From biscuit dough to warehouse in half an hour: LU explains
Bart Nevens, Project Coordinator in the Business Development department, was asked to map out the internal logistics stream four years ago. In other words, everything that is transported internally, be it a pallet, a cart of dough or something else, had to be included in a study to come up with a way to optimise internal product flow. One of the greatest challenges in this project was devising one big robotic update to replace the 20 year old robots which would at once integrate the whole pallet flow. The main objective was to optimise productivity, increase safety, whilst also paying attention to ergonomics.
How it used to be
This concerns a zone in the 24 hectare LU factory where since the arrival of the first stacking robots in the 1980s the working method has hardly changed. Old robots, double handling of pallets before they ended up on the wrapping belt, too much manual intervention and therefore lower safety standards, a group of people driving fork-lift trucks in any direction, manual stacking, intermediate labelling, etc. The logistics flow was too labour intensive and too costly. In short, it was time for a change.
Bart Nevens was asked to provide innovation together with the Engineering team, the IT department and the production team. A modern installation with one operator to carry out checks and guide a reference exchange, was their big dream. They worked as meticulously as possible to find the best concept, which is why the preparatory phase took so long. They soon decided not to use AGVs and opted for simplicity: “grouping four pallets” on a shuttle. Several suppliers came up with a solution but in the end intrion turned out to be the most suitable partner offering the necessary experience and flexibility.
A dream came true
The big robot upgrade became a reality in June last year: six robots which palletise for two production lines each were installed. Four pallets from each production line are then pre-grouped and loaded onto a shuttle which transports them to two wrapping lines. After this the pallets are correctly labelled and stacked in fours ready for shipment. The same shuttle also delivers stacks of empty pallets to all of the robot cells.
By substituting the old interfaces with modern PLCs there is a better monitoring of possible interruptions, data is recorded for the whole process and converted to a dashboard. The latter provides a whole range of information so that a single operator has control of the complete system.
Mondelez International (Kraft’s new name – LU) also uses intrion’s i-care programme and support services for all preventive maintenance and first line response in the unlikely event of a breakdown.
Results made themselves felt
Bart Nevens states that productivity and quality have increased considerably, a lot of time is now saved, maintenance costs have dropped drastically, staff costs and planning have simplified and safety and ergonomics considerably improved. In summary: a successful concept.
intrion helped develop this concept
During a reference visit organised by intrion, Bart Nevens was able to see the quality intrion guarantees, along with the experience and knowledge of intrion staff. The budget outline was very competitive at the start of the project and the fact that intrion had already completed smaller projects at Kraft Foods Belgium in Halle and Namur was also decisive.
Dos & don’ts
The main thing the project team learned is that a long preparatory phase can be very helpful in these types of projects. Communication about the project is also vital so that employees feel closely involved and, through their own experiences, can contribute to the success of a project.
With regard to the partner, it was clear in this project that proper communication with the necessary flexibility of the parties in question and paying attention to training are elements that should not be ignored. LU is pleased, and enjoys the many advantages resulting from this project every day.