Ecochem International produces fire retardant additives based on environmentally friendly chemicals in its new factory in Willebroek. As a business in this fast-growing sector they required the construction of a new warehouse. Ecochem has been part of the Incedin Holding for a few years now. The ambition of this group is to let Ecochem grow strongly organically and look for acquisition opportunities in the market for both fire-retardant additives and fire extinguishing agents.
"The construction of the new warehouse fits with this strategy," says Tim Buelens, Operations Director at Ecochem. Willebroek must therefore become the hub of the group, also because of the logistically attractive location of this site, close to the Brussels-Schelde sea canal. "We start the production of our fire-retardant formulas from a wide range of inorganic salts, including phosphates. Various raw materials are transported in bulk by ship from the supplier to the factory in Willebroek. The production processes themselves include a complex set of physical treatments including drying, blending, micronising, compacting, dispersing, etc," explains Tim Buelens.
A few months ago Ecochem opened a new office building in Willebroek, and the factory hall at the same location has been operational for a year now. Thanks to the construction of a new warehouse, the company first grew from 1,000 to 2,500 big bag locations. Since a few weeks there has been a new expansion from 2,500 to 3,300 big bag locations. "Thanks to the Toyota racking solution, we have succeeded in getting maximum storage capacity in a limited space," Tim Beulens notes.
For the layout of the warehouse, Ecochem considered either separate racks, drive-in racks or block racks with a shuttle system. They chose the last option with two shuttles. The big advantage of shuttles is that they cannot move to the right or left within the rack, so that the big bags no longer tear when getting in and out of the racks. "Those powdery additives cause a huge mess when a big bag tears open. Thanks to the shuttles we can keep our warehouse clean," confirms Tim Beulens. "In the end, we opted for a LIFO system with 12 rows per rack channel. Two channels are sufficient for a full truck load of 24 big bags, which means that the FIFO-LIFO issue is actually not important to us, because a full load with identical products is still available per channel," emphasises Tim Beulens. In addition, Ecochem has a separate rack for storing the surplus. "Our former warehouse is also still in use, mainly to store raw materials, while the finished products are handled in the new warehouse," says Tim Beulens.
Ecochem explored the market for racking. "We requested offers from different suppliers, but Toyota convinced us because they produce their own shuttles, while most other providers simply buy these elsewhere. Moreover, we already had a number of Toyota forklifts in use, which we were satisfied with, so we decided to work with a partner familiar to us," explains Tim Beulens, who also points out that Ecochem sees Toyota as a high-end supplier. That is why they chose the BT Reflex reach truck to place pallets up to 1,300 kg at the highest location in the warehouse.
The high degree of responsiveness by the brand contributes to quality. "When questions arise, answers come quickly and that is what you really want as a customer," Tim Beulens continues. Moreover, Ecochem also finds it important that the forklift truck supplier is aligned with the racking supplier. "That leads to customer-oriented solutions, which can also be adjusted very quickly afterwards if necessary," says Tim Beulens.
He is referring, for example, to two extra channels that were added afterwards or the conversion of a channel into an emergency corridor that leads to an emergency door. Extra walls had to be installed for this to meet all safety requirements. "That way you also know that you can continue to count on your racking supplier in the future. This will be necessary for us, because in the near future we also want to integrate a WMS with barcode tracking. That will be perfect to combine with the shuttle system and will significantly improve the efficiency of the warehouse," concludes Tim Beulens.
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