Budweiser ups its game through automation

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Budweiser Budvar has maximised warehouse capacity and throughput, while reducing picking errors, after enlisting SSI Schaefer to design, build and install an automated storage system at its existing production site in České Budějovice in the Czech Republic.

The high bay racking facility incorporates Schaefer’s pallet conveyor technology and is 26 metre high, three aisles wide and houses 3,000 pallet storage locations for pallets of up to 900kg.

Pavel Panek, head of logistics and purchasing at the Budvar brewery, said: “We were looking for a solution that met our complex requirements using the latest technology.

“The key objectives included maximum utilisation of existing space, 100 per cent process control, real-time tracking and the integration of our RFID-led block warehouse into the new warehouse management system, integrated again into our existing ERP system.”

Assembly work on the warehouse was completed in less than 20 weeks, including technology and sheathing, and the facility went into full operation with the first incoming pallets shortly after.

Now, up to 50 HGVs are loaded each day and sent to more than 50 countries around the world.

When selecting materials for the high bay racking system, special precautions against excessive heat build-up and the effects of frost were taken into consideration, including fire protection criteria.

Sandwich panels with high insulation properties and a high fire protection rating, as well as heat-dissipation flaps installed on the roof are designed to ensure that the required thermal conditions are met.

In order to achieve the required number of storage positions in the three-aisle warehouse, the first row of shelves and the storage and retrieval devices in the first aisle were designed for double-depth storage. Single-depth storage is provided in the two other racking aisles.

Beer crates or cartons, stacked on 120cm x 80cm pallets in production using palletising robots, pass through the high bay warehouse via roller track and conveyor belt technology to the transfer station.

The contours and weights of the goods are recorded and entered into the WMS. The pallets are then conveyed to a pallet lift which transfers the pallets either directly to an outgoing goods table in the direction of the block warehouse or onto a transfer table and into one of the high bay racking storage and retrieval devices.

A transfer station has been set up for inside storage into the racking system and a rotary table ensures that pallets are aligned correctly.

All warehouse channels in the block warehouse are identified using RFID tags, plus RFID tags are fitted to all transfer stations on the conveyor system.

Display is used to assign jobs to forklifts from the WMS and equipped with RFID aerials.

When a forklift drives into a storage channel, the information is automatically captured on the WMS which also defines whether the forklift carries out inward or outward movements, and in what volume.

For order picking, the WMS initiates the outward storage processes in the high bay racking system and in the block warehouse.

With a speed of 130 metres per minute and a lift of 54 metres per minute, the storage and retrieval devices can achieve a throughput of up to 100 two-way movements per hour.

The outgoing pallets pass via a conveyor to the acceptance station for the forklifts that are connected directly to the high bay racking. At the same time, the RFID aided order picking processes are carried out in the block warehouse.

Panek added: “SSI Schaefer has provided us with an automated storage and tracking solution that provides maximum warehouse capacity and throughput – the integrated process control has also resulted in the reduction of order picking errors.”

The system is designed so that Budweiser Budvar can integrate future changes to business processes, for example, a rail connection is already being planned and the conveyor will be redesigned to transport larger industrial 120cm x 100cm pallets.

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