Chocolatier makes big storage savings

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Industrial chocolate producer Barry Callebaut has saved thousands of pounds by installing a Bito pallet live storage system at its Banbury site. The system comprises two separate storage areas. There are 819 pallet positions across the two warehouse areas totalling 10,750 sq ft. One block is configured 9 pallets deep x 9 wide x 3 high in the first storage area, and two blocks in the second – one for very fast movers configured 13 deep x 3 wide x 3 high, the other 8 deep x 7 wide x 3 high.

Previously, because of the site’s space constraints, the majority of raw materials had to be stored offsite some 50 miles away in Worcester. Supply chain manager Colin Bristow says: “We had to calculate against our production plan how many pallets we would need our third party operator to deliver. We had three vehicles a day shipping product from Worcester to Banbury.”

Raw material availability to keep the product lines going is key to ensuring Callebaut can meet the flexibility and quick response offered to its customers. “We take an order on day one and deliver it on day three. On a number of occasions we would run out of raw materials on site yet have 1,000 pallets sitting 50 miles away,” says Bristow.

Callebaut wanted to bring all the raw material onsite, while ensuring its produce kept up with strict health standards – so first-in, first-out and easy product traceability were also priorities. The company thought Bito’s system, which took two weeks to complete, offered the best storage density.

The store holds milk, cocoa and whey powders in 25kg sacks and 600kg to 1,000kg tay bags on both standard and Euro pallets. The only modifications required to the Bito system were caped tops on the top layer to prevent the bags snagging and hydraulically assisted lift-up beds under the rollers to aid cleaning.

Materials ordered by Callebaut’s sourcing team in Zurich arrive at Banbury from the Continent as well as the UK and Ireland. Three full truck loads are received each day and placed into the rear of the pallet live store in the second storage area. With less than 15 different raw materials a simple fixed location configuration, controlled by batch control functionality, is used so incoming product is placed in the next available empty location.


Pallets are labelled, receive a batch number and when the batch is approved by Quality Assurance for use after the sampling process has taken place (a process previously undertaken in Worcester), it’s picked from the front and shipped first-in first-out to the first storage area.

Workers count how many sacks are required in the first storage area and return to the second storage area where they load a trailer with the pallets required and shunt it back to the first area where the pallets are placed into the rear of the pallet live racks used to supply the chocolate production process, ensuring stock levels are maintained at the pick face.

Because the system is replenished from the back with picking at the front, Callebaut’s staff are able to work more effectively and safely compared with the old drive-in racking. Workers receiving into the first storage area put stock into the back of the racks, which are located closer to the door to reduce travel time.

Meanwhile, workers take product from the front of the system close to the tipping gantry where the raw materials enter the production process. “Previously they would have been working in the same aisle picking from the drive-in racking,” says Bristow.

“Since the installation we have made massive cost savings – the whole project justified itself in the first year”. The whole solution was £220,000. Yet with first year savings of approximately £215,000, Bristow describes the installation as, “a real no-brainer”. This comes from cost savings of outside storage, handling and transport and sampling costs and improved productivity.

“But the real benefit has been in consolidating all of our raw materials on site. By having the right materials on site we are safeguarding our production and we’ve reduced our stock holding at the same time,” says Bristow.

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