Saturday 24th Sep 2016 - Logistics Manager

US retailer updates automation

American food retailer The Kroger Company is one of the largest retailers in the world, with sales of some $98 billion.

Kroger was Witron’s first customer in the US food retailing market, and the first company in the world to implement Witron’s order picking machinery. Witron’s systems are used in Kroger’s food retail business, drugstore sector, its dry goods assortment, and its fresh and frozen goods area.

Witron recently completed the largest modernisation project of a system that supplies several hundred stores in just four months. It has 12,800 pallet locations and was originally designed by a competitor 24 years ago.

Witron replaced seven stacker cranes with six new 82 foot tall Dambach devices with pivoting shuttle forks. These are integrated into the existing rack supported high bay warehouse and transport any North American GMA pallet without additional system pallets while having a high inbound/outbound throughput of 46 single cycles per stacker crane.

The original front-zone inbound/outbound conveyor system was exchanged and replaced by technology from the company Binder. Existing S5 controls were replaced by current S7 control technology. A new Witron material flow computer will co-ordinate all conveyor system movements. Witron’s WMS will manage the high bay operation.

The modification was implemented on night shifts, weekends, and during non-operating times, without disrupting operations, and components were replaced step by step. “The crucial success strategy was the mechanical de-installation and new installation of the stacker cranes in pairs, including the corresponding inbound/outbound conveyor system – and the parallel start-up of the PLC and the MFC with subsequent go-live,” says Witron’s Brian Sherman.

Kroger project manager Steve Kelly says: “The project was completed on time, and our warehouse employees and the customers at our stores did not experience any disruption to their normal routine.”