Choosing a Dematic robotic layer picker has helped Nestlé Australia improve safety, quality and productivity - and won Nestlé industry recognition for its system.
Nestlé’s national distribution centre (DC) at Arndell Park in western Sydney stores and distributes several hundred of the company’s stock keeping units (SKUs). About 80% of the DC’s orders are distributed as full pallets. The remaining 20% of orders require manual handling of around five million cases each year, presenting a significant OHS challenge for the company.
To deal with this challenge, Nestlé installed a Dematic integrated robotic layer picking solution. The layer picker has not only improved efficiency and quality at the Arndell Park DC, but has also eliminated the manual handling of four million cases each year.
To initiate picking, orders from Nestlé’s SAP warehouse management system are downloaded into Dematic’s PickDirector warehouse control system. PickDirector interfaces with Dematic’s FreePick Maximiser software, ordering the stock required for layer picking in the required sequence for the next wave of orders.
The stock is retrieved by forklift from the adjacent reserve storage bays and loaded onto the induction conveyor spur. The pallets are scanned as they move through the layer picker and the operator is directed by the control system to remove the required amount of stretchwrapping from the pallet. The pallet is then conveyed into the layer picker and into buffer storage or a pick-and-put location.
These buffer storage locations enable pallets that are out of sequence to be temporarily stored online within the layer picker until they are required.
The layer picker selects required layers as new pallets are fed through the system, transferring them to one of four customer order pallets. Stock that remains on the pallet is incorporated into the next order or is held in the storage bays until it is required.
To build sandwich pallets to order, the layer picking system has four order picking positions, enabling up to four orders to be picked concurrently. The 4-axis picker uses a dual bellows and vacuum-gripping head that can handle most of Nestlé’s range, from cartons to bags and bottles.
To pick up a layer, the bellows inflate and close around the product to create a seal. The vacuum head exerts just enough pressure to gently pick up the layer while minimising product damage. This system allows the picker to handle a variety of pallet configurations.
Completed orders are checkweighed, stretchwrapped and labelled on their way through the system. Dematic’s system creates higher quality pallet build, ensuring less handling damage and fewer returns while improving transport utilisation.
Another feature that has improved safety in Nestlé’s DC is Dematic’s VocoCollect voice picking system. Forklift operators wear a small headset attached to a lightweight voice computer and simply listen and respond to clear verbal instructions of where to go and what to pick. Voice-directed computing frees up operators’ hands and eyes so they can safely handle and pick cartons without distractions.
Nestlé’s innovative system was recognised at the 2011 Australian Supply Chain and Logistics Awards, taking home awards for Manufacturing Logistics, Storage and Handling of Materials, as well as Supply Chain Management.
Nestlé expects to see return on investment in less than four years.
Read more about Nestlé's awards here.