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When 45,000 pallets move site

Warehouse move

Moving is always a challenge. But what happens when 45,000 pallets and food have to relocate within a few weeks? During ongoing operations? Udo Müller and Lena Watermann know all about it! As members of the Nagel-Group Corporate Contract Logistics staff, they shared responsibility for this move - and together with numerous Nagel-Group employees, they got the show on the road in less than two months.

It all kicked off once the last Easter products had left the warehouse in Grolsheim in the Rhineland-Pfalz region. It’s crunch time now. The entire product volume of a major customer which is housed on a surface area of 30,000 m2 in Grolsheim is to be transported to the new logistics park in Trebur, 50 kilometres away, over the next few weeks. An ultra-modern warehouse has been built there, and the customer wants to use it as the new central warehouse. Once the building phases are completed, the move can finally begin.

Firing the starting pistol straight after Easter was a conscious decision. “We wanted to concentrate on the seasonal business first,” explains Norbert Slink, Head of Corporate Contract Logistics, “and after that to put all our efforts into the move.” No sooner said than done. It’s the start of April, and over the coming weeks 25,000 m2 of warehouse space and 5,000 m2 of the co-packing area will be transported from Grolsheim to Trebur. A mammoth undertaking.

Reducing volume in Grolsheim step by step

The preliminary work has by now already been done. Udo Müller and Lena Watermann developed the removal plans in close consultation with the customer. They established jointly which products would make the trip to Trebur first. “We decided on the non-critical goods”, remembers Müller. These are products which are either available in large numbers, or will not be going out to retailers in the near future. It all took place in close consultation with the customer throughout the process. The first stage of the move has begun. The plan now is to reduce stocks in Grolsheim step by step, and build up volume in Trebur.

In the second phase, goods received from the major customer will be moved to Trebur. Trucks with new goods now head directly to the vast logistics park. Further volume is built up. Vehicles are on the way between the warehouses every day, sometimes up to ten trailers are in use solely for the move. The Nagel-Group branch in Groß-Gerau, situated only a few kilometres away, helped as well. “We involved our colleagues there at an early stage in the planning,” says Norbert Slink. “They made sure that additional transport capacity was available to us for quite a number of weeks.”

Co-packing zone transported at the weekend

The next milestone is moving the co-packing area. The Nagel-Group not only provides goods inbound, warehousing and goods outbound services, but also order picking for this customer. “We had set up a co-packing area of around 5,000 m2 in Grolsheim for value added services,” explains Lena Watermann, who looked after this part of the move together with Ralph Großelohmann. At peak times around 180 people work there in two shifts. They prepare the food delivered by the customer so that it exactly corresponds to the retailer’s requirements. Staff repack the articles, bundle these together in mixed assortment boxes or pack them in smaller boxes which can be placed directly on the retailer’s shelves. To present the articles attractively and boost sales, they also assemble individual displays and high-quality floor stands to attract the attention of consumers.

By the end of April, the next job was to dismantle this facility and hurry it over to Trebur. “We had to make a clean break”, is how Lena Watermann remembers it. There was one last packing session on a Thursday, then the facility was dismantled. Pallets, racks, roller conveyors and strapping systems for cardboard boxes were loaded onto trucks there and then. At the weekend the whole set of equipment was transported to Trebur and reassembled. “It all went very well,” says Watermann. And by the Monday everything was ready to go at the new site.

Simulated receipt of goods

As every step depended on the previous one during the whole removal phase, the staff didn’t leave anything to chance. To speed up dispatch, for instance, the goods inbound labels for Trebur were attached before they left Grolsheim.

The last step was then moving outgoing goods to Trebur. But because some of the goods were still in Grolsheim, two outgoing goods processes existed in parallel during this phase. “Every time goods departed, this contributed to reducing unnecessary trips,” according to Slink. But they couldn’t be avoided altogether. If, for instance, 70% of the order volume was warehoused in Trebur, the outgoing goods process took place via that site. The remaining 30% of the order was taken from Grolsheim to Trebur by shuttle transport.

Bank holidays an additional challenge

As if such a move were not complex enough already, there was an extra complicating factor: the “short” weeks. Several bank holidays during this period made the time constraints on the whole project even more challenging. In consultation with the customer, the decision to make the move in April, May and June had been taken because the volume transported then is lower than during the peak Easter season. Everyone involved agreed that it was a great success: the Nagel-Group even managed to finish a few weeks earlier than planned.

Slink is keen to emphasise that it was not only the warehouse staff who managed the move. “The project was handled jointly with the transport team,” stresses the contract logistics specialist. They made the additional capacity available for several weeks. During the project, numerous members of staff from the whole Nagel-Group contributed to the success of the project. As well as the staff particularly involved on the spot, such as Michael Schneider (Operations Manager, Trebur) and Gabriele Schier, the Bochum branch, the Austrian site at Traiskirchen and the Hungarian Alsónémedi branch, amongst others, also provided support. Werner Schobel from Corporate Headquarters likewise played a major role. And Hans van Dam from CAL Consult, which is part of the Nagel-Group, managed the the whole IT system move.

By the end of May, the Nagel-Group was maintaining double structures to ensure that even in this phase the daily business needs of customers could be fully met. Then the whole outgoing goods operation was brought together in Trebur. The Grolsheim site’s time is not up yet, however: the customer has increased his volume again - so Grolsheim is currently being used as an off-premises warehouse.

The Trebur logistics park

The Trebur logistics park is located in a highly strategic position. The building, which covers 96,000 m2, has been erected in the triangle between the three cities of Frankfurt, Mainz and Wiesbaden, and is situated a mere 25 kilometres from Frankfurt Airport. Around 5.7 million people live in the metropolitan region of Frankfurt/Rhine-Main, and the Frankfurt area also acts as a hub for the European food retail trade.

With around 43,000 m2, the Nagel-Group is the largest anchor tenant in the logistics park. The storage area is divided into various sections, and offers the food logistics company room for around 65,000 pallet spaces. The first unit of around 10,000 m2 was leased by the Nagel-Group at the end of 2017. Three further units of around 10,000 m2 followed, plus a leasing of 3,000 square metres. The logistics facility is aimed at various tenants who lease different-sized areas.

Inside the warehouse, numerous wide-aisle racks ensure that the high-reach forklifts get to the goods quickly. The Nagel-Group can store food there between 12 and 18°C.

The business park generates practically all its energy itself. The ultra-modern building was constructed to the latest energy standards, using a ground-source heat pump and energy generated by photovoltaic panels, amongst other features.