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New WITRON system optimizes the entire fresh food area

The expectations towards a working fresh food supply chain can be very different when looking at it from either an operator's or a customer's perspective. It is important for the consumer that fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, and sausage products in the supermarket shelves are of the highest quality, requiring an extremely product-gentle logistics from the distribution centers. Moreover, food retailers demand logistics systems that are able to handle a wide range of different tote sizes more flexibly with faster order cycle times, while stacking these totes in a store-friendly manner, and at the same time ensuring a high degree of ergonomics based on the requirements of temperature-controlled areas.  

Another module in WITRON's successful product portfolio within the fresh food environment was developed together with the Spanish food retailer Mercadona - WITRON's Box Order System (BOS), which not only fulfills the high expectations in terms of product handling, but also sets new standards in the fresh food environment with regards to flexibility, efficiency, throughput, and ergonomics. Based on its high flexibility, the solution can also be used for the handling of beverage crates. Many processes within the store-friendly picking of crate stacks and single crates correspond to those of the full tote handling in the fresh food environment. In addition, for this industry sector there are very few fully automated solutions with high cost-efficiency available on the market.  

The solution has a modular design. Every module consists of one replenishment crane and four picking cranes - the so-called Box Picking Machines (BPM). After the receiving process, the single-item tote box stacks are separated from the receiving pallet and then directly stored into the pick front through the replenishment cranes. The special feature: The store-friendly tote picking is done highly dynamically by means of the newly developed BPM crane. The BPM was designed in a way that its light-weight telescopic fork doesn't lift, but embraces the totes or stacks. The advantage: Not only single crates, but also a number of load carriers adapted to the customer order - that means full tote stacks, partial stacks, or single stacks - can be removed in a fully flexible manner from the rack. During the transportation to the next pick position, they are directly consolidated to store-friendly units without errors using the stacker crane. Finally, the built dispatch units are automatically palletized, stretch-wrapped, and provided for dispatch as double-decker pallet just before shipping.  

Compared to a conventional warehouse logistics, WITRON's BOS convinces in the fresh food logistics through:

  • high cost-efficiency:

    • error-free, store-friendly order picking
    • product-gentle handling and maximum pick quality
    • fully-automated storage and picking in one system - without the use of personnel
    • significant savings with regards to steel construction based on an innovative crane technology developed by WITRON's subsidiary FAS
    • footprint savings by utilizing the height

  • high flexibility:

    • as the system can be used in other industry sectors like the handling of beverage crates
    • handling of different totes / tote stacks and cardboard boxes, beverage crates / beverage crate stacks of different sizes with one rack and within one logistics system
    • handling of fresh products and non-stock items in one system. Especially for a joint shipping of both dispatch units on one trailer.

  • unique efficiency:

    • short throughput times based on lean material flow processes
    • separation of storage, order picking, and palletizing
    • high storage capacity through the use of pallet cranes with four stacks at the same time
    • use of multi-functional cranes, able to pick and stack
    • high pick efficiency through stacking during transportation to the next pick position
    • use of standard components and practically proven technology
    • after registration, the replenishment cranes can be fully used for relocating goods between the picking areas (optimization of the daily output)

  • reasonable ergonomics:

    • no lifting and carrying of heavy fresh food totes
    • no need to stay permanently in temperature-controlled areas (+2 degrees / +4 degrees)
    • no lifting and carrying of heavy beverage crates