CeMAT Insider

How Coles uses logistics automation for a faster supply chain

Posted by CeMAT Team on 13-Jul-2016 12:31:10


Yesterday we covered the need to improve on-shelf availability to ensure customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty, and this seems to be a recurring theme at CeMAT Australia 2016.

Matt Young, Program Manager – Major Infrastructure Projects, on behalf of Coles for Swisslog Australia presented a case study on the reduction in waiting times and improved shelf life due to their new processing facility. Coles needed a distribution centre that could ensure security of supply while also dealing with escalating costs moving into the future.

Swisslog created a meat processing facility in NSW to service NSW and QLD stores and in the future VIC and SA.

“The site is unique because it produces packaged red meat including beef lamb and pork, but there is also poultry under the same roof and is the only packaging in the southern hemisphere that does this.”

This processing facility allow them to get deep into the supply chain by being more responsive to changes in sales, as it can adapt to changes in inventory and deliver to the stores in a quicker manner. 

So how does the processing facility do this? Below we’ll take a look at how the Coles created a faster supply chain by ensuring their distribution centres implement process and logistics automation. 


Process Automation

The site utilizes robotic process automation with the KUKA robotic system, which automates their depalletising process of roughly 200 pallets a day.

The site is divided between poultry receiving and red meat receiving but altogether there are 8 flow lanes that can handle 22 pallets each. On a peak day of production 200ton a day of finished goods is distributed from this centre.

Automated empty pallets are sent to 6 KUKA robots, starting from heavy to light pallets generally ranging from 100kg to a ton throughout the day.

Holding time required for poultry products is easily maintained as the process has saved a lot of time in the packaging process and time is saved by limiting human interaction with the product and through the use of store ready pallets.

The distribution centre is able to fill store ready pallets that have a mix and match of SKUS per store, so stores that sell more of one particular product receive higher volumes, while another store with different inventory needs are also efficiently re-stocked.

According to Matt, this aspect has been one of the most revolutionising aspects to the centre, stating: “this is a fundamental change to the handling of these products as the pallets can be automated moving into the future”.


The benefits of automation

Like most businesses today, Coles needed a salutation that could future-proof their processes by ensuring security of supply while also saving costs, and it’s fair to say Coles was able to address this challenge.

Thanks to the automation of depalletisation, direct labour was reduced by 100% when it comes to palletizing crates.

The pallets the distribution centre received are normally filled with cartons from other suppliers. However, truck loading labour has reduced by 50% and a cross dock cost reduction of 75% due to reductions in labour.

Coles can control costs and the security of supply directly with this automated system because there are great increases to responsiveness and reduced lead-time.

Pallets can be pushed through the distribution centre more quickly, and can be placed in store a day earlier. This has not only helped to ensure Coles can control their inventory on a deeper level, but it has improved the shelf life of the product.


Topics: Supply Chain Management, Logistics Automation