Food Engineering

Robots speed delivery of fresh baked goods

July 1, 2011
Night time is the right time for automated DC technology.

Cimcorp’s MultiPick gantry robot makes selections of full crates at Fazer’s Lahti bakery distribution center. Source: Cimcorp.


Today’s fresh-bakery market is highly competitive, and the need to deliver goods quickly to retain freshness poses a number of challenges. In this high-volume, low-margin and labor-intensive business, the only way to increase profitability is to reduce costs while improving service levels. Some industrial bakeries, like Finland’s Fazer Bakeries, have centralized production and distribution at a few sites, while retaining some smaller bakeries to produce specialty goods. Fazer Bakeries, employing more than 5,500 people in several European countries, focuses its production in Vantaa and Lahti, Finland.

To maintain freshness, the bulk of baking and order picking takes place at night. But finding reliable employees to tackle this back-breaking, repetitive work and to do it accurately was a challenge. The baker looked to automation technology to solve this problem-and improve productivity.

Fazer had worked with Cimcorp to automate distribution and shipping at its Vantaa facility in the early 2000s. Capitalizing on the success of this facility’s automation makeover in terms of throughput and cost-effectiveness, Fazer extended its work with Cimcorp to install a similar system in its Lahti bakery. The Lahti site runs 16 to 24 hrs./day, five to seven days per week, has 13,000 order lines per day and ships about 190 SKUs per day. Throughput is 1,000-4,000 crates per hour with a delivery fleet of 20 vehicles making 1,000 deliveries per day.

The Lahti distribution center (DC) project required Cimcorp to undertake feasibility studies, simulations, concept design and detailed engineering and development. Based on the workflow study, the supplier offered a custom-engineered MultiPick solution that combines buffer storage and bulk order picking operations in a gantry robot-based automated system supervised by Cimcorp’s WCS warehouse control system. The system manages the complete material flow, from the production lines to the loading docks, accommodating shipping to customers in full crates, mixed-SKU crates or whole pallets.

“There are huge benefits, particularly in bulk order picking, where very heavy products used to be collected manually. A lot of positive feedback has also been received from those who carry out the local order picking,” says Juhani Heinänen, bakery manager. “Products for local delivery in particular now go through the DC much faster than earlier,” he adds.

The automated system speeds up the process by handling the order picking of ready-baked products immediately after receiving an order. The freshly baked goods received directly from production are constantly moved to the combined buffer storage and order picking area. Fresh-baked goods are stored in stacks of crates (each stack comprises only one item) in the buffer storage area and are immediately available for picking.

“Better logistics control can be seen, for instance, in the reduced amount of product waste. New solutions have also been found through automation for distribution to various customer groups. For us, accuracy means, above all, improved customer satisfaction,” says Heinänen.

For more information:
Derek Rickard, 905-643-9700, ext. 223, derekrickard@rmtrobotics.com