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Automated order picking of fresh produce at Eroski

Jun 13, 2011 Cimcorp Headquarter
General fresh food supermarket

Eroski has become the first supermarket chain in Spain to automate its fresh produce order picking. With more than 2,300 supermarkets and other stores and revenues of over EUR 8 billion, the co-operative group Eroski is a major player in the Spanish retail market.

Back in 2006 the company restructured its fresh produce distribution, centralizing it in a 28,000m2 facility in Madrid and reducing transport kilometers by 30%. Now Eroski has taken another leap in its logistics by automating the order picking of its fresh produce. 

Minimizing the amount of manual handling was a key objective. The new system – installed last year through an innovative partnership with returnable packaging specialist, Euro Pool System, and logistics integrator, Ulma Handling Systems, working with Cimcorp as sub-contractor – has completely transformed the warehouse. A shuttle car system sorts the pallets of produce, automatically directing them to the buffer stock, the picking area or dispatch positions. The buffer stock is handled by an automated high-bay store, served by three stacker cranes. 

Robotic picking system

The automatic order picking system, which features two of Cimcorp’s MultiPick robots operating on an overhead gantry, has a handling capacity of 150,000 crates per day and is engineered for cold stores. It handles the 35% of goods in the Madrid facility that are shipped as mixed rather than full loads. Pallets of produce are delivered to the picking area by the shuttle cars, where the robots retrieve the stacks of crates and distribute them among specific customer locations directly on the floor. When a pallet load for a particular destination is ready, the robot deposits these crates on the outfeed conveyor, ready for transfer to dispatch. 

Ergonomics and labor savings 

Automation of the picking process has reduced lead times, ensured a clear floor that facilitates hygienic cleaning, improved product quality through gentle handling and resulted in error-free orders. Most importantly, however, it has virtually eliminated manual handling. “The automatic picking system has replaced 300 tons of manual handling each day,” says Imanol Alberdi, Logistics Director for Eroski’s Distribution Centers, “and the work of some 30 order picking staff is now completed by the automated equipment, supervised by just five operators. We will achieve savings of over 20% with this system. ” 

Award-winning logistics

The solution scooped the award for ‘Best Logistics Project’ from the Spanish logistics organization, Club de la Logistíca. The accolade was presented to the three project partners in recognition of the efficiency of the automatic order picking and the close collaboration between them. The success of the project means that there are plans to roll out the automation to Eroski’s regional distribution centers.

Automation of the order picking reduces lead times and increases shelf lives.