Five Automation Myth Busters

Before you write off warehouse automation as being too complex or expensive for your operations, here are five good reasons to take a second look.


By taking a close look at the principals of fresh logistics with automation, many issues can be addressed. “Due to a different working approach, material flows and use of automation, the total amount of totes to be handled has decreased. In an efficient, ergonomic way, more articles can be picked into one tote. Warehouse space is optimally used and picking and shipping is done in store sequence” according to De Hertogh.

The DC is 150,000 square feet and handles 1,500 pallets a day on average—Delhaize is using a Witron ATS- (Automatic Tote System) and DPS- (Dynamic Picking System) based solution. This solution consists of four individual modules with a total of 167,000 storage locations. Each module contains the complete 2,300 SKU range.

About 500 (non-stock) articles are supplied and picked in the correct quantity for the store on a daily basis. Storage and retrieval is handled by 32 cranes, with a total throughput of 4,000 totes per hour (96,000 totes a day). For optimal functionality, Delhaize and Witron develop a new fresh tote. “The existing fresh totes were not stable enough and did not keep their shape for the repeated processes and performances. Plus the tote did not contain enough vents,” explains De Hertogh.

Two different models were designed: a fresh tote with a height of 5-inches and a tote with a height of 9.5 inches. The totes are foldable, washable and have a reinforced bottom. Both totes have an EAN128 barcode and a UHF RFID-tag, so tracking and traceability is 100 percent guaranteed. The plastic dollies the stacked totes will transport on for shipment are also adapted for automation handling.

The order fulfillment operation in the DC is running smoothly with very little human intervention. After the crates have been received and de-stacked in an automated way, totes are scanned and checked on temperature, barcode, and weight, then stored in the DPS system. Seventy percent of the total daily volume leaves the DC untouched and the remaining 30 percent is used in the picking areas.

The concept contains 48 working stations. Each workstation has a pick-to-light system indicating how many articles of a certain product in the pick front need to be picked. Depending on the corresponding product group, the existing or predicted circulation rate and article size, the article is offered to the picker at the ideal location. Optimizing and reducing walking distances create high picking rates. All totes for one order are buffered in one module, retrieved, sequenced and stacked on a dolly in a store friendly/aisle ready manner automatically. At eight stacking stations, dollies are completed with a label.

The system enables Delhaize to handle more SKUs and greater volumes in a smaller footprint. As a result, the retailer succeeded in improving service to the consumer. Considerably less picking errors are made. Thanks to this investment, productivity was doubled and the pooling costs for the fresh totes were dramatically reduced.

“We need fewer cases and totes, which in turn reduces the handling, sorting and washing of totes. We expected a bisection of the costs, but that has not been reached at this moment,” says De Hertogh. “However, I am convinced that the ROI in this area will be achieved over the next year to come. Also the energy consumption was strongly reduced. In spite of the automation, the energy usage is 50 percent lower than in a conventional warehouse.”

 

 

 

 

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