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How failures troubleshooting software can boost automatic warehouse system operation?

KIAMI's FASTtroubleshoot is a top-class failures troubleshooting software that was implemented in a very large distribution center with a storage capacity of 72,000 pallets, which serves one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. This article describes the use and benefits of the system in a highly automated warehouse.

The warehouse includes a complex conveyor system that moves the stock into and out from the automated storage areas, automated cranes, lifts, picking machines, shrink wrap, contour check, shuttles, pallet changers and other equipment. All of this automation is controlled by a Warehouse Control System (WCS) and a network of PLCs. A Warehouse Management System (WMS) manages all the warehouse activities such as transferring materials to the company's manufacturing sites, receiving and putting them into storage, picking finished goods to orders and shipping them to customers. The WMS sends these tasks to the WCS that transforms them to a physical stock movements and warehouse actions. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system manages all order aspects and financial activities relating to this stock movements into and out from this distribution center. This warehouse works around the clock, supplying stock to the company's sites and to the company's customers in a very short notice. Picking and shipping stock processes can be divided into many sub-processes involving the ERP, WMS and WCS systems and several automated equipment such as automated storage and conveyors, picking stations, checking stations, weigh check, printing machines, containers, closing machines and more, which works sequentially one after the other. System malfunction or equipment breakdown can stop all the process and in some cases shutdown the automated warehouse activities. It is very important in such cases to provide fast, high quality resolution. It is also important to enable the warehouse logistics teams to handle by themselves a wide variety of system and equipment malfunctions and failures that can be resolved quickly.

How can FASTtroubleshoot help?

FASTtroubleshoot supports the following teams' activities:

  • Logistics teams

  • IT WMS, WCS and ERP applications' support (level 1 and 2)

  • Equipment maintenance and engineering teams

When one of this teams' user handles a system malfunction or failure, FASTtroubleshoot provides all the necessary information to enable fast, high quality resolution. The user drill-down to the relevant malfunctioned process and sub-process step and go-over possible failure reasons, based on failure characteristics, symptoms and error messages. He can run a documented test procedure until the root-cause is detected or use a documented repair procedure to provide effective best-practice treatment. The users can operate the system at the warehouse floor, with their tablets, laptops or mobile devices, using a touch screen navigation.

FASTtroubleshoot provides the following benefits:

  • Helps the users to quickly navigate to the relevant information required to repair the failure

  • Guides the users to ask the right questions to detect quickly the root-cause

  • Displays all possible failure reasons – operation, maintenance, logistics or application failures

  • Enables all support team members to share and reuse their knowledge and experience

  • Enables logistics team users to resolve by themselves a wider range of failures, which previously have been resolved by maintenance, engineering or IT. It is extremely useful when support team members are not available or not on shift, allowing a quick and convenient method to resolve the issue.

  • Enables to preserve the organization's accumulated knowledge and spread best-practice treatment cross the organization

FASTtroubleshoot stimulates knowledge sharing within support team members, and between the different support and logistics teams, increasing the professionalism of all, enabling a faster learning curve of new employees, and minimizing the loss of high skilled worker that leaves the company or the support team. The system was implemented a short time after the installation of a new WCS system and automatic picking equipment. A tremendous impact was observed, shortening the ramp-up period of the new systems, minimizing the unplanned down times and reducing the learning curve of all logistics, IT and maintenance teams. The system enables to reduce risks in cooperated in such project.

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