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Fully-automated picking of quarter pallets and half pallets at EDEKA

Photo: Witron

Photo: Witron

Photo: Witron

Photo: Witron

Photo: Witron

Since September 2010, the distribution center of EDEKA Handelsgesellschaft Rhein / Ruhr in Hamm has stored and picked quarter and half pallets with WITRON's DPP (Display Picking System) without the use of personnel. Warehouse processes that were previously conventional were optimized with WITRON's fully-automated DPP solution. The experiences gained have been more than positive. 

In the past, EDEKA stored its quarter and half pallets in a designated storage area after the receiving process, before they were manually picked. Due to the weight and size of these pallets, both the forklift driver and the picker were faced with ergonomic challenges. 

"We currently have more than 120 different articles in our assortment on a weekly basis that need to be supplied to the stores directly on quarter pallets and some 70 different articles which we dispatch on half pallets". "As we assumed that the number of articles and the throughput in the display area would further increase in the future, it was clear to us that we needed to change the conventional workflows. Together with WITRON, our long-term logistics partner, we were looking for a cost-efficient and ergonomic solution", explains Kerkenhoff.

Within a very short time, the general contractor from Parkstein developed the Display Pallet Picking System (DPP) for EDEKA and implemented this solution into the existing system. "Just five months after signing the contract, we started to use the new system", says EDEKA's Logistics Manager, very pleased with the fast ramp-up.  

Now it is possible to automatically pick quarter and half pallets in the different variants without human resources. This can be done with two different half pallets or four different quarter pallets - both on Euro pallets and roll containers. The system is also capable of picking orders with one half pallet and two quarter pallets. Although WITRON's DPP is an integral part of the overall system in Hamm, it could also be realized as a stand-alone-system in other projects.

The central element is a one-aisle automated picking warehouse with a capacity of 1,200 quarter pallets or 360 half pallets. This application is unique in that quarter and half pallets can be picked not only onto Euro pallets, but also onto roll containers. The automation includes all work processes - starting in the receiving area including all inbound checks, plausibility checks, and quality control, put away and storage in the high bay warehouse, transportation to the DPP module with subsequent foil removal in preparation for storage, put away and storage in the DPP module, and the picking process in the DPP module. 

Furthermore, the DPP system also manages order consolidation in the outbound area.  Innovative conveyor system elements make the material flow effective and transparent.

A DPP transfer car picks up the display pallets separated from the Euro pallet in the DPP pre-zone and transports them to a deposit area in front of the DPP module. A stacker crane picks up the display pallets and stores them into the DPP module. The same stacker crane is also responsible for the picking process. Completely picked units will be returned to the DPP pre-zone by means of the transfer car. There, they will be pushed onto a Euro pallet or into a roll container and transported on a conveyor system towards the dispatch area. A consolidation with orders for the same customer - picked in other logistics areas - is guaranteed through the warehouse management system. 

"Our decision to handle display pallets in a fully mechanized manner was absolutely right", says Thomas Kerkenhoff, pointing out the numerous benefits of the application. "Through the automation of all processes we can achieve a high cost-efficiency. The pick result of DPP is stable transport units without picking errors, and optimal pick quality. Time-wasting, unergonomic work processes are eliminated, and the employees can focus on more productive activities. Due to the compact storage through optimal use of the building height, we save a lot of space. The solution was seamlessly integrated into the material flow of the distribution center and synchronized perfectly with the infrastructure of our other logistics systems. And since we are able to pick onto both pallets and roll containers with the DPP system, we can perfectly meet the needs of the individual markets".