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Increasing efficiency and quality in the dairy industry one pick at a time

Distribution Dairy grocery retail

In order to overcome industry challenges, many large dairy brands are looking to automate their facilities, including The Kroger Company (Kroger). Cimcorp’s Distribution Systems Manager, Derek Rickard and Warehouse Systems Applications Manager, Tom Pollard are deeply immersed in the implementation and customization of automated systems for various industries, and have witnessed the increasing trend of automation in the dairy industry. Flow Magazine caught up with Tom and Derek to discuss how to overcome the industry obstacles and their experience working on the Kroger case.

What problems/challenges do you see the dairy industry as a whole is currently experiencing?

Rickard: “One of the major challenges facing the food and beverage industry is delivering exceptional quality and freshness to its customers, while meeting strict industry requirements and standards. This includes finding ways to prevent recalls, mitigate foodborne illnesses, and trace food and beverages from farm to fork to ensure consumer safety.”

What prompted Kroger to turn to Cimcorp’s robotics solutions for its new facility in Denver?  

Rickard: “Kroger was looking for a solution to meet their objectives of faster picking, accuracy and reliability, providing their customers excellent standards of service. Kroger wanted a system to reduce their operational costs, while ensuring customer orders to be picked and shipped quickly and accurately.

Kroger also wanted to minimize reliance on the human element to avoid possible work-related strains and injuries and provide better employee welfare.

Furthermore, the company wanted the new Mountain View Foods facility to meet the requirements of its zero-waste-to-landfill initiative, in addition to conserving water and facility floor space and being energy-efficient.”

Why did Kroger select Cimcorp as its automation supplier?

Pollard: “After reviewing the best practices from around the world, Kroger selected Cimcorp to help meet its goals and overcome the challenges of traditionally designed facilities. Kroger favored our simplistic designs and our long, successful track record in the industry. Our automation solutions have been tested and implemented in 40 different countries across five continents and designed to reduce operating costs, ensure traceability, and improve efficiency – all qualities that Kroger wanted to achieve with its facility.”

What results has Kroger experienced since this implementation?

Pollard: “The Cimcorp MultiPick solution precisely controls the entire material flow of the facility providing Kroger with rapid material handling, flexible use of space, easy cleaning and improved labor savings. This end-to-end solution allows for the automatic operation to collect vast amounts of data and execute detailed analysis of both dispatch operations and production planning. This data provides a dairy with 100 percent traceability, an important factory for perishable dairy products and consumer safety.

Kroger also reduced workers’ injury risks by incorporating an automated system and removing the need for workers to use long-handled hooks to pull 250 pound stacks of dairy cases onto the chain conveyor. In addition, Kroger now benefits from 100 percent picking accuracy, at faster speeds, resulting in shorter lead times, maximized product shelf life and fresher products.

Mountain View Foods is one of the first dairies in the U.S. to deploy robotic technology that enables packing, picking and palletizing of crates in the cold storage areas entirely by automation. Kroger is seeing a dramatic difference between its traditional manual facility, and the Mountain View Foods’ automated system through increased efficiencies, rapid handling, product traceability, and reduced labor costs and errors.

In addition to the benefits and streamlined operations having already rewarded Kroger’s bottom line, the company has also received recognition for its innovative facility design and named Dairy Foods 2015 Plant of the Year. Kroger plans to continue expanding its use of automation and has already begun assessing other facilities for consideration in 2016.”

What successes can other dairy companies achieve by implementing a custom solution developed by Cimcorp?

Rickard: “Like Kroger, other dairy companies can improve their business and customer satisfaction through fast and efficient order picking, 100 percent traceability and accuracy, and optimize their overall operations. Additional results can be attained as every system is built to meet that specific customer’s goals and objectives. Our solution can be implemented into existing facilities or brand new facilities so the possibilities are endless.”


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