Dairy Crest blends automation and manual handling at NDC

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Dairy Crest, which makes Cathedral City cheese and Country Life butter, has combined automated and manual handling systems at its £38m national distribution centre and cheese maturation store in Nuneaton.

The company dispatches some 2,500 pallet loads of dairy products daily to over 500 delivery points throughout the UK from the 27,000 sq m facility.

The site has two automated high bay warehouses – one handling cheese maturation with storage capacity for over 35,000 pallets and a second with the capacity to store 10,000 pallets of finished products.

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Incoming goods are transferred from trailers to one of four automated receiving conveyors using Jungheinrich ERE 225 powered pallet trucks with fixed stand-on platforms.

Following a profile check, each incoming pallet’s identity is verified against information held on Dairy Crest’s warehouse management system before being sent to its allocated location within the store. A rapid pallet transport monorail system delivers each pallet to its allocated aisle where it is put away in the racking by automated crane.

Finished products ready for dispatch are stored in a two-tier picking hall. The picking aisles are replenished by five storage and retrieval cranes and there are 1,000 picking locations at ground floor level.

For picking Dairy Crest uses a fleet of Jungheinrich ECE 220 low level order pickers fitted with radio data terminals.

Once picked, orders are delivered by the order picking trucks to a marshalling area where they are loaded onto trailers.

In all, Dairy Crest operates 33 Jungheinrich order picking trucks, 12 ride-on pallet trucks and four electric and diesel counterbalance trucks at Nuneaton.

A key element in the decision to choose Jungheinrich was the fact that the batteries used to power both the Jungheinrich order pickers and the ride-on pallet handlers are interchangeable. This means that Dairy Crest has been able to minimise the number of batteries it uses – resulting in cost savings of 18 per cent.

“Picking and loading is very hard on a truck’s batteries,” says warehouse operations manager, Brandon J Moss. “Apart from the significant cost benefits that have resulted from reducing the number of batteries we need, we have also been able to allocate an area of our charging bay to other things.”

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