ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL--(Marketwired - July 14, 2016) - The retail chain, Coop Norge Handel SA, has automated the logistics processes of all assortment ranges and temperature zones in their central distribution center located near Oslo. Thereby, Coop achieved a significant increase in efficiency. The facility with a size of 52,000 square meters / 559,720 square feet supplies about 1,300 stores across Norway with more than 17,000 different products. The plant is able to pick up to 480,000 cases on a peak day. The logistics center was designed and realized by the general contractor, WITRON Logistik + Informatik GmbH from Parkstein (Germany), who could prevail, over numerous competitors, in the course of a design competition. Moreover, WITRON will also be responsible for the technical operation of the system.

The "Coop Logistikksenter Gardermoen (CLog)," located close to the Oslo airport, has many important functions within Coop's logistics structure: On one hand, it serves as a regional distribution center for the area around Oslo, where Coop Norway makes approximately 40 percent of its revenue. In this region, CLog supplies the stores with goods out of the full product range: Dry (+18 degrees C), fruits & vegetables (+12 degrees C / +7 degrees C), perishable (+2 degrees C), and frozen goods (-25 degrees C). On the other hand, the CLog acts as a distribution center for slow- and medium-movers for the dry goods and fresh product assortment -- and thus as transition point for four additional regional warehouses of Coop in Norway.

Store logistics with special challenges
Special requirements apply for the distribution of food and non-food products in Norway. "The transportation costs within the food supply chain are decisive," explains Halvor Nassvik, senior manager for the project Coop Logistics center Gardermoen. "This is due to the small amount of population and the numerous small stores spread over the entire country. Moreover, Norway has a north-south expansion of more than 2,000 km / 1,250 miles." Based on this fact, every pallet and every trailer must be optimally filled with goods when servicing the individual stores. Based on the long distances to be covered, error-free picking and high product quality are mandatory to offer an excellent store service to the customers. This is the only way to distribute goods in a cost-efficient manner. In addition, the manual handling processes in logistics centers becomes even more problematic and expensive. According to Nassvik, "the main reasons were a low unemployment rate and a high wage level. We believe also that in the future it would be difficult for us to find young people for this physically demanding and mostly monotonous work."

Step-by-step ramp-up
After signing the contract at the end of 2010, Coop started construction works in August 2011, and WITRON's installation works could already start mid-2012. A major part of the installed mechanical components has been developed and produced by WITRON's subsidiary, FAS. The ramp-up of the logistics center was spread over four phases. The first products from the dry goods assortment were shipped in autumn 2013. Fruits & vegetables as well as fresh products followed in spring 2014, frozen goods in autumn 2014. After a little more than one year, all Coop stores got deliveries from the new distribution center.

WITRON's delivery and performance scope comprises the design and realization of all material flow, IT, control, warehouse management, and mechanical components. All conveyor system elements and stacker cranes were designed and produced by WITRON's subsidiary, FAS. A WITRON on-site team, located directly on site, will be responsible for the entire service and maintenance of the system and ensures continuously high availability of all logistics components during the working hours.

WITRON OPM in all temperature zones
Coop stores and picks its complete product assortment -- consisting of about 17,000 different items -- in the new logistics center.

The following WITRON standard systems are used in the distribution center: "Order Picking Machinery" (OPM) as fully automated tote picking system that is used in all temperature zones due to its flexibility. The "Dynamic Picking System" (DPS) for the picking of small-volume items in the dry goods assortment and the fresh food area. The "Car Picking System" (CPS) is used to pick bulky goods of the dry goods assortment. An automated shipping buffer optimizes the processes in the dispatch area. The material flows in all warehouse areas and temperature zones are designed and connected in an intelligent manner so that the number of remaining pallets can be reduced to a minimum and to ensure a maximum consolidation of customer orders in the logistics area where they are picked.

DPS picks directly into the shipping carton
The highly dynamic and automated picking of small parts in the DPS is supported by a pick-by-light system. The DPS works according to both principles "goods-to-person" and "person-to-goods." Depending on the order structure, the goods are arranged optimally in the pick front either permanently or based on demand by stacker cranes. The DPS technology enables the direct storage and picking in an automated small parts warehouse (AS/RS). The picking of dry goods and fresh products at Coop's distribution center is not done in a "classic way" from tote into tote, but from tote directly into the shipping carton. The reason for this type of picking process is here again the long transportation routes. Since the most distant store is some 1,700 km / 1,000 miles away, a return of the totes to the stores and back to the distribution center would not be cost-efficient. Moreover, the shipping cartons picked in the DPS system will be supplied directly to the OPM system, ensuring an optimal order consolidation between both systems.

Shipping buffer reduces trailer-loading times
Another technical highlight in the system is WITRON's fully automated shipping buffer. The temperature in the dispatch area at Coop is constantly kept at +4 degrees C. "Thus, we are able to centrally buffer the completely picked orders from the different temperature zones, to consolidate them in a tour- and store-friendly manner, and to provide them in the right sequence, just-in-time for dispatch process, directly in front of the right shipping gate," explains Jack Kuypers, Vice President WITRON North-West Europe. "This is done automatically and system-controlled and more cost-efficient in height rather than manually and expensive on the ground storage area. Thus the marshalling space needed is minimized. Moreover, Coop benefits from the very short distances to be covered by the employees in the dispatch area when loading the trailers. Therefore, the loading time at the gates will be reduced and the trailers can leave the distribution center earlier to supply the stores," says Kuypers.

RFID technology in the carrier pallets
WITRON stepped into a new world with regards to pallet identification: Distribution centers in Scandinavia are supplied with plastic pallets that are equipped with integrated RFID transponders. They also use wooden pallets that are automatically tagged with a RFID-label in the receiving area. Coop wanted to use these pallet types in the automated logistics system in a flexible manner. The scanning and processing of different methods poses various demands on the control technology and the used scanner technology. This task was also successfully realized by WITRON so that both types can be identified and handled in the entire material flow without any problem.

Figures of the logistics center:  
Number of SKUs: 17,000
Picked units / peak day: 480,000
Temperature zones: Plus 18, 12, 7, 5, 2 degrees C
  Minus 25 degrees C

Used WITRON systems: OPM, DPS, CPS,
  High bay warehouse, shipping buffer
Pallet storage locations: 39,200
Tote storage locations: 70,800
Tray storage locations: 310,100
Case Order Machines: 31
Cranes: 91

Author: Thomas Woehrle, specialized journalist, Karlsruhe

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Contact Information:

Norman Leonhardt
Director, Business Development
WITRON Integrated Logistics Corp.
3721 North Ventura Drive, Suite 140
Arlington Heights, IL 60004
Tel.: (847) 385-6000