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Sonova honored for its innovative logistics solutions

Sonova has been honored at the Swiss Logistics Award for pioneering logistics solutions. Sonova was nominated for the development of an innovative storage system. Combined with a conveyor system, this takes care of all movements and handling of goods in a fully automated process landscape over four floors.

The specific requirements for a new logistics system have been defined ever since Sonova’s production and technology center was built at the company’s headquarters in Stäfa, Switzerland. As well as fulfilling other commercial objectives, this system needed to be flexible and able to be adapted to changes within the organization and the process landscape. Such dynamic specifications reflect Sonova’s claim to continuously develop technologies and to further extend its position as innovation leader.

With this in mind, plans for a new storage system combined with a complex conveyor facility were drawn up. This system, which stretches over four floors, is now ready to take care of all goods movement and handling processes fully automatically:

  • from goods receipt and incoming inspections to the storage of raw materials, components and finished goods in the warehouse,
  • from production supply and transportation between individual production steps to the storage of finished products,
  • and, finally, picking of finished products for sales companies in various country organizations, as well as semi-finished products and components for the production sites in Asia.

The innovative storage system is made up of several units: an automated small parts warehouse, a satellite warehouse for fast-selling items (a special storage area for items that are only stocked in-house for a short period), 22 rail depots to provide access to the system, and 2,400 meters of track covering each individual floor, linking together the different warehouses and access points. Goods are moved by means of small transport shuttles known as Autonomous Robotic Carriers. These are controlled by SAP R/3, a leading warehouse management system, which in turn is supported by secondary management system called mia.Logistics.

The mia.Logistics warehouse management system manages up to 11 different items in a single compartment and employs various strategies to continuously optimize the movement of goods. This ensures that the available compartments are used extremely efficiently and that traffic on the system flows as well as possible. Specifically developed algorithms are used to generate transport orders. These are sent to the “taxi control center,” known as the Orderboard, which then sends the shuttles on their way through the storage system.

World-class intralogistics: Sonova has developed a single, fully automated and flexible system handling the complete flow of goods from goods receipt and incoming inspections right through to warehousing, production supply and goods issue. The logistical processes are implemented in a three-dimensional system, which includes everyone involved in the value creation chain.

The system’s innovative design concept is also its main strength: it is a self-contained system – including warehouses, tracks for connecting all logistics interfaces horizontally and elevators for linking them vertically – that takes care of all in-house goods transport activities. Processes can be modified promptly and cost-effectively, and optimally adapted to changes in framework conditions.

The nomination for the Swiss Logistics Award has been a great honor for Sonova in recognition of its pioneering logistics development. It also entitles Sonova to take part in the qualifying competition for the European Logistics Award.

The system at a glance

The video below shows the three key areas of the system landscape, both individually and as part of the complex overall system. Click on each sequence to see an illustration of the process involved.

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