upBox: the digital and automated spare parts warehouse

Reading time: approx. 3 minutes
Text: Joachim Geiger
Photos: Besko Nutzfahrzeugteile

The upBox from the BPW Aftermarket Group could revolutionise the procurement of spare parts for commercial vehicle workshops. The spectacular idea behind the digital solution is the intelligent spare parts warehouse, in which all processes run fully automatically. Does the system work in practice? The commercial vehicle specialist Beilharz has tried it out.

Is this what the future of spare parts storage looks like? At first glance, the upBox at the depot of Beilharz Nutzfahrzeuge in Gelsenkirchen is a very ordinary 40-foot sea container. Only on closer inspection does the large-capacity container turn out to be a logistical surprise egg. The aha effect occurs when the door opens into the interior of the steel transport box: On the shelves on the two long sides, systematically arranged and accurately packed, lie all kinds of spare parts that Beilharz, as a service partner of BPW Bergische Achsen KG, needs in its daily workshop business. A screen in the entrance area and two RFID readers above the sliding door to the storage room are discreet references to an IT infrastructure in which data is also transmitted by radio waves. The upBox also has video surveillance and various radio and security systems on board.

But how can this equipment point to the future? The experts at the BPW Aftermarket Group have a clear opinion on this – the innovative solution for commercial vehicle workshops is a step towards digitalising their spare parts business for users.

Welcome to the intelligent spare parts warehouse

Since November 2020, the upBox has been at Beilharz, which, among other things, looks after the trailers of the Austrian full-load specialist Lkw Walter. A core competence for this job is to provide the required spare parts at the right time and in the right quantity. This is precisely where the Gelsenkirchen commercial vehicle workshop is now breaking new ground together with the BPW Aftermarket Group. “The upBox can save a workshop a lot of effort when operating a warehouse,” explains parts trade professional Torben Schwenk from BPW subsidiary BESKO. “The user no longer has to worry about the storage technology and the management of the warehouse. In a way, the entire organisation is outsourced to the upBox,” Schwenk describes the idea behind the intelligent container. All important processes run automatically in it: the system registers every access in the warehouse, records all incoming and outgoing goods in the blink of an eye and updates the inventory data in real time. Invoicing, reordering and restocking also take place automatically.

The upBox is a mobile spare parts warehouse. It can be set up in the depot of a commercial vehicle workshop or at a fleet operator’s own workshop.

Order is half the battle, even in the increasingly digitalised world of spare parts procurement: In the shelf rack, each spare part has a precisely defined storage location.

Each spare part in the shelf rack is provided with a radio label that can be clearly identified with the help of an encrypted number code.

The touch screen in the entrance area of the upBox is the interface between the IT system and the user. The list on the screen shows the selected spare parts.

When the warehouse employee has collected all the spare parts, he activates the scanning process of the RFID system on the touch screen. The list on the screen serves as a control.

Digital shopping in the container

On site in Gelsenkirchen, digital shopping in the container now works almost like clockwork, as warehouse manager Dirk Lücke reports. He opens the access to the upBox with a chip card. The warehouse worker identifies himself with his PIN on the touch screen and then enters the storage room through the sliding door. The spare parts on the shelves are equipped with radio labels that enable clear identification. When Lücke has collected all the spare parts, he leaves the warehouse with them. He activates the system’s scanning and recording process on the monitor in the container anteroom. The sliding door to the warehouse closes automatically and the RFID readers scan the number codes of the transponders in a fraction of a second. A list of the selected products appears on the screen. As soon as Lücke confirms the selection, the removed goods are booked commercially. At the same time, an order confirmation is sent to the workshop by e-mail.

Appearances could be deceptive with this large-capacity container: The upBox houses the technological equipment for an intelligent spare parts warehouse.

The intelligent spare parts warehouse knows no end of the day: warehouse staff can stock up on spare parts in the upBox around the clock, every working day.

upBox: a gamechanger for the spare parts business?

With the upBox, Beilharz has brought a completely new user experience into the house. “The upBox knows no closing time, the spare parts are available around the clock every working day,” says Lücke, describing an important advantage for the workshop. Together with Torben Schwenk, he has determined the stock that will primarily benefit the trailers from Lkw Walter during the upBox’s initial operating phase. In addition, the two have defined a minimum quantity for each product in the warehouse, below which the system automatically triggers a reorder. For Beilharz, the fact that the BPW Aftermarket Group manages the upBox as a consignment warehouse also has a tangible monetary advantage. “The workshop does not have to stock and pre-finance the required parts itself. They are only billed for what they actually take out,” explains Torben Schwenk. So is the upBox a game changer for the spare parts business? “Quite possibly,” says Dirk Lücke. “The potential of the intelligent spare parts warehouse is enormous.”

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