© Jan Hosan

Orderly throughput at the rack

A new pallet flow rack gives feed supplier Miavit high throughput with absolute product safety. And since the flow levels have only half the usual slope, the company also saves a lot of money.

Clop­pen­burg district, in the middle of the flat Lower Saxony coun­try­side. There are farms every 500 meters on both sides of the highway with big, flat barns next to the brick houses. For every one of the 165,000 people living in this region south­west of Bremen, there are 87 farm animals. Agri­cul­ture domi­nates the district, where nearly two million pigs, 170,000 cattle, nine million chickens and three million turkeys are kept. Their health is of great impor­tance to the region.

Preven­tion instead of medica­tion

Alexander Schröer is satis­fied with the condi­tion of the stored goods; the new flow rack prevents damage. (Photo | Jan Hosan)

That was already true 50 years ago, when the veteri­narian Dr. Hans Niemeyer began working inten­sively with premixed animal feed. His motto was “preven­tion instead of medica­tion.” Soon he founded Miavit. The company’s name stands for minerals, amino acids and vita­mins. Since 1964 it has become Germany’s market leader for premixed animal feed, which it produces in many different forms (tablets, powder, liquids) and quan­ti­ties at its head­quar­ters in the quiet town of Essen (popu­la­tion 8,000).  In recent years, the company has been supplying more and more customers from all over the world. Now exports account for 50 percent of its revenue. The family-owned busi­ness with 360 employees was begin­ning to reach its limits.

Breaking new ground

“We have several produc­tion facil­i­ties here,” says Alexander Schröer, who heads Miavit’s engi­neering depart­ment. “Prepa­ra­tion of prod­ucts for our customers was done more or less manu­ally. That was error-prone and we were starting to have space prob­lems with our fork­lifts.” Company manage­ment decided to build a logis­tics center. There they wanted to bring together the premixes from the different facil­i­ties and prepare them for customers as quickly as possible. At the heart of the new facility is an auto­mated high-bay ware­house. “We checked out a few systems and then invited Bito Lagertechnik,” recalls Schröer.

Goods deliv­ered with swap trailers are placed on the sorting conveyor by a fork­lift. The conveyor checks the weight and condi­tion of the pallets and moves them to... (Photo | Jan Hosan)

... the stacker crane, which auto­mat­i­cally places them on the correct runway in the flow rack. (Photo | Jan Hosan)

Matthias Trenz explains the drive unit to Alexander Lang (right), product manager at Bito. Trenz is Market Manager Indus­trial Drive Tech­nology at ebm-papst. (Photo | Jan Hosan)

On October 14, 2014, Stephan Klotzke drove onto the grounds at Miavit with its ocher-colored factory build­ings. He is Bito’s area sales manager for the Bremen region and this was not his first visit. A few years before, he had installed a narrow-aisle rack there. But what Managing Director Lukas Midden­dorf presented to him on that day was in a different league and would also be some­thing new for Bito. “After our first brain­storming session in a small group, there were still a few systems to choose from.”

But after five more sessions, it became clear that only a pallet flow rack would satisfy the company’s require­ments, which called for trouble-free trans­port of different pallet types with many different kinds of pack­aging. “For sacks alone, we have very different bulk densi­ties, from loose to jam-packed,” says Schröer in describing the variety. Then he adds another impor­tant chal­lenge: “Since we some­times work with hazardous goods, for a height of over 7.50 meters we would have had to satisfy some very strict condi­tions including a very expen­sive sprin­kler system.”

Control instead of gravity

PROflow active enables trouble-free handling of all kinds of pack­aging and pallets. (Photo | Jan Hosan)

Bito’s PROflow active convinced Miavit’s manage­ment. In contrast to conven­tional flow racks with their four-percent inclines, it only needs two percent for its flow levels. So the three-level ware­house at Miavit only reaches a height of 7.50 meters. Its high­light: it doesn’t work like most others by using gravity to move the pallets from the loading side to the unloading side along a runway. Instead it uses elec­tric drives in its rollers. “This capa­bility distin­guishes it from the typical flow racks on the market, which work with gravity,” says Alexander Lang, product manager at Bito, who has supported the PROflow active since its launch. “That was also some­thing new for us.”

Thanks to the start assist by the drives, the flow rack can deal with a wide range of pack­aging types. On runways that work with gravity, the pallets roll down on their own as soon as one is removed at the front. When they run into each other, forces are exerted. “Some­times pallets will be over­packed,” says Schröer. “Then the pack­aging protrudes over the edge of the pallet. A colli­sion can damage the pack­aging and make the goods unus­able.” The drives in the PROflow active can keep the pallets sepa­rated as they move along the runway, avoiding unwanted contact.

How PROflow active works


For the start assist, Bito uses a drive solu­tion jointly devel­oped with ebm-papst. The system consists of a drive with inte­grated elec­tronics and trans­mis­sion and is deliv­ered with wiring and fastening nuts. “That makes it extremely easy for us to install in the rollers,” says Alexander Lang happily.

 “The drive is what distin­guishes PROflow active from typical flow racks on the market.”


Alexander Schröer also smiles as he walks along the three-level flow rack with its 30 rows, giving way to a fork­lift now and then. The entire system works without any aisles, oper­a­tions only seem to take place on the unloading side. When goods arrive from the produc­tion facil­i­ties on a swap trailer, a fork­lift places them on a conveyor system, which auto­mat­i­cally trans­fers them to a stacker crane that puts the pallets on the right runways. From there the pallets roll one after the other to the unloading side, where they are removed by fork­lifts. This allows consid­er­ably greater throughput than before, and enables more timely produc­tion.

Now Miavit moves about 500 pallets through the logis­tics center every day. “Only a few months after starting up the facility, we’re already at 85 percent of capacity,” says Schröer with furrowed brow: an expan­sion might be needed soon.

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