Food Engineering

Products on the move

September 5, 2007
Dairy consolidates its distribution configuration to deliver products faster.

The Dairy Crest distribution center handles 50 million cases of product annually with a 99.9% fulfillment rate. Source: Dematic.

Following major growth resulting from joint ventures and acquisitions, Dairy Crest, a large, UK-based chilled dairy foods company, needed to centralize its distribution to handle its 50-million case annual throughput. With a goal set for next-day delivery, the processor needed to shorten its lead times, some of which were 10 days. Building a central distribution center (DC) capable of handling higher volumes, higher-pallet make-up complexity and shorter lead times seemed to be the only solution.

“We have over ten production facilities in the UK and four factories in France, which provide us with product on a daily basis,” says Andrew Watson, Dairy Crest distribution director.  “Following the consolidation, all product comes to one DC in Nuneaton, about 100 miles northwest of London. Our clients typically order about mid-day, and we pick their orders through the night and deliver from midnight onwards. It’s a 24-hour, 364-day operation.”

“When we first started looking at building a central DC,” says Watson, “we had to consider increasing existing product sales and continued brand acquisitions. Since the DC opened, we have acquired four companies and/or brands. We currently dispatch 250,000 cases daily on roughly 2,500 pallets and maintain and store over 12,000 pallets of finished goods.”

Dairy Crest selected Dematic Corp. (formerly Siemens Logistics & Assembly Systems) to design and implement the central DC in a brand-new 240,000-plus-sq.-ft. building. A new warehouse management system (WMS) was also planned.

The heart of the pallet transport system, Dematic’s DSB single track monorail, has 28 suspended pallet carriers (each approximately 150 m long) and is fed by conventional pallet conveyors. The monorail connects storage, picking and shipping areas, all of which are confined to a closed environment maintained at 35.6