Rocla has been working with Borealis, a global plastics provider, for more than 15 years to provide AGV solutions for their logistics needs. Their partnership began in 2001 when Rocla received an order for 10 LRH-15 vehicles, and then in 2003 Borealis ordered four additional LRH-15 vehicles to add to the existing system. Rocla spoke to Peter Nyqvist from the Borealis group to explain their requirements and find out why Rocla was the best choice.
Customer in brief
Borealis was formed in 1994 with the merging of Neste and Statoil. The company has over 50 years of heritage in polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), operating as BP Antwerp, Danubia, EPSI, Esso Chemical Stenungsund, Himont Beringen, NSP, PCD, PCS, Saga Petrokjemi, Union Carbide, Unifos and Saga.
With more than 50 years of experience in polyolefins and using unique Borstar® technology, Borealis focuses on providing plastic materials to the infrastructure, automotive and advanced packaging markets across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Borealis offers a wide range of base chemicals from melamine and plant nutrients to phenol and acetone. Company is a leading provider of chemical and plastics solutions and committed to the principles of Responsible Care®. Borealis employs 5,200 employees worldwide.
Borealis, the only polyethylene (PE) producer in Sweden, is located in Stenungsund, 50 km north of Gothenburg, where we are the biggest employer in the city's industrial cluster.
Principally focused on the wire and cable, and pipe manufacturing, Borealis in Sweden supports customers with speciality plastics for some of the largest energy supply, oil and water pipeline projects in the world. Borealis' operations in Sweden also include an Innovation Centre focused on polymer design, scientific services, and research and development (R&D) for our infrastructure industry solutions. These services are provided to the Borealis Group based on contract R&D.
What are the AGVs doing?
The 14 AGVs are transporting octabins from a production in to the storage and from the storage to dispatch area for lorries. The storage is a buffer store for the different production batches. There are two different parts in the storage; the largest parts contains normal catalytic processed polyethylene and a smaller part for PEX, the super clean polyethylene. This material can't be stored in low temperature.
An octabin is a special container - it is an eight edged cardboard cylinder placed on a pallet. approx 1100 x1100 mm. The octabin is filled with polyethylene granulate. The size of the octabin is standardized except for the height. The height is about 1.8 m. The weight varies, but 800 kg is the normal weight for the octabins.
Size of the warehouse?
The total area is 24 700 square meters and contains 15 231 octabin pallets today. The turn over factor is eight times a year. The flow has during the ten years been constant. In the storage lanes these cylinder are standing two by two in the stacking lanes.
The transport system can run in 24/7 but it works at the moment in:
- Dispatch: 8 hours 5 days a week. The dispatch can work overtime when needed.
- Storing: 16 hours 5-6 days a week.
- Stuffing: 24 hours 5-6 days a week. Stuffing is rearranging the storage. This is normally made in the 16 hours since the AGV fleet has an overcapacity for the needed production.
- The rearranging: When a stored batch has been partly consumed, that had a need for four lanes when it was stored in. If there is a possibility to compress it in to two lanes a rearranging routine will start.
It is load on load and we are searching the pallet tunnels with sensors in the forktips. The reason is that the bottom octabin can shrink by the load of the top octabins. The AGV fleet is made to run in 24/7 therefore the AGV:s are equipped with NiCd batteries for short charging time.
Less people and less damage are the main reasons. The storage is always correct and up to date because the AGVs are always picking the planned load. This means; if there is a difference, the system will tell directly if there is something wrong. The stuffing (rearranging) is made without people and can be made in nighttime when needed. Since a pallet has a value of an average monthly salary and the cleaning of the tiny plastic pieces takes time the damages was top of the list.
/ Peter Nyqvist)
Experience after start up
The first delivery with 10 vehicles was implemented more than 15 years ago.
It was acquired to solve customer's need of storage space mainly. Borealis rented stores in different locations and it was a logistic problem to keep those stores in good order and there was also a problem if they had to ship from different batches located at different stores. The rearranging of the consumed batches compressed the storage and saved a lot of space. Borealis could store and dispatch at one location. Damages happened more often, the octabins had to be moved and transported by lorry. Each load handling will add more possibilities for damages. Less labor cost is also a reason. The added load handling on and off lorries adds extra time and the costs for the lorry transport as well.
During these years the system have been changed in several ways for different reasons.
The AGVs have got new sensors because of better technology and accuracy.
The System has been developing from the start and still continues. The latest tasks were to increase the out feed speed and also to increase the available storage. The speed to make an out feed order has been reduced by 30%. The available storage has been increased by reducing the distance between the octabins in the lanes and also to use every square inch by decreasing areas that earlier was blocked by pillars and other reasons in the ware house. All these actions had to be implemented carefully step by step because of the complexity in the storage. The consequences of an action can take several weeks to discover and even more time to remedy.
These efforts have paid off; the transport efficiency has increased over 50% and the storage has increased with 1000 extra locations.
The Borealis facility has been popular to visit during the years and for several reasons. One of them is reference visits for Rocla customers. Students have visited the site. Danaher-Motion has used the site for testing equipment in real life and also as reference visits for customers. The 17 year old system has been improved already from the beginning and has never worked as good as now. It will be improved in the future as well. Borealis plans to use the system for the next ten years. There are no competitive alternatives versus AGVs. The warehouses will remain and the AGVs seem to be made as tanks, it is a pity that the electronic equipment can't live forever.
On the question if the system has been economical beneficial both for purchasing and all actions for development is the answer; nobody has calculated that and nobody has questioned the reinvestments so most likely it has been beneficial. The most benefits have been made on the working environment.
For more information about Rocla's AGV solutions, please contact us!
AGV International Sales
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Rocla is a Finland-based international materials handling company whose core business is to provide intelligent material handling solutions and services. Rocla was founded in 1942 and the company is now a major developer and manufacturer of electric warehouse trucks and forklifts and automated guided vehicles (AGVs). Rocla is part of Mitsubishi Logisnext Co., Ltd.