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Mercadona puts its trust again in Witron’s OPM solution:

Mercadona Ribarroja, fully-automated order picking at -23ºC

Image: Witron

Image: Mercadona

Image: Mercadona

Mercadona is a Spanish retail company, integrated in the supermarket branch, with a turnover of 16.485 million Euros in 2010, more than 63.500 employees and 1.360 stores. In the course of ongoing expansion, innovative and automated storage and order picking systems play an important role for the company’s logistics strategy. Standardization of processes and ergonomically designed workstations are just as important as cost efficiency when selecting new solutions.

The close partnership between Mercadona and the general contractor WITRON Logistik + Informatik GmbH from Parkstein began in 2004.  Since that time, both companies have jointly designed and realized five distribution centers, with locations in Madrid, Valencia, and Leon. Their partnership was further strengthened since WITRON was nominated “Interproveedor” in 2011, the preferred supplier in the field of automated logistics.  

Since October 2008, the distribution center in Ribarroja (Valencia) has been automatically picking some 400 different frozen items at a temperature of -23 degrees using the patented OPM technology (Order Picking Machinery) – including articles such as ice cream, meat, fish, seafood, frozen meals, vegetables, bread and much more. The facility in Ribarroja covers a space of 5,500 m² and has a height of 20 meters.  It is currently supplying 250 stores.

OPM is designed such that nearly all supply chain processes within a distribution center are fully automated. The OPM system for frozen goods operates with the same material flow as the OPM used within ambient environments. The OPM process at Ribarroja begins in receiving, where inbound pallets are automatically identified, validated, and labeled before being transported to a pallet high bay warehouse equipped with 4,200 storage locations and 4 stacker cranes. The pallet warehouse serves as both a replenishment warehouse and as a buffer for already completed customer orders.

Right after the picking process, pallets are retrieved from the high bay warehouse and automatically depalletized layer-by-layer. Each layer is singulated, and every case is “married” with a tray. Depending on the article size, two different tray dimensions are used – 600 mm x 400 mm or 300 mm x 400 mm. The trays are stored in a 5-aisle tray small parts warehouse equipped with 10 stacker cranes and 43,000 storage locations – divided into two levels one above the other. The separation of levels improves system dynamics and insures optimal space utilization, an important factor in a frozen warehouse where energy efficiency is critical. The transport routes for inbound and outbound trays are also divided into two levels to enable the best possible filling degree of the entire system.

The automatic picking of up to 50,000 cases a day is achieved with 6 COM machines (Case Order Machinery) and without the use of personnel. Controlled by a sophisticated stacking algorithm, the COMs automatically stack the cases onto pallets. This automated palletizing process eliminates errors, and insures a store-friendly and stable order pallet, built exactly according to the store’s specifications. The stacking algorithm also considers the optimum volume load, as well as the maximum and minimum dimensions and weight specifications of the respective customer order.

The COM-built pallets are automatically stretch-wrapped, transported to the shipping area, or buffered and then consolidated in the high bay warehouse. In addition to picked order pallets built by the COMs, Mercadona also supplies its stores with certain article groups on full pallets.  

Mercadona considers the implementation of OPM technology in a frozen environment as an important milestone with numerous benefits – economic, ergonomic, and ecological. They view OPM as a highly efficient order picking process using all optimization potential throughout the entire supply chain – from the supplier, through the distribution center, and in the transport process to the store.  
The benefits of OPM are numerous. Some of the key benefits include future-oriented, technological workstations or the relief of employees from health-endangering tasks as result of ergonomic work processes. OPM is a highly energy-efficient technology with a space-saving design and high saving potential within the transportation process thanks to optimum truck utilization and densely packed load carriers.  

Mercadona uses a total of 111 COM machines from Witron at its locations in Madrid, Valencia and Leon. These COMs are successfully used across ambient, cooled, and frozen environments.

Warehouse figures at a glance:
Warehouse space:  5,500 m²
Number of articles:    365
Number of COMs:6
Number of pallet locations:4,130
Number of tray locations: 43,000
Number of pallet cranes:4
Number of tray cranes:10
Picks / trade units per day:50,000