Smart robot picks up three logistics awards for Nestlé

An innovative robotic layer picking system, which has transformed workplace safety and significantly improved the quality and productivity of mixed pallet assembly for Nestlé Australia, received the highest level of industry recognition at the recent 2011 Australian Supply Chain and Logistics Awards.

Presented by the Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia in Perth on November 11, Nestlé was awarded the SCLAA’s Manufacturing Logistics, Storage and Handling of Materials, and Supply Chain Management Awards for the world-first project at its Arndell Park national distribution centre (DC) in Sydney’s western suburbs.

The high-volume DC stores and distributes several hundred products from Nestlé’s consumer food and beverage, food service and pet food businesses.

The high demand for Nestlé’s household brands means most of the DC’s orders – around 80 percent – are distributed as full pallets.

Picking the remaining 20 percent of orders – which are distributed in pallet layer and full-case quantities – has involved the manual handling of around five million cases per year, creating a significant and ongoing occupational health and safety (OH&S) challenge.

Nestlé’s innovative layer picking solution eliminates the need to manually handle around four million of those cases.

Integrated by Dematic, the new four-axis robotic layer picker is equipped with a dual bellows and vacuum-gripping head capable of handling up to 80 percent of Nestlé’s product range, covering a broad range of packaging types from cartons to bags and bottled beverages.

Orders from Nestlé’s SAP warehouse management system are downloaded into Dematic’s PickDIRECTOR warehouse control system to initiate picking.

Interfacing with Dematic’s FreePICK Maximiser patented software, PickDIRECTOR orders the stock required for layer picking in the sequence required to fulfil the next wave of orders.

As new pallets of stock are fed into the system, the layer picker selects the required layers and transfers the stock to one of four customer order pallets.

Any stock remaining on a pallet either forms the basis for another order via the system’s FreePICK Maximiser software, or is returned to the adjacent reserve storage bays for use at a later stage.

Completed orders are conveyed through the integrated layer picking system being check weighed, stretch wrapped and labelled on the way, until they exit ready for collection and transport to despatch by forklift.

Orders that require individual case picks to be added to the layers exit the system, and are completed using the DC’s new voice picking system.

The layer picking system achieves very high throughput rates thanks to Dematic’s FreePick Maximiser software. By cross-matching orders and pairing those with compatible order profiles, FreePick Maximiser enables around 20 percent – in some instances up to 50 percent – of goods for orders to be distributed without them being physically picked.

Another Dematic customer, The Just Group, was presented with the SCLAA’s Information Management Award for the implementation of a world-first stocktaking solution, RapidStocktake.

With around a thousand stores in Australia and New Zealand, the twice-yearly stocktake has traditionally been a labour-intensive and costly operation for the group, with stores remaining closed on the day of stocktaking until the process is completed.

The innovative Bluetooth-enabled RapidStocktake solution provides a host of efficiency benefits, plus time and cost savings for the retail group, which includes well-known high street outlets including Just Jeans, Portmans, Peter Alexander and Jay Jays.

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