„Clients Should Feel Comfortable”

Waterloo. Anyone who gets their tyres changed at Pneu Vanhamme can’t fail to notice the company’s service mindedness. So it was only natural that the Belgian tyre dealer contacted someone with a similar attitude when it was ready to change its warehouse concept: Jungheinrich.

When you enter the sales room of Pneu Vanhamme you don’t feel like you’re visiting a tyre shop, but rather a modern art exhibition. Individual tyres are positioned in front of large-scale posters.

Partition walls lend the visitor a feeling of privacy. Indirect lighting above the various seating arrangements suggests a lounge-type atmosphere, where clients can relax and enjoy a refreshing cup of coffee or cappuccino.

Service Mindedness Plays a Major Role

“I want the client to feel pampered when he visits us,” says Karyn Vanhamme, Managing Director at Pneu Vanhamme, one of Belgium’s largest tyre retailers, stressing that for her company, atmosphere, quality and service mindedness all go in hand in hand.

That’s because service mindedness plays a major role at the family-owned enterprise in Waterloo, near Brussels. Founded by father Constant Vanhamme, the business is run today by daughter Karyn, backed up by her two daughters and a son-in-law. At peak times the firm employs two dozen staff members.

Storage Conditions Have Changed Drastically

Peak times are for example spring and autumn, when it is time to change the tyres. “Changing tyres and storing them is a key market for us,” explains Karyn Vanhamme. “Many private customers have us change their tyres and store them as well.” Then there are the leasing firms, with whom there are special contracts stating that Pneu Vanhamme will not only change the summer tyres and snow tyres on the vehicles in their fleet, but also store them.

“The situation for snow tyres has changed greatly in Belgium over the past few years,” says the managing director, although there is no official requirement to use snow tyres in Belgium in winter. Nevertheless domestic demand has gone up by a large margin, with a consequent leap in storage requirements for tyres. While tyre centres located directly in urban centres are running out of space, Pneu Vanhamme was able to take advantage of its ample space reserves.

Small Warehouses More Difficult to Size than Big Ones

The only question was: How do you store thousands of tyres efficiently and safely. “Because storing tyres in such big quantities was also new to us,” explains Karyn Vanhamme. The solution lay in getting advice from an expert in warehouse design. As the manager puts it: “We knew it would not be sufficient to just set up a few standard racks. We needed a real pro.” One of the pros who were contacted was the Hamburg-based Jungheinrich firm, which ended up winning the bid. “Apart from the quality of the products, a key factor for us consisted of the fast reaction time and of course the price.”

“This was not the kind of warehouse we build everyday,” recalls Wilfried Elsen, Head of Logistics Systems for Jungheinrich in Belgium. According to Elsen, it lasted a good while until all calculations were complete, because in practice it is much more difficult to size a small warehouse than a large one.

Furthermore the minimum but also maximum storage depth needed to be calculated on the basis of tyre diameters to prevent the tyres from rolling out or sliding too far backwards. As Elsen sees it: “Ultimately it boils down to preparation. If the job is prepared right, the results will also be right!”

Project Was Implemented Within the Span of Two Weeks

The new tyre warehouse at Pneu Vanhamme was integrated in an existing building. It offers space for 5.000 to 6.000 tyres, depending on the tyre widths, which are vertically stored in multi-bay racks on two levels with a total of seven shelves – three on the lower level and four on the upper level.

“Needless to say there were also a series of changes during the project which didn’t crop up till the implementation phase,” Elsen relates, explaining that aisle end protection needed to be built into the second level since, in practice, it proved impossible to erect the racks flush with the walls. Just the same the Pneu Vanhamme project was implemented within the span of two weeks.

Barcode and WMS Allow for Clear Definition of Storage Slots

When a car or van drives up to Pneu Vanhamme for a tyre change, the licence plate number is recorded at the front desk. “The license plate number serves de facto as the article number of the tyres to be stored,” comments Wilfried Elsen. Once the tyres are changed at one of the 11 changing stations, they are transported to the warehouse. The tyres are stored completely by hand. The racks are double-depth to allow for two tyres adjacent to each other and two behind each other.

The tyres themselves are marked with a storage sheet bearing barcode and the appropriate licence plate number. “All the numbers which are issued during storage are taken into our WMS system,” explains Karyn Vanhamme. Using these numbers staff members are always able to clearly define the storage slot for the tyres.

The storage slots themselves can be unambiguously identified by the rack rows and level numbers. Before storing the tyres the staff member scans the barcode on the tyres and can then see in the WMS system where to store the tyres. The same process is reversed to fetch the tyres from the shelves. The entire tyre changing process generally lasts no more than half an hour for the customer. Almost too short to enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the Pneu Vanhamme lounge.

jak – 2008