Maximum Industry 4.0 automation at GRAF Industries

Logistics and automation: together they represent a combination that, if done well, can greatly improve the benefits of both activities. Organisation, optimisation of space, alleviation of heavy work and better use of time are among the main benefits to be gained from efficient automated logistics. After all, isn’t this the same principle that has guided our Fast Forward Plant vision for windows and doors?

This is why, here at GRAF, we envisioned an automated pallet warehouse: our vision, remarkable in size and volume, finally took shape in December 2022.

At GRAF’s San Giovanni Persiceto site, we have started loading a new automated pallet warehouse, a solution destined to change the conventional concept of pallet storage and handling.

An automated pallet warehouse is a type of warehouse that uses automation and cutting-edge technology to store, sort and retrieve pallets. This makes it possible to handle a high volume of parts in a shorter amount of time, as well as improving the accuracy and efficiency of sorting and storing materials compared to manual warehouses by using state-of-the-art software to track, store and handle parts.

One look at the dimensions is enough to get an idea of the significance of the project: 80 metres in length, 7.5 in height, one loading, one unloading and four picking bays for the preparation of semi-finished articles. All this to cater for around 1,200 pallet spaces!

The shelves are covered by a shuttle which can deposit or retrieve pallets in complete autonomy. The management programme that oversees the functions of each individual process has also been enhanced by specific software modules for the definition of picking missions.

The pallets are automatically transported to the base of the warehouse, where operators can pick them up directly from the container. The shuttle can then put the pallet back in its slot, thus completing the mission without further intervention.

This is, therefore, a big step towards a high level of industrial automation, with the added benefit of improved safety levels within the company through the reduction in manual handling of heavy pallets and, consequently, loads and risks for operators.

A big thank you is certainly owed to everyone who worked on the successful completion of this ambitious project, which involved external suppliers and many of us internally, including two of our SENIOR colleagues (who have worked for an impressive combined total of 60 years in GRAF!). They wanted to be involved from the very first stages of use of the new automated pallet warehouse and also of the new vertical storage systems. Good for them!