storage.
Eltra ultimately installed a Skypod automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) from Exotec. This particular system from Exotec is 12 m (39 ft.) high, features 20,400 storage bins, and can pick 600 bins per hour.
It features 23 Skypods and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that can climb and navigate the ASRS, pick the appropriate bin, and transport the bin to one of the four picking stations where human operators complete the order picking.
Exotec recently named Bastian Solutions as an integrator for North America. At the time of that partnership, Exotec said it had deployed its ASRS system at 20-plus customer sites since entering the North American market in 2020.
In October, Exotec said it reached over 100 customer sites globally. The company said it is on track to increase its global employee headcount by 80% year over year by 2024 to support its growth across Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America.
“When I first looked at the system, I thought: this is really a surprise,” said Wouter De Vliegher, supply chain and IT director at Eltra. “I’ve been in the logistics industry for 25 years, and I’ve never seen a solution like this.”
The Exotec solution, Eltra said, has improved the company’s overall productivity. It can now complete up to 10,500 order lines each day at just three picking stations. It also now has access to any SKU in the system within two minutes to service urgent order requests for fast shipping.
Eltra said another benefit has been increased efficiency. The Exotec system enables Eltra to maximize the space of its warehouse by using the full height of the facility with 39-ft. (11.8 m)-tall storage racks. The system’s software has also made it easier to adjust to sales peaks and high volume of SKU rotations, Eltra said.
The wholesaler said the plug-and-play modularity of the Exotec system is yet another benefit. The system was installed in 12 months, ahead of schedule, and with minimal impact to regular operations.
Eltra said the integration between its existing storage system and was “seamless” and that the system can quickly add more robots if needed.