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Logistics that produces efficiency – Automha for Bellsolà

Bellsolà turned to Automha, the world’s top player in the creation of automated systems in a refrigerated and frozen environment. The warehouse designed by Automha consists of automatic multilevel satellites, able to guarantee high performance, speed and operational flexibility. Photo by AUTOMHA SPA

Even behind a crunchy baguette and the softest of the brioche, there is hard work of logistics, in the case of the Spanish Bellsolà, a company specializing in the production of frozen bakery and confectionery items for the GDO, the normal trade, and the Ho channel. re.ca has been made even more efficient by Italian engineering.

The history of Bellsolà goes on for three centuries: founded as a bakery in 1890 by Pere Bellsolà Beltran in Girona, the company continues to grow in the following decades thanks to the know-how and passion handed down from generation to generation.

The turning point came in the Seventies, when Pere Bellsolà Fonalleras was the first to introduce in Spain the technology of pre-cooked bread, developed from the technique of frozen dough learned in France. It was a real success for the company that expanded its market share and range of action.

In the following decades, the important investments made by the company in production lines and new process technologies are the engine of growth that culminates, in February 2018, with the entry into the Monbake Group (11 production plants and 1,700 employees), alongside of the brands Berlys and Orio, which projects the company in the empyrean of frozen bakery in Spain.

Bellsolà products – a range that includes numerous types and sizes of bread, baked cakes and pastries – are distributed in a capillary way on the domestic market and abroad (in Europe and in the world) from which today derives 40% of turnover, a share with high growth potential.

Automha designed an automatic multi-depth warehouse managed by automatic shuttles in a refrigerated environment with a capacity of 8,500 pallets, able to guarantee high performance, speed and operational flexibility.

A winning partnership

The continuous development grounded by the company in recent years has led the company to rethink its logistics structure. The progressive increase in volumes has gradually highlighted the limits of a logistic-distribution system that was based on the outsourcing of the management of the finished product stock to several logistics partners, in manual-controlled cold rooms with an average storage capacity of 20,000 pallets, located in distant areas also tens of kilometers from the production site. This system, in fact, generated constant critical issues, especially in the control of shipments, in the duration of truck loading times, too long in relation to the need to manage an increasingly tense distribution flow and, last but not least, in the management of returns. Hence the need to find a new solution that would enable the distribution flow to be more effectively and efficiently.

The management of returns in particular, represents for the Girona company a decisive litmus test in the evaluation of the service offered to the customer, especially within the GDO channel. The stringent legislation that regulates the treatment of frozen food products, in fact, together with the delicacy of the references treated requires the ability, by the company and the logistics partners involved in the process, to manage a physiological share of returns, ie return to warehouse and the consequent immediate replacement of any pallets arriving to the customer that do not comply with the required quality standards and therefore are not accepted.

The solution decided by company ownership and management in order to increase overall efficiency was to eliminate outsourced deposits and centralize the entire finished product stock in a newly-owned warehouse, adjacent to the production center and connected to the lines, which guaranteed a high storage capacity, consistent with the group’s growth plans, and that it was the cornerstone of a new intralogistic structure aimed at offering customers a better level of service.

Automha solution

Bellsolà decided to work with the Bergamo company Automha, the world’s top player in the manufacturing of automated systems in refrigerated and frozen environments (in Spain alone, the company has created 7 installations of this type) and was convinced of the effectiveness of a project completely tailored to its needs and competitive from a financial standpoint, both from the point of view of the initial investment and from that of management costs. Automha solution consists in a warehouse with multilevel automatic satellites (AutosatMover), able to guarantee high performance, speed and a storage management in layers that increases the efficiency of the system.

Compared to the “traditional” automation via stacker crane, in fact, satellite solutions offer the possibility to work autonomously and independently on each level of storage, making the system more flexible and minimizing problems related to possible failures and maintenance operations. In the case of a shuttle stop, in fact, all the other floors remain active, guaranteeing the full operation of the plant, as the references are placed by the WMS in a coherent way along all the storage levels. Another plus offered by this type of system, concerns the energy efficiency connected to the consumption of the satellites, which are considerably lower than those of the stacker cranes (about 3 kWh of power installed on an Autosatmover compared to 25/30 KWh of the traslo, Ed ), an aspect certainly not to be underestimated within a highly energetic environment such as refrigerated cells.

The system developed for Bellsolà consists of a total of 18 Autosatmovers, used on three 6-tier storage modules, with a temperature of -25 °C. The AutosatMover modular system consists of a mother shuttle (Mover), powered by a busbar at each load level, which runs on tracks perpendicular to the storage channels and Supercap, the satellite (powered by supercapacitor technology) that performs the withdrawal operations and storage in the various storage channels; commanded by the mother shuttle via secure wifi, the satellite is recharged on it when returning from each mission, in just 5 seconds.

The supply of the warehouse and the subsequent exit of the pallets from the storage area takes place thanks to the work of 6 elevators (2 for each module in and out) that dialogue with a monorail loop running in loop TWL shuttles containing the incoming pallets at warehouse coming from the acceptance line and the outgoing pallets ordered by the customers, which will be sorted by the WMS, according to the shipment plan on gravity roller conveyors, and from here picked up by forklift operators and loaded on the arriving trucks (in temperature -5 ° C). The system offers the possibility to create the shipment sequence, which is fundamental for optimizing the flows and the performance of the warehouse.

All movements, as well as the arrangement of products in the storage area depending on the type, rotation class, lot, expiry date are decided by the WMS – the AWM software (Automha Warehouse Manager) – interfaced with the customer’s ERP, Microsoft Dynamics AX. AWM can be consulted by tablets and or smartphones to allow remote control of all plant KPIs by the logistics manager. The software architecture of the system also includes the SCADA module, for alarm management, and the HMI (Human Machine Interface) software: a 3D visualization system of the moving system, very useful for controlling the movements of the pallets is fundamental to simplify the system diagnostics operations, as it allows the immediate localization of motors, photocells or other components in any critical state.

The flow of goods inside the warehouse

The warehouse, 20 meters high, 6 of which underground (Automha has also taken care of the construction of the excavations and the pit, N.d.R.), contains pallets of finished product out of the lines located in the adjacent production department. The cartons containing frozen bread and bakery products are taken from an anthropomorphic robot which automatically palletizes the packages. Once complete, the pallet is picked up by an AGV and transferred to the entry line in the logistics area.

Both the robotic island and the AGV have been integrated by Automha and managed by Automha’s AWM software. Once the filming and the pond-volumetric control stations are exceeded, the pallet can be diverted to an output line if the system detects anomalies or is sent to storage. Stocking can take place in the automated warehouse or in a manually operated cell, which was previously the only warehouse in the factory, where pallets are admitted at the discretion of the logistics office, typically batches or products intended for control quality. If the destination is the automatic warehouse, the pallets are taken over by the TWL LOOP and started inside a storage module where they pass to the elevator and then to the AutosatMover which places them in the location decided by the system. The plant provides a second access roller conveyor dedicated to products coming from suppliers and contractors.

Bellsolà serves customers in the GDO branch, with orders for whole pallets, but also for normal trade or restaurants, for which even single unit deliveries are planned. The automatic system therefore feeds not only the delivery area, located on the ground floor, but also the manual picking stations (two for each level) active on the first and second floors. In this case the pallets left from the warehouse are, thanks to a roller conveyor system, unloaded near the picking stations. The operator, guided by the VOICE PICKING system, picks up the required quantities of packages and places them in special baskets identified by barcodes and placed on static stations associated with the orders to be evaded. Once the process has been completed, the mother pallet can be returned to the warehouse, and from there it can be sent to shipments or to the manual warehouse for possible processing or consolidation. If, on the contrary, the picking process runs out of the pallet, the support is brought to level 0 through a special lift: to allow the continuation of the order preparation operations, the system will have in the meantime prepared to send a new pallet to the area picking. The baskets containing the pallets taken, once completed, are brought to the ground floor via freight elevators and loaded here on vans for deliveries. The picking operations are carried out in a cooled environment at – 18 ° along a work shift that takes place from 19 to 22 and which provides a continuous rotation of staff, according to timing designed to preserve the workforce operating in low temperatures.

All picking operations are managed by the AWM software, through the native “Voice Picking” module.

Advantages for Bellsolà

As pointed out by Robert Morales, Bellsolà’s supply chain manager “The new system has brought immediate benefits in terms of control and management of operations: the inventory, made previously extremely complex by the relocation of the stock to several cold stores, is now managed automatically by the WMS and the whole process, including returns management, is much more efficient and reduced errors to almost zero”. But perhaps the most obvious and valuable advantage is the speeding up of truck loading times. With an average load time of only 22 minutes in each bay, today Bellsolà manages to manage a daily load of 45 trucks, a quantity more than quadrupled compared to the previous setting, which has made the company much more competitive, placing the basis for a strengthening of operational capacity and for new growth scenarios on the national and international market.

For more information, please visit www.automha.it