Heusenstamm, June 2020 – Since 2001, June 1 has traditionally been observed as “International Milk Day”. The average German citizen drinks 50 liters of milk a year. In addition, they consume around 24 kilograms of cheese, 5.8 kilograms of butter, 5.6 kilograms of cream, yoghurt and quark, which are all dairy products. The high demand for these products is an indication that traditional manual production processes are rare in the industry. The growing number of requirements in terms of hygiene, quality and speed as well as the era of digitalization have also impacted automation in production, storage and distribution. The innovative solutions from intralogistics specialist Dematic are frequently part of the overall production process. Family businesses in Eastern Friesland in northern Germany, cooperatively organized cheese dairies in the Alps, large milk processors in the Netherlands and Denmark as well as large dairies that process milk quantities surpassing one billion kgs annually rely on the company’s capabilities and expertise. With many years of experience and numerous solution implementations, Dematic, which marked its 200th anniversary in 2019, develops unique logistics concepts that advance efficient processes within the dairy industry, offering proven solutions such as the pallet high-bay warehouse solutions, the Dematic Multishuttle system, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and Dematic automated mixed case palletizing (AMCAP).
Realizing that the demand for milk products continues to grow, Dematic defined dairy industry automation as one of its core priorities some time ago and has been a pioneer in the industry. Thus, it is not surprising that the intralogistics specialist's customer base includes major producers and distributors such as the Fonterra Co-operative Group from New Zealand, Lactalis Australia Pty and Heilongjiang Wondersun Dairy Co. from China. The US-headquartered company with its Central European base in Heusenstamm, Germany, has been automatically mapping all transport, storage and distribution processes in the dairy industry for a while now.
According to the German Milk Industry Association (MIV), almost 33 billion liters of milk were processed in the country in 2018. A large part, namely 44 percent of all raw milk, went into cheese production. "We are one of the trailblazers in cheese automation and have deepened our level of expertise over the past several decades," says Jessica Heinz, the head of marketing and business development at Dematic Central Europe.
The valuable raw material passes through numerous process steps from the farmer to delivery, but what role does intralogistics play in that journey?
AGVs for automated and connected cheese production
No two types of cheese are alike. Each one has its unique recipe. And the processing steps as well as the time spent in ripening warehouses varies from cheese to cheese. To be compliant with the respective processes, Dematic uses automated guided vehicle (AGV) systems for transport tasks. An integrated and in-house software manages these systems via a stationary control computer. The software controls the AGVs via radio transmitter, which then transport the product stacked in special racks along the ripening chain completely independently. New recipes can be easily implemented as required. The storage location management in the ripening rooms is also run by software. The operation runs 24/7 - fully automatically, with no need for an operator.
AGV systems also equip the production facilities of modern large-scale dairy plants with packaging materials. The goal is to fully automate the material flow between the storage and production areas as well as the receiving and dispatch areas. AGVs can even take over loading up the trucks. Depending on the requirements, Dematic’s conveyor and sorter systems can manage the transport into a warehouse, a pallet high-bay warehouse or mini-load automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS).
Pallet high-bay warehouse combined with robotics
France’s Synutra International is one of the largest milk powder producers in Europe and relies on a storage system from Dematic, where they utilize a pallet high-bay warehouse. "Thanks to optimally coordinated processes and a fully automated material flow, the solution is extremely effective," notes Heinz. There is also a high storage density with optimal space utilization. The system automatically stores and retrieves the milk powder, which is packed in 25-kilogram sacks or in 1.2 metric ton bags. The system is controlled by a warehouse management system (WMS) and is completed by several conveyor loops and six AGVs. "Thus, rapid and extremely precise handling is not a problem," says Heinz. In the high-bay warehouse, pallets can be transported quickly and safely with hybrid very narrow aisle (VNA) trucks or with the cutting-edge Dematic RapidStore stacker cranes as an alternative option to AGV systems.
At Wondersun in China, Dematic has installed a 23-meter tall, temperature-controlled pallet warehouse. Six Dematic RapidStore stacker cranes handle the pallets, which are filled with milk in beverage cartons that are assembled by robots in collating cartons before palletizing robots take over. The system combines storage, production and distribution via the control software, avoiding operational errors that typically occur in manual control. Of course, data on product age, batch, quantity and warehouse location, all critical to traceability, are also fulfilled.
Fast and efficient handling with AMCAP and Micro-Fulfillment
Milk and other dairy products are an integral part of a daily menu and thus a staple of the retail food industry. The availability of goods is the most important aspect here. Fast and efficient material flows have become increasingly critical. Dematic's high-performance automated mixed case palletizing (AMCAP) system is a suitable solution for the fully automated palletizing of goods and packaging units based on the store layout. The scalable design allows for the flexible throughput rates of thousands of cases per hour in multi-shift operation. Racks can be replenished from the pallet or trolley in the optimum sequence without shunting, thus saving time and avoiding unnecessary aisle blockage. Artificial intelligence is also in use for the first time. The Dematic Multishuttle is at the heart of the AMCAP system.
It is also the central automation element found in the Dematic Micro-Fulfillment solution, a system that optimizes consumer online orders. During the coronavirus pandemic, this solution has made a big splash, especially when it comes to grocery items. Customers expect fast deliveries to their doorstep. When combined with a goods-to-person picking solution and Dematic iQ customizable software, it can compile orders from different temperature zones in less than 60 minutes. Thanks to its compact design, it occupies just 900 square meters of space and can thus be installed in urban areas, either at the back of a retail store or as a separate urban fulfillment center. The immediate proximity to consumers or their pick-up station ensures shorter distances and thus significantly reduces delivery times for store pick-ups or home deliveries. The profitability at omni-channel companies is experiencing a significant increase and customers receive the dairy products they ordered much faster.
Dematic is an intralogistics innovator that designs, builds and supports intelligent, automated solutions for manufacturing, warehouse and distribution environments for customers that are powering the future of commerce. With engineering centers, manufacturing facilities and service centers located in more than 25 countries, Dematic’s global network of 8,000 employees have helped achieve more than 6,000 worldwide customer installations for some of the world’s leading brands. Headquartered in Atlanta, Dematic is a member of KION Group, a global leader in industrial trucks, supply chain solutions and related services, and a leading provider of warehouse automation.
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