Krogers third automated case picking system

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In an effort to improve distribution efficiency and productivity, Kroger has once again turned to automation.

A new distribution center supporting the west coast region will be the third automated case picking facility awarded to WITRON Integrated Logistics, a Chicago-based automation specialist.  Krogers partnership with WITRON extends beyond case picking, with two automated piece picking systems already in operation.

Krogers automated case picking experience: More than 3 million order pallets

This fully automated warehouse will not be the first of its kind.  Kroger was the worlds first implementer of automatic case picking systems from WITRON. Those systems have shipped a combined total of more than 3 million order pallets since they went live in 2004 and 2006.  Unlike the first two installations which were integrated inside existing conventional warehouses, the new site will be a greenfield project. 

Kroger felt confident embarking on a third automated case picking facility, as their existing two facilities are delivering more than 4,000 mixed order pallets to over 500 supermarkets every day using WITRONs OPM (Order Picking Machinery) technology.

After engaging WITRON to improve their piece picking operations in 2003, Kroger recognized that case picking offered even more opportunities. Kroger worked extensively with WITRON to develop its OPM system.  Fully automated case picking was invented using WITRONs material flow expertise, coupled with the operational experience and grocery industry knowledge from Kroger.  When first introduced, OPM technology was a revolution for the entire retail and distribution world.  The first OPM system in the world was the culmination of several years of partnership and development between WITRON and Kroger.  We are very proud of the success of our two existing OPM installations, which were only made possible with the cooperation and support from the entire Kroger team comments Karl Hoegen, COO of WITRON Integrated Logistics.  We look forward to the continuation of our successful partnership with this third fully automated case picking facility.  

The benefits of an OPM system extend beyond the DC, with a reduction in effort to fill store shelves as a result of store-friendly pallets.  In addition, transportation benefits can be realized from improved order pallet density.  All in all, the OPM addresses the most significant challenge facing todays retailers: improving service levels at the lowest cost.

Those benefits are made possible through WITRONs innovative and proprietary COM (Case Order Machine) at the heart of the OPM system.  The COM allows cases to be automatically stacked atop order pallets in a store-friendly sequence, without any of the gaps around the cases that occur in most robotic pallet-building applications.  WITRONs intelligent replenishment algorithms use forecasting and historical data to ensure each COM can be supplied with the product needed to meet required store orders.

WITRONs OPM experience:  5 years, 1,5 billion cases picked, and more than 25 million order pallets shipped

WITRONs OPM system is having a profound impact on grocery distribution throughout the world.  Like Kroger, several other retailers have recognized the benefits of the OPM system as a tool for maintaining and gaining competitive advantage.  With more than 245 COMs in operation or on order, OPM certainly looks to be the wave of the future for case picking automation.  WITRONs OPM portfolio now extends over 15 projects, with systems for 5 major retailers in 4 different countries.  With 5 years of field-proven experience, OPM systems have picked more than 1,5 billion cases and generated more than 25 million order pallets to date.  OPM systems can be found in both dry grocery and temperature-controlled environments, with as many as 15,000 unique SKUs handled in one system.

Illustration: 
Krogers first fully automated distribution center has been using WITRONs OPM technology since 2004.  This solution was installed within an existing conventional facility.  It features 16 COMs fed by 32 AS/RS tray cranes that are replenished by 8 AS/RS pallet cranes.

 
WITRON and Kroger, A Partnership In Automation
 
Krogers success with automation is by no means limited to case picking.  In fact, Kroger began its partnership with WITRON several years ago with a piece picking system.  Like the OPM system for case picking, WITRONs piece picking system is both innovative and efficient.  Using WITRONs Dynamic Picking System (DPS), Kroger is able to pick nearly 1.6 million units per day from a range of approximately 18,000 SKUs.  The success of this project has led to the award of a second DPS for piece picking, marking yet another step in the Kroger/WITRON automation partnership.

The Kroger Company

Kroger is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio where it was founded in 1883.  With sales in excess of 70 billion USD and more than 320,000 employees, Kroger is the second largest seller of groceries in the United States.  In addition to its network of more than 2,500 stores, Kroger operates 42 food processing plants and 27 distribution centers.  Krogers stores can be found in 44 major markets under 19 different banner names across the United States. 


WITRON Integrated Logistics Inc.

WITRON Integrated Logistics, located in Arlington Heights, IL, is a worldwide leader in material handling automation.  WITRON's core competence is the design and implementation of innovative logistics systems.  With more than 35 years of experience in distribution center automation, WITRON focuses on achieving the most efficient methods of order picking and replenishment for its customers.  In turn, WITRONs customers reap the benefits of significant cost reductions from labor and footprint savings.
 
As a turn-key systems integrator, WITRON takes complete responsibility for all phases of a project from design and implementation through ramp-up and maintenance.  Headquartered in Parkstein, Germany, WITRON has grown to include subsidiaries in the USA, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Spain. 

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