German retailer picks Witron for giant slow mover DC

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German food retailer REWE has chosen Witron to design and supply the storage and handling systems for its giant national distribution centre for slow moving goods at Neu Isenburg near Frankfurt.

The 683,508 sq ft distribution centre is due to open in October 2014. It is designed to handle 551,000 cases, 1,150 quarter or half pallets, and 900 full pallets on a peak day.

Witron is responsible for the design and installation of all storage and picking, material flow, IT, and control systems.

Storage and picking will be carried out with Witron’s DPS (Dynamik Picking System), ETP (Ergonomic Tray Picking), DPP (Display Pallet Picking System), and CPS (Car Picking System) solutions.

The integrated system is composed of an automated pallet high bay warehouse with 67,300 storage locations, a tote AS/RS with 201,900 tote storage locations and 60 picking workstations, a tray warehouse with 95,200 storage locations and 28 Ergonomic Picking Mobiles, as well as a storage area for the automated picking of quarter and half pallets with 820 storage locations. All conveyor system elements including the stacker cranes and the ETP shuttles will be developed and produced by Witron’s subsidiary FAS.

REWE manager Matthias Baehr said: “The rising average age of the warehouse associates, as well as the increasing performance requirements, is a growing challenge for logistics companies, not only in the food retail sector. With Witron’s order picking systems, we can offer our colleagues modern, highly ergonomic workstations that guarantee high picking quantity and quality, independent of age and gender.

“This is a decisive competitive advantage for recruiting personnel in an area with a high population density like the Rhein-Main area.”

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When it goes live, the slow mover distribution centre will supply 1,400 stores with up to 24,000 different articles on a daily basis.

With the help of person-aboard pick shuttles, the ETP system picks cases from a tray AS/RS pick front onto pallets or roll containers. The optimal ergonomic characteristics of the shuttles are certified by TUEV. For every pick, the picking cabin is positioned such that the picker needs only to push the case onto the order pallet or roll container. Lifting, bending, and carrying is eliminated. Movement of the shuttle to the proper pick location is computer-controlled. A laser beam on the vehicle shows the picker where to position the picked case on the order pallet or roll container based on a sophisticated stacking algorithm. The result is high pick efficiency and pick quality.

The other picking sub-systems in the distribution centre are also focused on eliminating heavy and non-ergonomic movements and activities.

Witron’s DPS is used for picking small-cube articles from totes stored in a pick front that is replenished automatically with stacker cranes. Pick-by-light is used to guide the pickers, while dynamic slotting within the pick front is employed to reduce picker walking distances by up to 75 per cent compared to conventional systems. With DPS, it is no longer necessary to replenish cases in the pick front or manually transport heavy order totes in the pick aisle as in many conventional systems.

Optimized through the DPS system, large-volume articles are picked onto pallets or roll containers using pick-by-voice technology. A decisive advantage of the solution is the elimination of manual replenishment, as the stacker cranes automatically replenish the pick front as needed.

The fully-automated DPP system is responsible for the storage and store-friendly consolidation of quarter and half pallets.

Maintenance and service will be done by a Witron on-site team.


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