Food Engineering

Field Reports: Automated storage and retrieval system fits the bill

April 15, 2003
Processor’s distribution hub gets space-saving and time-saving boost.

An automatic storage and retrieval system from Westfalia Technologies cuts operating costs while improving reliability and worker safety at Bridgford Foods.
Bridgford Foods produces frozen bread dough, luncheon meats, dry sausages and an assortment of frozen microwave-ready sandwiches.

The company wanted to use its Dallas, Tex., location as a national distribution hub, but limited available land made this practically impossible. Bridgford needed a solution that would maximize existing space and minimize interruption to manufacturing operations.

The company's goals included maximizing storage volume within a specified area, increasing productivity by eliminating routine warehouse operations, providing an efficient order pick area for prepicking less than full pallet order quantities, automatic sequencing of picked pallets and full pallets deliveries to the shipping dock, and reducing truck loading time.

Bridgford decided to install an automatic high-density storage system and chose a compact automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) from Westfalia. The system measures 155 feet long, 70 feet wide and 73 feet high, and contains 2,500 pallet locations. With a storage density of 4.34 square feet per pallet position, it can store or retrieve more than 70 pallets per hour.

The storage and retrieval machine (SRM) moves between two storage blocks. One is five pallets deep; the other is ten pallets deep. There are 17 bays (storage rows) and ten levels. The SRM is equipped with Westfalia's Satellite device, which separates from the SRM to move individual pallets in and out of the storage rack. Pallets automatically enter the system with a computer-to-computer handoff from the automatic palletizing system. Pallets can also be manually entered from both the palletizing room and the shipping dock.

The new storage approach was designed to have less workers in the deep-freeze area. Unjamming a stuck pallet high up in a freezer is dangerous, and conventional pallets, with the odd semi-broken board or a protruding nail, are subject to jamming. This system replaces the conventional pallets with 40 x 48-in. slave pallets made of 1-in. plywood.

The SRM automatically replenishes the pick lanes for 34 of Bridgford's fastest moving items. Two- and three-deep flow racks feeding these positions guarantee that the picker never runs out of product. There are also 76 manually loaded pick locations on the pick floor. A pick-and-return function handles very slow moving SKUs. Here the pallet is brought to the pick floor, cases are removed for shipping, the inventory is updated and the pallet is returned to the original location.

A time-saving feature is the ability to prepick loads. Instead of rushing to assemble orders when the truck is waiting, less than full pallet quantities are pre-assembled for later shipping. This allows a truck to be loaded in about 20 minutes, and provides smooth workloads for the case pick workers. The Westfalia system automatically sequences the output of picked pallets and full pallets to a shipping spur in truck loading order.

The system is operated by Westfalia's Warehouse Management System (WMS) software, which directs the storage and loading process, automatically interfacing with the palletizing equipment to track production. It has a "Hold" system for quality control purposes. It tracks aging of the inventory, alerting the company of product that will expire soon and is the basis of Bridgford's product recall system at this location.

The new system has cut costs and greatly increased the volume of business at the Dallas facility. Bridgford Foods has enjoyed more than 99% uptime on the system since it was installed. Another benefit of the system is its potential for expandability. It's possible to double the length of the building and still use the same system.

For more information:
Allison Kapalka
717-764-1115
email: akapalka@westfaliausa.com
www.westfaliausa.com