Chirayu Deolekar, Head—Supply Chain Management, Schaeffler Automotive Aftermarket India, has four warehouses with a total area of 2.5 lakh square feet under his purview. These store over 5,000 Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) of 10-11 product segments like chassis, engine components, clutch systems and more. He writes about housekeeping challenges, warehouse digitalision and experiments with robots.
We are partially digitalised, especially when it comes to the warehouse management system. We are also implementing it in the kitting area. What is kitting? When customers buy products, they need a total solution. For example, along with a clutch, other related products, including screws and bolts, also need to be put into the box.
We are experimenting with some robotic operations in the initial stages as we have many SKUs in different sizes; the challenge is that if you have to change the robot program, you change the product. Robots are picking the material from the master box and putting it inside the primary box. Robotic packing and shelving is the next step, but we are not there yet.
Our warehouses are completely digitalised with warehouse management systems. An Automatic Retrieval system is implemented in our warehouses in Germany, but not yet in India. After entering instructions into the computer, the required SKU is automatically picked up from the respective bin by robots.
We have a fully digitised order management system. Orders placed on the website automatically show up in our system through integration. Partially, what we have done is that the pick-list gets generated according to the customer-expected delivery date.
For demand planning, we are planning to have a software which we are already testing, where an algorithm helps us understand how our digital and non-digital products will trend.
We use QR codes for internal tracking. RFID technology may not work for us because product sizes vary from very small to big. Cost is also a deterrent.
In areas where chemical-related SKUs like batteries are stored, we sometimes face issues like spillage, where cleaning is more tedious than that of an area where dust is the only challenge. We use readily available kits for cleaning lubricant spills, where we have to apply a type of dust before washing it off. For chemicals like acid, we use liquid soap while wearing PPE kits.