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Planning and simulation with Plant Simulation ensures that there are magazines on the shelves!

With increasing pressure on production time and costs and ongoing globalization, intelligent management of logistics processes is a critical success factor for companies.
The management of global production networks relies on just-in-time (JIT) and just-in-sequence (JIS) deliveries. This is a challenge that requires objective decision-making criteria to help management evaluate and compare alternative approaches. Plant Simulation is a software system that can be used to create digital models of logistic systems in order to analyze the dynamics of a system and optimize its performance.
Aldipress is part of the Finnish media group Sanoma Oyj.  The company is the market leader in magazine newsstand sales in the Netherlands and distributes approximately 750,000 magazines, books and home entertainment products from its facility in Duiven to more than 9,000 retail outlets daily. Distribution begins at the sorting lines where the products are packed in crates. To ensure optimal configuration and control of its sorting lines, Aldipress uses a specially developed Plant Simulation Planning and Simulation application.
Aldipress delivers customer-specific selections from a range of approximately 650 different magazines, specials, novels, puzzle books and comics to 9,000 retail outlets daily. It also delivers home entertainment products in the form of DVDs, videos and books. Each retail outlet receives a customized selection not only in terms of the range of titles but also in terms of the quantities of each publication.
The deliveries are packed in Aldipress Magazine Crates (ATKs), which are barcoded. Patrick Endeman, Director of the Aldipress Operations Office, believes the crates are an important success factor: “The lockable ATKs ensure correct and undamaged delivery of our products. The ATKs are also far easier to process on the sorting lines and during transport than the bundles we used to work with in the past. One of our competitors has recently started working with a crate that is virtually identical.”
Ergo-Design played an important role in the design of two sorting lines in Duiven in 2000 by simulating all kinds of possible line designs in Plant Simulation. The sorting line consists of ‘feeders’ (machines that automatically count out the right number the magazines and drop them in the right ATK) and ‘manual stations’.
The purpose of the simulation was to determine the optimal relationship between the feeders and manual stations per line, given the product characteristics and order patterns. The simulation also made it possible to predict the performance of the sorting lines. Patrick Endeman: “I am convinced that simulation is a critical success factor. We keep increasing our operating speed and yet the figures are in line with the predictions generated by the Plant Simulation simulation. We have now been working in this way for more than three years and during that period the number of ATKs processed per minute has increased from 8 to more than 18 per sorting line.”
Using the simulation model of the sorting lines as a starting point, Ergo-Design then developed a planning application known as Planning and Simulation. The planners who work in the Aldipress Operations Office can use this application to work out which products need to be placed in which position on the line on a daily basis in order to ensure that the work is evenly divided between the staff working on the line. This made it possible to increase the staff utilization rate by 50%. The Planning and Simulation application also determines how many ATKs have to be filled per retail outlet. No two days are the same. Every day a different selection of magazines has to be processed and the range of titles keeps increasing. The Plant Simulation Planning and Simulation application enables fast and effective planning and the planners can determine, prior to production, where and when stagnation can be expected on the sorting lines.
Patrick Endeman is extremely satisfied with the results. “We have acquired many new customers who are very satisfied with our services. It was a strategic decision to develop our own Planning and Simulation application. This enables us to keep all of the ingenuity and intelligence within the company. The application has since become an indispensible part of our operation. If we suddenly had to do it all without Plant Simulation, there would be no magazines on the shelves tomorrow.”