Fresh Delivery

European retailer EDEKA relies on automation to deliver its own private label sausages, beef and pork.


The high-bay warehouse provides 40,000 storage locations for containers, boxes and cardboard, and is administered by stacker cranes at an ambient temperature of 30 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The automated system includes several goods-in gates, two storage and retrieval levels, 16 stacker cranes with dual load handling devices, eight goods-to-man picking points, two sorting levels to determine the final sequence of the containers and four palletizing robots at the outbound area.

Every day, some 30,000 containers are processed and picked and shipped to 1,500 retail customers.

“This performance is achieved by the high level of automation of the system and the perfect interplay between WAMAS and the warehouse and picking technology,” says Uwe Dörmann, the project manager who runs the operation.

WAMAS is really the brains of the operation, guiding, controlling and optimizing the automation. The software is comprised of modules for warehouse management and processes, order picking methods, material flow systems and track and trace.

The day begins with the morning deliveries of fresh product from the local slaughterhouses. The inbound goods are registered at 12 collection points, four collection lines with automated dispensing robots and eight manual transfer points and are subsequently transported on conveyors into the high-bay warehouse. The goods registration and stock addition are performed by WAMAS.

The items are transferred to the storage lines by pallets. Depalletizing robots adapted for this task perform the fully automated stacking and unstacking of goods. Sixteen stacker cranes are used to connect the 40,000 storage locations with the conveying systems around the clock. WAMAS continually optimizes all processes, guiding their performance.

A dynamic batch picking system ensures an ideal goods-to-man workflow at the eight picking locations. A stacker crane automatically provides the required source containers in the correct sequence.

A put-to-light system helps employees perform error-free picking by indicating where the goods belong. If too many or insufficient items end up in the target container, a weight check automatically identifies the picking error. The source containers, as well as the picked customer containers, return to the warehouse, where they are buffered until they are palletized or loaded. Both automated and manually picking are fully integrated in WAMAS.

Mobile terminals turn each stacker workstation into a complete picking location within the overall system. The arrival of goods is performed on the arrival of AGVs just-in-time and just-in-sequence. WAMAS controls a complex sorting mechanism within the outbound loading area. This includes the so-called “sortierharfen,” a sorting device developed by Schaefer which makes sure the right containers are available at the right time in the right sequence.

Four robots assume the task of fully automated palletizing. Once they have been packed and wrapped Bauerngut ships the packages to their destination, about 3,200 containers an hour.

“The picking performance is extraordinary,” says Dörmann. “The requirement for the high performance in the tight time frame that all the processes have to go through.”

The new picking strategy has enabled deliveries to be ready within 24 hours. “Just 25 percent of orders coming in are manually processed—the rest are handled by the automated system,” says Dörmann.

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