A fully automated storage, handling and order processing system supplied to US grocery retail giant, The Kroger Co., has secured the benefits of enhanced product freshness, increased efficiency, reduced errors, lower costs and full product traceability.
A robotic handling solution from Cimcorp processes orders fully automatically at Kroger’s Mountain View Foods dairy production facility in Denver, Colorado, fulfilling Kroger’s objectives of faster picking, higher accuracy and greater reliability.
Kroger built the new facility in Denver – its first new fluid milk plant in more than 20 years – in 2014 in order to deliver exceptional quality and freshness to its customers. As well as meeting the company’s environmental requirements in terms of zero-waste-to-landfill and energy efficiency, the new facility had to fulfil Kroger’s objective of minimizing exposure to work-related strain for its employees. Instead of installing a traditional in-floor ‘drag-chain’ style conveyor – which requires workers to use long-handled hooks to pull 250lb (113kg) stacks of dairy cases onto the system – Kroger opted for Cimcorp’s solution, based on robots that operate from overhead gantries.
Cimcorp designed an end-to-end automated warehouse solution for the Denver site, with cases of product picked according to Kroger’s specified sequence at one end of the facility and then palletized for loading into delivery trucks at the other – allowing for significant storage buffering in between. The heart of the solution is Cimcorp’s MultiPick, a robotic storage, handling and order processing system. With four robots operating from overhead gantries, the MultiPick system at Kroger can store up to 36,000 crates and is able to pick 32,000 crates daily. The 215,000-square-foot (almost 20,000m2) Mountain View Foods plant processes fresh conventional and organic milk in half-gallon and gallon containers, as well as packaging aseptically processed milk, creams and juices in quart-sized and smaller bottles. The MultiPick robots handle the products in plastic dairy crates – either singly or in stacks – moving the inventory to storage positions on the floor until required for order fulfilment. Orders are then picked by the robots, palletized and banded before being loaded into delivery vehicles.
Cimcorp’s scope of supply also included case stackers, manual in-feed stations and inbound and outbound conveyor systems. All the hardware is seamlessly integrated with the complete suite of software needed to operate the facility and is controlled and monitored through Cimcorp’s warehouse management system (WMS). The WMS also controls order processing, gantry movements, stack transport and storage facility data, while the ControlLogix PLC manages the conveyors, stacking equipment, palletizer and strapping system. Additionally, Cimcorp ensured inter-platform communications and messaging to oversee the entire system and inventory reporting.
Cimcorp’s robotic solution means faster material handling, resulting in shorter lead times, longer shelf life and maximum product freshness. Other benefits include precise control of the entire material flow, enhanced order accuracy, flexible use of space, easy cleaning and labour savings. The solution also enables the collection of vast amounts of data to help in the analysis of dispatch operations and production planning, as well as providing Kroger with 100% traceability, a crucial factor in the perishable products sector.
Other brands in the food and beverage industry worldwide benefitting from Cimcorp’s robotic automation include Arla, Colruyt, Eroski, Fazer, Grupo Bimbo, Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe, Mercadona, Nortura, Olvi, Sinebrychoff (Carlsberg), The Glenmore Distillery, Tuko Logistics Cooperative and Valio.
Readers can view a video of Kroger’s Mountain View Foods facility here.