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Sobeys puts its trust in WITRON for a third time

Image: 3D Image WITRON

For almost 10 years now, WITRON Integrated Logistics and the Canadian food retailer Sobeys have maintained a close partnership. With two warehouse automation projects jointly realized in Vaughan, Ontario and Terrebonne, Quebec the two companies are about to add another chapter to this success story. In mid-May 2014, both companies signed a contract to extend the existing dry grocery facility in Ontario by adding a fully automated case picking system for fresh and frozen goods. 

The numbers are again impressive: the new facility will have a footprint of approximately 245,000 square feet. The fully automated case picking system called OPM (Order Picking Machinery) is designed to handle a daily peak picking performance of almost 170,000 cases. The article range covers about 3,800  different products. Moreover, an automated shipping buffer will optimize the entire dispatch process. The warehouse will supply 783 stores with frozen goods and 829 stores with perishable products. Productive use of the distribution center is scheduled for fall 2016. 

WITRON will implement two of its systems into the new Sobeys Distribution Center extension – the Case Picking System (CPS) and the above mentioned Order Picking Machinery (OPM). Both systems are currently being operated in the existing Sobeys dry grocery facilities. 

The OPM system is literally a fully automated case picking solution as almost all processes apart from unloading and loading the trailers at shipping and receiving are automated. Thus, the system virtually eliminates picking labor in 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. At the new Vaughan extension, WITRON will integrate 10 COMs. Once system ramp-up is complete, Sobeys will have a total of 42 COMs in use at their existing sites

Although revolutionary in its approach, the majority of the components and processes that drive the OPM are standard within the world of warehouse automation. The OPM is highly flexible to business needs. Projects range from handling 300 to 18,000 SKUs, with as few as 3 COMs to as many as 70 COMs, and handling volumes from 13,000 cases per day to 600,000 cases per day.  So far, a cost-efficient solution was found for every customer's task. 

All in all the benefits for Sobeys are high transparency, lowest error rates, and optimization with regards to service and logistics costs. 

The picking of large and bulky articles in both Cooler and Freezer at the Vaughan 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 within each chamber.  The Freezer pallet high-bay warehouse will have 5 pallet AS/RS cranes servicing approximately 14,200 storage locations while the Cooler high-bay warehouse will have 2 pallet AS/RS cranes servicing approximately 4,800 storage locations. 

With annualized sales of more than CAD 24 billion, 125,000 employees and 1,500 stores, Sobeys Inc. is Canada’s second-largest food retailer.

Sobeys has been serving the food shopping needs of Canadians for 108 years. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Empire Company Limited (TSX:EMP.A), Sobeys owns or franchises approximately 1,500 stores in all 10 provinces under retail banners that include Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, and Lawton’s Drug Stores as well as more than 350 retail fuel locations. Sobeys, its franchisees and affiliates employ more than 125,000 people.

As a general contractor, WITRON is responsible for the entire design and realization of all IT, control engineering, and mechanical components. All conveyor system elements will be designed and produced by WITRON's subsidiary, FAS. The system will work 20 hours a day, 7 days a week.