Customer reference: Alfred Kärcher SE & Co. KG – 25 years of Kanban

The family business Kärcher is considered the world’s leading provider of efficient, resource-saving cleaning systems. Founded in 1935 by Alfred Kärcher, inventive spirit and innovative thinking have been the focus of all its activities. With the market launch of Europe’s first hot water high-pressure cleaner in 1950, the foundation was laid for the company’s development as world’s leading cleaning specialist. Today, the family business employs over 15,330 employees in 150 companies in 80 countries. For a seamless supply to customers across the world, there are more than 50,000 service centres in all countries. Whether high-pressure cleaners, sweepers, vacuum cleaners, garden tools or pumps: With over 3000 products, Kärcher stands out as the global market leader in cleaning technology through excellence, innovation and quality. And all this in line with its motto “Renew to sustain”.

Kanban at Kärcher

Modern C-Parts management means far more than just supplying the required items. In fact, the supplier is now developing into a comprehensive partner who is integrated into the process landscape, and uses holistic, automated systems and services that reduce process costs while increasing productivity, quality and flexibility. Even though C-Parts represent a relatively small proportion of the purchase volume of the company, the procurement efforts involved here are high, which prove to be highly time-consuming, error-prone and inefficient. This is exactly where the intelligent supply solutions for the automated production supply of Würth Industrie Service at Kärcher have come into picture since 1999.

  • Supply security through automated re-ordering
  • 24-hour availability
  • Innovative technologies
  • Complete transparency of all processes, withdrawals and orders
  • Safe and needs-based storage

The solution: RFID-Kanban

For more than 25 years, Kärcher has been relying on the system competency of the C-Parts expert, and is one of the first Kanban customers to rely on highly flexible RFID supply systems. In order to design processes along the supply chain in a maximum efficient manner, Kärcher decided to switch to RFID at the Obersontheim site in January 1999. Since then, the reordering process has been completely automated and demand-oriented. For example, using the intelligent shelves iSHELF®. If a bin is empty, then the integrated shelves directly detect it via an integrated sender-receiver-unit in the shelf. The rack reads the RFID chip and transfers the information about the empty bin directly to the Kanban Management System (KMS) of Würth Industrie Service developed in-house. The supply takes place centrally from the European logistics centre in Bad Mergentheim to Kärcher. Other RFID-based system solutions are also used. For example, the intelligent pallet box iBOX®, which immediately transmits the data via RFID as soon as an empty bin is placed in there. The rest is handled altogether autonomously by the system.

In more than 45 Kanban storage locations, around 4,500 active bins are equipped with 2000 different items, which have been installed in the assembly of the cleaning specialist. The portfolio comprises over 4,000 different items, ranging from screws, nuts and rivets to chemical substances and occupational safety products as well as manufacturer-specific parts. With this, Würth Industrie Service delivers a total of 95 million items to Kärcher on a yearly basis, both across plants and countries. For complete transparency, Kärcher also relies on the WIS portal of Würth Industrie Service. This allows the customers to have access to various bin and item data at all times and benefit from its comprehensive analysis functions for the consumption quantity or turnover frequency of certain items.

The result: Maximum supply security through highly flexible Kanban systems

“Thanks to the use of RFID Kanban, we have the benefit of a secure supply, wherein all the required parts are available at the right time, at the right place, in the right quantity. And all this with an increased productivity and additional time and cost savings across some of our locations and plants. Our requirements are managed in a lean manner and reorders are placed completely automatically. Manual intervention is no longer necessary”, says Heiko Braitmaier, Executive Vice President - Sourcing & Procurement Management at Kärcher.

Kärcher partnership

25 years of customer proximity

Michael Wiesner, Key Account Manager at Würth Industrie Service, who has been responsible for Kärcher for over 30 years, remembers: “Exactly 25 years ago, the first Kanban bins were delivered to our long-time partner Kärcher – centrally from Bad Mergentheim to Obersontheim. Since then, around 2,000 bins have been in circulation with about 25,000 refills.”

With a dedicated team of experts for Kärcher that is well-acquainted with the market, the industry as well as with the individual customer requirements of the cleaning expert, the two global market leaders have been working in close cooperation since 25 years. Even for Alfred Kärcher Vertriebs-GmbH, Würth with its network of subsidiaries consisting of over 550 shops across Germany, is a strong service partner.

Further success stories of our supply systems