Fazer Bakeries implements gantry robot systems with warehouse automation

Casebook 2012: Automated solutions ensure efficient handling and timely delivery of perishable goods.

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When fresh baked goods are involved, speed and accuracy is even more important than usual. By centralizing production and distribution, Finland’s Fazer Bakeries was able to implement gantry robot systems with warehouse automation solutions to reduce costs and improve service levels.

Beginning in the early 2000s, automated solutions allowed the company to respond to growth in demand as well as labor turnover concerns. After the first facility’s successes in terms of throughput and cost-effectiveness, the company installed a similar system in a second central bakery.

In both cases, the automation provider began with feasibility studies, simulations, concept design and detailed engineering, and development. Based on the workflow study, the provider offered a custom-engineered solution that combines buffer storage and order-picking operations in one gantry robot-based automated system supervised by a warehouse management system (WMS).

The handling system manages the complete material flow, from the production lines to the loading docks. Bakery products can be delivered to customers as full single-SKU crates, mixed-SKU crates or whole pallets.

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 are received directly from production and constantly moved to the order picking area. There, they are stored in single-SKU racks in the buffer storage area where they are immediately available for picking. Orders are picked by the gantry robots, which can pick any number of crates from a stack at a time, and which pick in the correct order for the dispatch schedule.

“Products for local delivery now go through the distribution center much faster than before,” says bakery manager Juhani Heinänen. “The growth in capacity is a benefit that has impacted all of our operations in Finland.”

Heinänen said costs are further reduced with the 100% picking accuracy of the robotic order staging and handling system.

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About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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