Coping with Covid-19: Why automation is now even more important for Food and Beverage warehouses

Covid-19 is forcing the Food & Beverage industry to address a complex challenge: “How do we guarantee the safety of our own people first while mitigating supply-chain risks?” is how the issue is framed by Leon Pieters, Global Consumer Products Leader at Deloitte. One answer is to add automated warehouse systems, such as those offered by Modula. These systems increase storage capacity and improve turnaround times while preserving the safe distances between workers required to cope with the coronavirus.

Modula vertical lift modules (VLMs) have long been valued by companies that rely on automation due to their flexibility, superior design, and ease of use. Available in a wide range of models, Modula VLMs are vertical storage towers that can be up to 53 feet tall. They store goods in a safe, secure environment and provide automated delivery to operators.

The ergonomic benefits alone are significant. Because workers avoid unnecessary bending, walking and reaching for parts, the VLMs all but eliminate the worker safety issues common to typical warehouses. Workers can stand at their machines and retrieve all the parts needed without walking around the floor and passing other workers, making it easy to adhere to the six-foot minimum distance. In addition, the machines provide an instant update of the inventory as each item is retrieved, providing managers real-time data that can be critical to avoid oversupplies or undersupplies of goods.

These features make Modula VLMs the ideal solution for improving internal warehouse management in any industrial sector, and Food & Beverage is no exception.

Many of the best-known brands in the world, including Krones, Sidel, ACMI, SACMI, and ELETTRIC 80, have adopted Modula automated storage solutions. The solutions are used both to serve production lines and to store components and spare parts for the maintenance department. In so doing, these companies have effectively decreased time spent searching for and transporting goods while optimizing space and reducing the physical effort of the operators. Here are some examples of how leading food and beverage companies are employing Modula VLMs:

  • Vonpar Refrescos, a Coca-Cola bottler in South America, is able to store the bulky parts required for format changes in the Modula units thanks to the 13-foot-wide trays their VLMs employ. 
  • Sidel uses a pair of Modula units to serve packaging machines and filling lines for drinks by storing replacement parts for machines or finished products, such as pistons and robotic arms.
  • In its Parma plant, Barilla uses vertical storage solutions with external bays to hold the bulky dies used to cut pasta. The external bay allows an operator to employ robots, manipulator arms and lifting devices – accessories required because the dies can weigh as much as 440 lbs. 
  • Grissin Bon, Centro Carni di Padova, and Pane Morato use the same type of vertical storage solution to stock spare parts needed to maintain production plants. 
  • Syngenta Seeds, located in the state of Washington, purchased two VLMs. The first unit is dedicated to seed sample storage. The second supports its lab operations. Both units are used in a controlled climate environment and provide significant space savings. The units also provide key reporting features to help track crop information.
  • Thanks to Modula’s ability to operate at temperatures down to 32°F, Inalca (Cremonini Group) purchased three Modula units, one of which is used in the cold storage area.
  • Aurora Organic Dairy, a dairy farming and milk bottling operation, purchased four Modula units for its facilities in Missouri and Colorado. Two Modula Lift ML75D are used to store the maintenance parts needed for all their processing equipment while the other two units are employed in the sample testing area, in a temperature-controlled environment. 

Another popular application of Modula VLMs in the food & beverage industry is label storage. Thanks to Modula’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) software and its Copilot operator console, an operator can retrieve with a single click the label needed during production while keeping inventory and quantities under control. The famous chocolate company Venchi, as well as Ferrari, Colli del Soligo, Cantine Mezzacoronaand Contri wineries, have at least one Modula unit deployed to store and track all their labels. The same process has been adopted by several vinegar and olive oil producers, Acetificio OrtalliAcetaia Leonardiand Bunge among them.

Many companies have also adopted Modula VLMs to store finished or semi-finished products to significantly reduce picking errors and speed up order preparation. Spendrups, one of the largest beer producers in Sweden, uses a Modula VLM to store low-movement products as well as inventories of finished products such as boxes of beer and wine.

Another example is a Taiwanese food company, Jin Ding, which has eliminated picking errors and speeded preparation of orders. As Jin Ding’s warehouse manager, Jarry Liu, says, “Now three or four workers can do the same job that previously would have required eight to 10 workers. Modula units have dramatically improved our work efficiency while eliminating picking errors.”

Pick-to-light systems and laser pointers quickly guide workers to select the right item, cutting out common errors that arise when humans have to make repeated judgment calls all day. As long as information about an item has been entered accurately when it’s placed in the VLM, a worker will get the right item each time the order is fulfilled.

With all of these systems in place, a Food & Beverage company no longer has a single automation improving its operations. Rather, it has an integration of automation that allow it to streamline production and recover up to 90% of currently occupied floor space by using a facility’s vertical space to its full potential. 

Investing in an automated warehouse today means that going forward, your company will be one step ahead in the always-competitive Food & Beverage industry.