Frozen food supplier Ardo has automated its central cold storage facility at Ardooie in Belgium – at 235,000 cu m it is reckoned to be the largest of its kind in Europe.
Ardo picks, freezes, stores and transports over 520,000 tonnes of produce across eight countries every year and has an annual sales of more than €566m.
It chose Savoye for the project which involved handing a variety of pallets and totes used in the frozen food sector at temperatures as low a minus 22 degrees Celsius.
In addition, the number of stock keeping units would constantly increase, to keep up with the growth in retailers’ brands, mix of products and promotions, which all need individual reference numbers.
The use of sequencing was another issue that needed planning into the automation design. The concept of handling pallets once, maximising warehousing efficiency was a top priority for Ardo.
Ardo decided opted for flexibility using Savoye’s Magmatic system. Each shuttle vehicle operates individually, employing a lift system to access the high bay storage areas. The system is controlled by a bespoke warehouse management system, which links goods in to the sub-zero storage area as well as the picking area (for fast moving goods) and the despatch area.
Ardo splits its market into three main sectors, retail solutions, food service and industry solutions. To achieve maximum efficiencies, the company wanted to achieve a loading time of 30 minutes, for a full load – a challenge with wide range of product types and number of delivery locations to be taken into account.
A typical fully loaded truck can hold up to 33 different loads for scheduled stops making sequencing essential.
The Magmatic system consists of eight self-powered vehicles which run on racking served by three elevators.
Closely linked to the sequencing capability is order picking, which is divided into three distinct areas; fast moving products; slow moving produce and items requiring shrink wrap/labelling. This area of the warehouse can handle a far larger assortment of products in a much smaller area. This has been largely achieved by the use of intelligent IT, working with the Magmatic system to bring ordered batches of goods to the sorting area.
Ardo’s project manager Ignace Kint said: “This project represents a significant investment for Ardo, that wanted to embrace automation to achieve world-class supply chain performance in a number of specific areas. Specifically, we wanted to set new standards in the areas of cold storage, retrieval, picking and despatch. We are delighted to have achieved all of these objectives within the often taxing sub-zero environment.”