Efficiency potentials for retail logistics and for the distribution of perishable items
Le 18-09-2013
de SSI Schäfer AG

Efficiency potentials for retail logistics and for the distribution of perishable items

The Schaefer Case Picking (SCP) system is a unique system configuration with a manifold of possibilities to increase savings that are available in retail logistics. The modular system design can not only be tailored exactly to the individual requirements of the user, but also combined with other systems as well as integrated into different technologies thus increasing the flexibility and competitive ability of the user. World-wide reference projects already confirm the modularity and scalability of the system.

The importance of speed, accuracy, and transparency increases in retail logistics. Given the steady rise in the diversity of items and decreasing batch sizes, the efficiency of the internal logistics processes as well as the applied technologies is critical in success against the competition. Against this backdrop, market observers and experts agree that a higher degree of automation in processing systems is going to be indispensable in retail.

The potentials, however, that modern intralogistic systems in retail logistics can unlock warehouse consolidations and flexibility increases as well as decrease personnel, space, and energy costs are still underestimated. Due to a study carried out by the EHI Retail Institute and the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML), Dortmund, the ratio of automatically picked goods has barely changed. It has been around 20 % over the last three years. According to the study, only around 50 % of the leading retail companies in Germany are currently dealing with the topic of automation in the warehouse or have already realized respective measures.

Thus, the retail market gives away significant optimization potentials as system developers have intensely dealt with the requirements of large trade warehouses in recent years and developed marketable solutions. With modularity and individual scalability, they serve the market on the one hand in regards to requirements for high flexibility and individual layout of the systems. On the other hand, if requested, they enable a fully automatic flow of goods between goods receiving and shipping -- including picking on a single unit level as well as pallet creations either composed to branch specifics or optimized for transport.

With the SCP, the intralogistics specialist SSI Schaefer is one of the leaders in this technology. The multiple award-winning system is a holistic, modularly designed, and arbitrarily extendable system for automatic order compilation in the retail business.

Technically speaking, the scalable SCP system is a compact, highly dynamic buffer system with throughputs starting at 30,000 and going up to well over 500,000 collies per day. The goods of the warehouse pallets are automatically separated, put in layers on system trays, and buffered using gentle product movement processes. Picking from the layer trays can be carried out automatically using single units and in parallel with multi-access. A multi-level, completed sequencing according to store layouts (store friendly) is already possible in the buffer system. The storage and process flows of product identification, tracking, and inventory are furthermore designed so that they can be done without the common labeling by barcodes or transponders – a special advantage for the warehousing of temperature controlled fresh products. During the entire picking process the goods are captured photo-optically. The article master data capture including versions is already done in goods receiving while the monitoring of expiration dates and batch tracking is activated together with other target data filed with IT for parameters such as weight and material all information for future palletizing is available.
Apart from pallet racks and the conveyor system, SSI Schaefer puts the focus on a number of successful components for the hardware of the SCP system, such as the Schaefer Tray System (STS) and the visualization technology ”Machine Vision Technology“. De-palletizing, palletizing, and wrapping systems top off the overall concept. The “Schaefer Pack Pattern Generator” (SPPG) software provides an optimal compilation of order pallets.

World-wide implemented systems indicate that the strength of the SCP concept is especially apparent in its adaptability to the individual challenges of the user. The standard component modules of the SCP are adapted according to customer-specific requirements and fulfill the specifications of segments such as food, non-food, or deep-freeze, as well as of temperature-controlled goods up to other trading goods.

Example: The distribution center of the American warehouse, picking, and transport service provider ES3 in York, Pennsylvania, USA. Around 20,000 different items, groceries, and household items are stored in this large complex of approximately 140,000 m². Up to 1,300 pallets are delivered every day. The throughput is more than 100,000 boxes per day. SSI Schaefer designed for ES3 an intelligent, integrated system for fully automatic processes in the food industry which covers the entire process from goods receiving via storage to volume-optimized palletizing. In the enormous warehouse, only 12 employees per shift are necessary; they predominantly deal with process control and plant maintenance. Basis for this resource efficiency is the SCP concept. For the special customer requirement due to the extraordinary packing height (up to 2.40 m) of the pallets, SSI Schaefer developed an individual system solution. Dennis Senovich, manager of ES3 points out the biggest challenge, "The branch trend moves to a high quantity of SKUs with lower turnover speed. The SCP is a sophisticated automation system that solves the complex problems of picking processes and solid pallet creations.“
The success of this solution was recently confirmed by the renowned Research Strategies Committee (RSC) of the US-American Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, Illinois. The association of supply chain managers awarded ES3 with the “Supply Chain Innovation Award 2011“for the project in York among others as the "best and most innovative logistics solution". With that SSI Schaefer sets standards for intelligent intra-logistics in the American market as well.

At the turn of the year 2011/2012, a US supply chain services company who provides grocery and food services also equipped its distribution center with a SCP from SSI Schaefer. The plant has benefited from the dynamic handling of smaller orders (piece and case picking), with orders continuously rising at several shops and trucks arriving daily. The wholesaler stores nearly 12,000 different items in its distribution center for the supply of retail outlets. Around 4,000 full cases and totes per hour are handled by 24 Schaefer Carousel Systems (SCS) and two SCP-modules significantly increasing the efficiency.

Migros-Verteilbetrieb Neuendorf AG (MVN AG) is the central logistics partner of Migros, the largest retailer in Switzerland for near-food, non-food, deep-freeze products and textiles and is a 100 % subsidiary of the Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund (MGB). The core business of the sector deep-freeze logistics of MVN AG is the logistics for food, such as vegetables, meat, fish, ice cream, bakery products etc. SSI Schaefer implemented the SCP concept in the deep-freeze warehouse (-28° C) in Neuendorf where the product identification, tracking, and inventory has the highest advantages for the MVN AG. The SCP concept does not require the labeling of the goods by barcodes or transponders which is usual in the market. All processes are based on the "Machine Vision Technology" of SSI Schaefer. In the goods shipping, the actual item data such as package amount, best-before-date, and delivery data are compared with the master data filed in the IT. Employees capture weigh, amount and dimensions of the actual delivery at Teach-In-stations, and update the item information, if necessary. The item master data then forms the basis for the IT for the automatic creation of mechanic system components which are integrated into the process. Furthermore, the Machine Vision Technology fulfils all detection and control tasks within the warehouse and picking processes: for example, the volume capture, the alignment of the item units and/or the amount identified at manual picking. So the technology is optimally designed for the complex requirements of the production and intralogistics in retail. SSI Schaefer implemented the system in Neuendorf under special conditions due to the deep freeze environment and it now ensures efficient processes, high throughput, and a significant relief of the employees at minus 28° C.

The example of the food wholesaler Lidl indicates how the SCP system also implements aspects of "Green Logistics". The discounter had the extension of its logistics center in Kirchheim/Teck built with the SCP system for the intralogistics aiming not only toward increasing efficiency, but also toward an extensive use of storage space and transport capacity as well as relieving the employees in the branch stores of storing the goods. The scope of supply consists of a SCP system, a high-bay warehouse with five aisles, and approximately 15,000 pallet storing positions, as well as a Schaefer Tray System (STS) with 16,000 layer storing positions on five levels. Lidl is the first reference customer for the SCP in Europe. At this project, SSI Schaefer implemented special demands of family grouping for the customer which other logistics specialists were not yet willing to try.

After a store sent an order to the WMS, the SPPG builds an optimal “virtual pallet” in consideration of a preset packing parameter. If the virtual shop pallet meets all requirements to the max (family grouping, use of shipping volume, and stability), the physical retrieval of the ordered items and the fully automated palletizing begin. The software module of fully or partly automated case picking systems opens up the entire optimizing potential from the packing density to the inner pallet arrangement up to the stability criteria already at the creation of the pallet. The sophisticated programming of the SPPG enables fully automatic cycles in order processing including palletizing even with a heterogeneous range of trade products. This saves costs. The increased stability of the pallets also makes for less damages and higher customer satisfaction. Furthermore the algorithms of the software module enable an optimal packing density and therefore, the best possible utilization of available loading space. This reduces transport kilometers as well as costs and is gentle on the environment.

The realization of turnover concepts such as cross-docking and fast-move picking has made sure, even in retail logistics in recent years, that a considerable volume of items were identified, optimized, and newly sorted passing the warehouse. Nevertheless, large logistics and distribution centers form the backbone of supply chains for the retailers with store delivery. With automation solutions such as the SCP, as indicated by the reference examples mentioned, intelligent concepts are now available for the industry. With them, optimal solutions for more efficiency and cost savings can be generated starting from fully automatic handling via efficient small amount picking and applications in the deep freeze segment up to optimal design of store delivery.

Experts and market observers agree that with automation there will not be the “suitable” system for all applications and tasks. A combination of several system components will lead to the individual optimization. With its extensive product line-up, SSI Schaefer offers the basis for individually tailored solutions from one source – from system designs to ready-for-use transfers. The retail industry merely has to use these solutions.


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