Fully automatic transport system in the goods reception store

Zentis GmbH & Co. KG

The processing capacity of the company Zentis in Aachen, Europe’s largest fruit processing concern, amounts to several hundred tonnes per day. H+H Herrmann + Hieber is responsible for automating the transport in the goods reception area.


The production programme of the Zentis plant in Aachen is characterised by extraordinary variety; on average, the goods reception area processes around 24 semitrailer deliveries per day. For that production rate a fully automatic goods transport system had to be planned and supplied, which included all the movements between the delivery and production areas – along with the return of empty containers and packing materials. In this, it was necessary to distinguish between deep-frozen goods stored at minus 22°C (12,000 storage points) and goods to be stored dry (6,600 storage points).

The goods, delivered at ground level, are taken in, checked and transported to the warehouse on a conveyor – optionally to the deep-freeze store or the dry-goods store. At the upper level the goods required in each case, recovered from the warehouse, are unpacked, filled into portion-sized containers and sent on for further processing. Since the quality management system specifies that in this area only plastic pallets owned by the company may be used, when the goods are called for from the store for the first time they have to be re-palleted.

Two separate circuits have been installed for the empty pallets: empty wooden pallets are stored intermediately and returned to the goods reception area. Plastic pallets are collected in a separate stacker, cleaned, and brought back into the cycle at the pallet reloading station.

For the warehousing, all the data concerning the item for storage are first recorded by a scanner, and stored. The items for storage go through an automatic contour check and a weighing station. On the way into the deep-freeze store an air-lock is provided. Here, the climate conditions are particularly challenging for conveyor technology.

Items recovered from store for the first time are automatically palleted. The palleting machine is integrated in the automatic transport system. On a plastic pallet, depending on its intended destination the storage item is taken by a transverse distribution trolley to the individual working stations. Two of these transverse distribution trolleys supply a total of four rows of consignment operation and storage positions with material.

When the quantity specified in the order has been filled in, it is taken by a suspended track for further processing. Pallets that are not completely empty are returned to the store. The transverse conveyors are equipped with contour monitoring devices which automatically check for any lateral projection and the height of the load, and display any errors detected.

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Warehouse enlargement at the Nobilia plant in Verl

Nobilia-Werke - J. Stickling GmbH & Co.

H+H Herrmann + Hieber has collaborated successfully with the important manufacturers of kitchen furniture to develop solutions for their logistical problems. That competence motivated market leader Nobilia as well to commission H+H as general contractor for the enlargement of its existing consignment warehouse.


Every day more than 2,000 kitchens leave the two Nobilia production sites in Verl and Kaunitz. In the consignment warehouse for kitchen fronts, where the necessary front components are taken and assembled into order-specific racks, an enlargement became necessary owing to a substantial increase of throughput.

For this, H+H developed an innovative special design, the so-termed “transporter with distribution trolley”. The basic unit of the transporter is a mobile trolley with a lifting platform. The distribution trolley, which carries a load to be located in or recovered from the store, is placed on this platform. In principle the distribution trolley is an autonomous consignment unit with its own movement, lifting and telescopic functions.

During operation the transporter moves in front of the consignment aisle in which the storage position to be approached is located. The lifting platform with the distribution trolley on it moves to a position where the distribution trolley can move off the platform and drive into the consignment aisle. The distribution trolley is designed to act autonomously. It moves in front of the storage position and, with its telescopic fork, places the load in the storage bay – either on the right or the left. Then it moves back onto the lifting platform and remains ready for the next task.

 While the distribution trolley is driving in the aisle, workers occupied with consignment work there can safely remain in the aisle. A sensor system on the trolley detects the worker and throttles down the driving movement, if necessary to a standstill. When the worker moves out of range of the sensor the distribution trolley automatically starts moving again to complete the programmed work step.

During the transport of stacked kitchen elements with their often very smooth surfaces, the problem arises that under the action of inertial forces the stack risks collapsing by slipping. To prevent that, suitable transport securing means must be provided. H+H has designed the conveyor drive so that it can be regulated very sensitively during starting off and braking. This ensures that the horizontal inertial forces are lower than the frictional forces holding the stack together. Thus, the stacked wooden panels remain stable one on top of another throughout the transport movement.

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Dispatch warehouse with an automatic crane

GETRAG Getriebe- und Zahnradfabrik

When, in light of the order from Audi for the manufacture of its six-gear transmission, Getrag built a new workshop with a dispatch warehouse attached, H+H Herrmann + Hieber was awarded the contract for the automation concept.


H+H Herrmann + Hieber recommended a system with an automatic crane and a block store. The advantages of such a system compared with a floor conveyor technique ( which Getrag had already been considering at the time) include lower costs, a higher quality level due to automated sequences, greater flexibility, and smaller space occupancy. The concept was persuasive. Among other things, Getrag could save at least three-quarters of the floor-space and in terms of time-saving as well, the automatic crane has proved to be substantially better. 

For storage and transport Getrag uses two Audi rack types, each designed for a maximum of five six-gear transmissions. The unladen weight of the racks is 70 kilograms and when full they weigh 480 kilograms.

The racks are transported by a chain conveyor from the production area for transfer into the dispatch warehouse. Before a command is issued to the automatic crane, the rack goes through a height and footprint check.

If a rack has passed these checks, the warehouse management computer generates a transport command and transmits it to the crane controls. The automatic crane, with a span width of around ten metres, performs 30 working cycles per hour. The load uptake gripper system has been specially adapted for the racks and the restricted space in the warehouse.

The racks, owned by Audi, are returned by truck after delivery. For the transport into the dispatch warehouse chain conveyors have been installed. The driver of the stacking machine forms stacks of five empty racks at a time on the conveyor. These go through a height check in which they are checked for obliqueness by a horizontal light screen at the height of the topmost rack. That is necessary because of the small tolerances in the dispatch warehouse. At the end of the chain conveyor stretch the stack of racks is transferred to the automatic crane, which then transports them individually.

Since the loading area is within the action range of the automatic crane numerous safety circuits have been created, which ensure that people can enter the area safely.

The great advantages of the crane solution are cost saving and flexibility. The crane takes over all the jobs to be done: return of the empty racks, transfer into and recovery from store, preparation for dispatch and the separation out of damaged racks. It also keeps on working during supposed rest periods when no order actually has to be prepared , and in the third shift. At those times it condenses the stock and assembles loads for future orders.

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