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Sobeys puts its trust in Witron’s OPM solution for a second time

Image: Sobeys, Kanada

With annual sales of more than CAD 15 billion, 85,000 employees and 1,300 stores, Sobeys Inc. is Canada’s second-largest food retailer.

Sobeys has been using WITRON’s automated case picking system since mid 2009 at its DC in Vaughan, Ontario.  The success of that project led Sobeys to award WITRON with a second project in Quebec.  The Quebec contact was signed in April 2010, with a planned start-up at the end of 2012.

The Quebec DC will be designed to supply many hundreds of stores and handle a SKU base of nearly 18,000 dry grocery articles.  The facility is planned to cover 424,000 square feet and will provide a peak daily picking output of nearly 275,000 cases and totes.

In order to synchronize all the logistical requirements with maximum efficiency and cost effectiveness, Witron will implement its OPM (Order Picking Machinery), DPS (Dynamic Picking System) and CPS (Car Picking System) modules in the Quebec DC.

“In today’s competitive work environment, the ability to rely on partners such as Witron who possess expertise in this field will ensure our leadership in the field,” stated Stéphanie Brisebois, Project Director.

The DC’s core logistical element will be the OPM system for fully automated case picking. The OPM for Quebec represents WITRON‘s next generation of OPM technology.  The new generation installed in Quebec will offer even higher picking performance and lower energy requirements than previous OPM versions.  WITRON’s OPM system at Quebec will be driven by 16 pallet building machines („COMs“) that will be fed by 32 tray cranes with access to 350,000 storage locations.

Small-volume articles in the Quebec DC will be picked at ten ergonomic workstations within WITRON’s DPS system. The corresponding 3-aisle automated small parts warehouse will boast 70,000 tote storage positions. The main feature of the DPS is the order-driven static and dynamic staging of articles in a tote pickfront which is replenished by AS/RS cranes.

The picking of large and bulky articles at the Quebec DC will take place in WITRON’s Car Picking System (CPS). CPS is a pallet picking solution with path-optimized order picking supported by pick-by-voice operator guidance. The pickfront is automatically replenished by AS/RS cranes. The CPS module will be integrated into an automated high-bay warehouse with 28,000 storage positions and 10 stacker cranes. Replenishment for the OPM and DPS areas will also be controlled from this warehouse.

Witron will act as general contractor on the Quebec project, designing, delivering, and installing all the components for the mechanics, material flow, IT and controls. The conveyor elements used will be manufactured by WITRON’s subsidiary FAS.

This second Sobeys project is significant for WITRON for two reasons.  First and foremost, it demonstrates the trust that WITRON’s clients place in OPM technology.  Secondly, the Quebec project marks a milestone in that it brings the total number of COMs sold over the 385 mark.

WITRON’s OPM system is having a profound impact on grocery distribution throughout the world.  The world’s largest and most respected companies in retail industries have recognized the benefits of the OPM system as a tool for maintaining and gaining competitive advantage.

The OPM system allows store-friendly deliveries to stores, while virtually eliminating picking labor within the DC.  The benefits of such a system extend beyond the DC, with a reduction in effort to fill store shelves as a result of store-friendly pallets.  In addition, transportation benefits can be realized from improved order pallet density.  All of these benefits are made possible through WITRON’s innovative and proprietary COM (Case Order Machine) at the heart of the OPM system.  The COM allows cases to be automatically stacked atop order pallets in a store-friendly sequence, without any of the gaps around the cases that result in most robotic pallet-building applications.  Although revolutionary in its approach, the majority of the components and processes that drive the OPM are standard within the world of warehouse automation.
In just six years, WITRON’s patented OPM solution has developed into the most successful automated order picking system in food retail. To date, more than 2 billion cases have been picked fully automatically with the Case Order Machine (COM). Every day, 3 million cases are stacked onto pallets or roller containers in a store-friendly manner. The OPM solution can easily handle up to 15,000 different articles in both dry and temperature-controlled environments. A repeat business share of 80% is indicative of the cost effectiveness of this solution.