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A paradigm shift in automated fresh food logistics

Celebrating the joint success: the project managers of E.Leclerc Socamil and WITRON. Front row from left to right: Laurent Borneuf, Christophe de Nays Candau, Claus Holm, Adrien Ponsero. Rear row from left to right: Bertrand Fritz, Thierry Gardette, Othmane Benhammou, Jean-Marc Heilig

Image: Supply Chain Magazine

Great honors for E.Leclerc Socamil. The French food retailer received the “Rois de la Supply Chain 2022” award, the most prestigious logistics prize in France, from the “Supply Chain Magazine”. The award was given for the fully automated omnichannel / multi-temperature distribution center in Calstelnaudery and was designed and implemented by the logistics lifetime partner WITRON. The core innovation is the world debut FPM (Flow Picking Machinery), a fully automated “flow-through warehouse” for the complete range of fresh and ultra-fresh products. FPM was described by the jury as a paradigm shift in the supply chain of French fresh produce logistics. The award now allows E.Leclerc to participate in the European Logistics Association Award.

Christophe de Nays Candau, General Director of E.Leclerc Socamil expressed his pride accordingly. “Despite pandemic conditions, we succeeded in realizing this flexible, cost-efficient, and sustainable logistics center in record-time together with WITRON. It serves all distribution channels - hypermarkets, stores, drives, as well as the online business with more than 30,000 different items of the complete product range - dry, fresh, frozen.” On a peak day, WITRON’s OPM and FPM solutions pick up to 300,000 pick units. A mechanized shipping buffer controls and optimizes the dispatch process and shipment of up to 6,000 pallets daily.  

The world debut “Flow Picking Machinery” was the particular highlight in an entirely convincing economic and ecological realization as well as an operator concept that delivers significant benefits for the store and online consumers, the employees in the logistics center, and the stores, as well as in terms of sustainability and green logistics.  


World innovation Flow Picking Machinery

“With the FPM, we have developed a highly efficient system for fully automated picking in stockless distribution centers - end-to-end from receiving to shipping. The FPM concept is thus the perfect solution for fresh produce logistics in the French food retail sector, which is handled almost exclusively via “flux-tendu” (just-in-time) stockless distribution warehouses. And the new concept deals with very high demands on product variety, product quality, and time-to-store. The performance of the FPM system is demonstrated in daily operations at E.Leclerc Socamil, where more than 100 hypermarkets, drives, and stores are supplied with up to 100,000 pick units from a range of 12,000+ fresh and ultra-fresh items”, explains Claus Holm, WITRON’s authorized signatory, responsible for the Southwest Europe sales region.

The “flow-through warehouse” turns over completely several times a day. The products are delivered throughout the day and are collected in the receiving area of the FPM system. After depalletizing, they enter a highly dynamic sequence buffer with 56,500 storage locations. The intelligent production control of the FPM system dynamically calculates the pallets required for ongoing production, considering the optimization of production capacity, stacking criteria, and transport volumes. Palletizing is done in a store-friendly manner using ten COM machines according to the individual requirements of each store.  


At the top of innovation


“With the new distribution center in Castelnaudary, we are up to date with the latest technology and at the top of innovation. This secures us a decisive competitive advantage over the next years. The project teams of E.Leclerc and WITRON have overcome all technical, organizational, and pandemic challenges with over the top commitment and have truly earned this success”, according to the General Director de Nays Candau.