Holistic logistics planning: Interview with Michael Huhn

"Ideally, the logistics concept should be planned first and then the building. Of course, this is not always possible", says Michael Huhn, sales manager and member of the board of Unitechnik Systems GmbH. Unitechnik is now also contributing its logistics expertise as a general contractor in the field of logistics planning. How this came about and why the logistics concept should be located in front of the building is explained by Michael Huhn in an interview with our editorial team.

Editor: Mr Huhn, "first the logistics, then the building" - what's that all about?

Michael Huhn: Ultimately, the building around an automated logistics system is just the shell, while the system inside fulfils a specific purpose and handles processes. For example, it could be important for a customer's logistics that four to five trucks dock and load at the building at the same time. But if the planned or existing building does not allow for this at all, one must inevitably accept compromises in the process flow. Of course, the planning of the logistics facility in the first step is the optimum case and cannot always be implemented. But one should also consider that this is usually the most economical solution. Because: Instead of more cost-intensive individual solutions, standards can be used for the logistics systems.

Editor: How does a planning project work?

Michael Huhn: The starting point is first of all the customer's wish to improve or renew his logistics. This idea is sometimes more, sometimes less concretely formulated. As a rule, a concrete objective is then worked out together with the customer based on the requirements. Then we start together in four intensive planning phases. Each interim solution is evaluated on the basis of budget prices so that our customers can carry out a profitability calculation at any time. We at Unitechnik have the ambition to develop the optimal solution for the customer. The planning process serves to create the best starting conditions for the realization and the later operation. In planning workshops we try to involve employees from the relevant departments of the customer. Often, good advice and suggestions come from the operational area, which are then taken into account. In addition, we achieve a very high level of acceptance of the later logistics system among the employees. They look forward to future improvements and the support of the system.

Editor: And why is it important with increasingly agile logistics projects to carry out exact planning in advance?

Michael Huhn: The business processes of our customers are changing ever faster, often driven by the changing requirements of their customers. It is therefore necessary that the future logistics system is adaptable and scalable. In principle, it is comparable to building a house: it is impossible to reconstruct a cellar, but walls and ceilings can be planned so that they can be moved later. In terms of logistics, this means that areas are not planned completely, but that expansion options are provided. This can come into play, for example, if products, batch sizes or order structures change. However, a plant also becomes scalable through the choice of the machines and the conveyor technology used. If the customer decides on a shuttle system, for example, additional vehicles can be added without any problems, thus increasing the throughput capacity.

Editorial team: Up to now, as a general contractor, you were usually only involved once the finished planning concept was on the table. For what reasons did Unitechnik decide to include logistics planning in addition to implementation in its portfolio of services?

Michael Huhn: By serving this business segment, we create a great deal of added value for our customers. In principle, the interface between planning and implementation is eliminated. We take full responsibility from the planning of the concept to the implementation and programming of the software systems and the commissioning of the plant. The customer gets a planning with realization promise. Throughout the entire process the customer has only one responsible contact person. This has the advantage that we get much deeper into the business processes of the customer from the beginning and create a practice-oriented concept based on our experience in the implementation of logistics projects.

Editor: And how did you create the preconditions for this? 

Michael Huhn: We have created our own consulting department consisting of experienced logistics experts. Depending on their needs, they are supported by our specialist departments of automation technology, IT, service and sales. A member of the consulting department is available to our customers at any time during the planning process. With our partner for construction services, we are also able to quickly check construction ideas and requirements for their feasibility.

Editor: Thank you very much. I have one last question, Mr. Huhn. Where will the course of Unitechnik go in the next few years? What are your main focuses?

Michael Huhn: Due to the high demand in this segment, we want to further expand this area. This includes not only increasing personnel but also investing in our tools. For example, we plan to deepen our simulation expertise and use our UniWare warehouse management system for this purpose on a case-by-case basis.
This also supports our strategy of making the planning and implementation of logistics centres even more effective and transparent by using a digital twin.


Further information about our consulting department can be found here