Pulp and Paper Canada

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Metsä orders world’s first automated pulp distribution center

 Nov. 3, 2015 -- Metsä Fibre’s planned bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland, will have a first-of-its-kind pulp storage facility. Provided by Pesmel, the storage facility will use the new TransBale automated distribution center concept.


The fully automated pulp bale distribution center planned for Äänekoski will have a 32-m high storage facility with the capacity to load trains and trucks.

The entire output of the mill, 1.3 million tonnes, will be taken to the distribution center, which will buffer, sort and distribute the pulp bale units to different transports.
The TransBale concept has been under development in cooperation with Metsä Fibre for a year and a half. The core of this automated distribution center is high-bay storage with two stacker cranes that operate like automatic robots. The system buffers and sorts pulp bale units by product type and customer orders, and controls all dispatch operations.
“We were researching new solutions in the preliminary planning stage, and the handling capacity and storage efficiency of the TransBale concept convinced us,” says Timo Merikallio, a project director at Metsä Fibre.
The distribution center will be fully operational in the third quarter of 2017. It acts as center stage of the logistics chain, which includes three main distribution channels. Approximately 800,000 tonnes of pulp will be transported as export units by train to Vuosaari Harbour, 400,000 tonnes by train and trucks directly to customers, and the remaining 100,000 tonnes will be refined in different units in the mill area.
One benefit of the chosen technology is its flexibility, reports Metsä. Thanks to the adjustable sorting capacity, there is no need for any pre-sorting in production or allocation of storage space. This enables the optimal use of space, regardless of how much of different pulp grades are produced. The total capacity of the distribution center is 25,000 tonnes in an area of 3,000 m2.
In addition to the equipment, the delivery by Pesmel includes an extensive warehouse management system (WMS), which takes care of the distribution center’s inventory management. The WMS is connected both to the production automation system and the mill’s SAP system, and based on the product and dispatching information obtained from these systems, the WMS controls automated train and truck dispatch and loading operations. With automatic loading, trucks are loaded in five minutes, and a train with 22 cars carrying 1,400 tonnes in three hours. In addition to loading efficiency, automation minimizes work safety risks and damage to equipment and products.
“For a technology company like us, developing new concepts is crucial. With this project, we have a chance to extend our technology into a new business area. For this, we can thank Metsä Fibre’s personnel, who took part in the project with an open-minded attitude from the start,” says Tony Leikas, president and CEO of Pesmel Oy.
Pesmel specializes in materials handling, offering fully automated handling, packing and storage systems that enhance the internal logistics of mills and factories.