Outperforming traditional order fulfillment methods with automated case
The service levels of a supermarket are extremely dependent on the quality and speed of its replenishment systems. All of the processes in a food retail distribution centre are focused on delivering to the stores in an optimal way and – at the same time – working with maximum efficiency.
Vanderlande’s automated case picking (ACP) systems provide the tools to outperform traditional order fulfillment methods. The fully robotised process enables shop-friendly deliveries, short delivery times and a minimal volume of transport – at the lowest operational costs. These improvements not only affect the distribution centre, but also the efficiency of the processes at work in the stores. The Vanderlande ACP design is set up to allow modular growth and ensures availability by utilising parallel activities.
Well-filled shelves are a very important factor in the shopping experience. Replenishment personnel work quickly and efficiently to ensure that shoppers always find products at the right place and are not hindered by pallets moving through the store. Invisible to the customer, there is much logic at work to make this process run smoothly.
Optimal stacking pattern
When the store orders a replenishment shipment from the distribution centre, it is essential that the pallets will be selected in the same sequence of product groups as the store’s layout. Before the pallets are actually stacked, the Load Forming Logic software defines an optimal stacking pattern, with this product group sequence in mind. The software defines stable pallets that are filled with maximum efficiency, so that the transportation volume is minimised.
Furthermore, it ensures that products are not damaged by too much weight being loaded on top. Load Forming Logic also takes into account the handling capabilities of the robots that will be used to stack the pallets. The finished pallets will be wrapped and transported to the stores, where there will be no need for extra sortation and the pallets can be used immediately to refill the shelves. In short, the Load Forming Logic software optimises more than just the picking process. It also takes care of:
• optimal fill rates
• lower transportation costs
• a “green” solution, with less trucks needed for transportation
• direct shelf replenishment
• improved customer experience
• lower costs in store
• a distribution centre (DC) with the smallest footprint.
In the automated distribution centre, the process starts with measuring the products at the Teach In station. Dimensions, weight and various other properties are registered precisely to ensure the correct handling of the product in the automated processes. Full pallets will enter the system and need to have their foil removed at an ergonomic station. After verification of the pallet load, the depalletising process starts.
A robot with a special mechanical gripper is used to take full layers of product from the pallet. The gripper will adjust its speed and applied force based on the previously stored properties. The layers are now deposited on a conveyor system, on which any present slip sheets are detected by a camera system and removed by a robotic arm. The products are singulated and rotated into the proper orientation via a series of processes. To ensure safe handling in the storage system, the shape and orientation are checked by a 3D measuring system using laser technology. The cartons are carefully arranged into trains that will travel into the storage area over a series of conveyors and elevators.
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