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One of Northern Europe’s largest distribution centers ships over 200,000 cases per day to supermarkets in Sweden
ICA Sverige AB (headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden) is one of the largest supermarkets in Northern Europe, operating over 2,100 stores in Sweden and other countries. ICA consistently responds to consumer needs, providing high-quality affordable goods to consumers with its unique procurement and supply system. In 2006, the company commenced the operation of one of the largest distribution centers in Helsingborg, southern Sweden, as a supply chain hub. In May 2011, full-scale operation of material handling systems began further improving efficiency at the center.
Collective control of 5,000 items in three temperature zones
The company established the distribution center under its new plan aimed at improving business efficiency. Nine warehouses across southern Sweden were integrated to establish the center. The facility has areas with three different temperature ranges: room temperature (dry goods), refrigerated (fresh goods) and frozen (cold goods) areas. This comprehensive distribution center accommodates a full range of food articles and is able to process more than 5,000 items.
The facility delivers dry goods to 400 stores and fresh and cold goods to 700 stores. Stores are divided into four types: small, convenience-store-type retailers; food-only supermarkets that mainly deal with fresh products; large-scale supermarkets that offer a wide variety of goods; and suburban general merchandise stores (GMSs). Goods are delivered to these stores in varying units and load profiles, quickly and at a low cost.
Material handling operations in the facility were significantly automated to obtain efficient distribution and delivery. The material handling systems include Daifuku’s automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RSs), various conveyors, heavy- duty racks and sorting systems. Ergonomics were also applied for quick and comfortable manual operations, such as case/container picking and stacking for shipping.
Processes handling dry goods are mostly automated and shipping operations are increased while saving labor
Dry goods are received on pallets and after inspection, they are carried on conveyors and Sorting Transfer Vehicles (STVs) to be stored in the unit load AS/RS. About 1,800 items on 26,000 pallets are stored in the AS/RS. Goods in large quantities are separated into cases by a layer depalletizer and those in small quantities are separated by manual picking before they are stored temporarily in the AS/RS or on conveyor storage lines.
Orders are released in up to ten batches a day. Goods assigned to orders are retrieved from the AS/RS or storage lines in combinations suited to individual stores then sorted and sent to corresponding chutes. The end of the chute serves as a station for stacking goods on delivery carts, with three chutes joining to form one station. At the station, the worker stacks sorted goods on the delivery cart, according to the stacking patterns indicated on a monitor. When the cart is completed, it is removed and the next empty cart is sent to the station for uninterrupted work.
Two systems for fresh goods; cold goods handled mainly by the AS/RS
Fresh goods are handled according to whether they are in cases or containers. Cases are received on pallets and are stored in specified locations on heavy-duty racks. The picking zone is located at the bottom of racks, and goods are collected according to shipment orders. Stacked containers arrive on pallets are depalletized by a robot then are stored temporarily on conveyor-type storage lines. They are retrieved on a per-order basis, stacked on a dedicated cart and conveyed to the shipping lines.
Cold goods are managed at -27°C in the unit load AS/RS. The picking zone is located at the bottom of the racks, and is automatically replenished by a stacker crane that carries goods from the AS/RS. Handheld terminals are used for the picking operations to check the order location and goods.