Ten Companies To Watch

Food Logistics' annual salute to food and beverage companies that are using innovative solutions to address logistical challenges.


Witron’s logistics analysis recommended case-handling automation to address Sobeys’ goal of reducing handling costs, damages and error counts. Automation enables building a denser and taller order pallet with cases sequenced on pallets based on how they will be unloaded and replenished to the shelf. The majority of case picking is completely automated using Witron’s proprietary OPM (Order Picking Machinery) picking technology.

The OPM system automatically receives, stages, picks cases and builds mixed SKU pallets in a store-friendly and aisle-ready fashion. Products are stretch-wrapped and handed off to the shipping dock for loading onto trailers. The facility has 30 receiving bays and 41 shipping bays and is the largest warehouse in the Sobeys Inc. distribution network.

The new facility can handle 320,000 cases every day and offers three times the capacity of a conventional grocery distribution center. It is capable of shipping 200,000 cases daily. The DC operates 20 hours a day, seven days a week and operates with just 140 people—less than one-third of a workforce required of a conventional warehouse.

The facility, a half-million square feet of space, supplies to the Sobeys network of about 350 retail grocers, including Sobeys, Foodland, IGA and Price Chopper. Sobeys Inc., with headquarters in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, is Canada’s second-largest supermarket operator.

So far, the results have been impressive just a year shy of the facility’s first anniversary this July. Case-handling costs decreased by over 50 percent, and order accuracy rates nearly 100 percent. Damages have decreased, transportation savings have increased, and the cycle time to process an order has shortened significantly.

This major investment reflects Sobeys’ commitment to invest and innovate intelligently, providing optimal store and customer service at the lowest possible cost, notes Bill McEwan, president and CEO, Sobeys Inc. He adds that the greater benefit will be realized by customers at store level, as previously less-productive employee time is redeployed to further improve the quality and consistency of in-store service.

8. U.S. FoodService serves it up in the big apple - PERTH AMBOY, NJ - Second largest foodservice distributor.

Not many businesses would consider building a state-of-the-art facility during an economic downturn—especially in the Northeast, where new construction has ground down to a halt. But then again, U.S. Foodservice (USF)—the nation’s second largest broad line foodservice distributor—is not your ordinary company.

Its Metro New York division serves more than 3,000 customers in New York City and surrounding areas, selling to restaurants, schools, hospitals and chain restaurants—and counts some well-known establishments such as Madison Square Garden and the Hard Rock Café among its clients. With business booming, the company had outgrown its 156,000-square-foot distribution center in Edison, NJ, and decided to construct a larger facility, which it opened in January 2009.

Less than an hour’s drive from mid-town Manhattan, the new facility is located on a 65-acre track in Perth Amboy, NJ. At 615,000 square feet, the warehouse, which was designed and constructed by Hartland, WI-based design-builder ESI Group USA, is one of the largest food distribution centers in the Northeast.

The eco-friendly DC features high efficiency lighting solutions, refrigeration systems and a world class culinary innovation center.

“We selected this site because of the proximity to New York City—we’re able to service our customers from within the perimeter of the market,” says Chuck Gannon, president, USF Metro-New York.

With the opening of the DC, U.S. Foodservice-Metro New York has been able to strategically re-align the tri-state service area to improve responsiveness to its customer base while significantly reducing its carbon footprint.

The facility features a number of innovations, including its refrigeration system, which uses a mobile (skid-mounted) system that incorporates a two refrigerant (cascade) system utilizing R-22 and CO2 refrigerants. It uses refrigeration penthouse units (separate enclosures roof-mounted) in all refrigerated areas, which enables better performance and ease for maintenance.

The penthouses lift the units out of the warehouse, so they’re not taking out pallet positions, and when maintenance is called for, the units can be accessed from the roof.

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