Coop Sweden visit

How and why Coop is shifting from manual operations

From manual to one of the largest automated distribution centres

In October 2020, Coop, one of the leading food retailers in Sweden, and SSI Schaefer, one of the world’s leading providers of intralogistics products and systems, announced the starting point of their long-term collaboration.

We had a chat with Mats Tornard, Project Manager of Strategic Supply Chain at Coop, about the project, its current state and Coop’s goals for the future. Mats recapped with us the story of how and why Coop decided to go from a fully manual warehouse to one of the largest automated distribution centres in the world.

“We have seen many shifts to automation within our industry. The productivity rates reached with the automated operations are impossible to get with the manual goods handling,” - shares Mats Tornard, Project Manager of Strategic Supply Chain at Coop.

Mats Tornard_Coop PM

Thinking about the working environment for the employees, long-term future and continuous efficiency, Coop made the strategic decision to invest in a new highly automated logistics centre.

Everything in stock: How the system installed on 77,000 sq.m. will work

If your values are something you will not compromise on, set them straight before starting a project. This is what Coop did. Keeping the main focus on employees and sustainability the retailer considered them in every decision it had to make regarding the new facility. For starters, goods delivery will be linked with the nationwide train network to reduce car use and, as a result, the CO2 footprint.

Most of the inbound goods will arrive at the new DC by train and will be unloaded just outside of the infeed area. The goods receiving zone will be equipped with a conveying system including a NOK station and also a pallet check station to see whether wrapping, positioning and load handling were done correctly. Then the goods will be delivered to the high bay warehouse for storage until they are requested for an order. The pallets then will arrive at the depalletizing station to be divided into individual cases for storing and preparing for later-on commissioning to customer orders.

The 3D-MATRIXSolution® by SSI Schaefer, which the client calls “picking storage”, is intended to serve as a buffer for cases. The storage locations will be operated by SSI Flexi shuttles, which are responsible for storage loading and retrieval. The needed sequence for palletizing will be automatically pre-determined and controlled via SSI Schaefer’s own logistics software WAMAS® depending on the contents of orders, guaranteeing both pallet stability and minimal transport volume. SSI Flexi will then deliver cases to the palletizing station where a palletizing robot will take care of putting the orders together for shipping.

Ready pallets will be delivered to the shipping buffer where all the loads coming to one customer or location will be consolidated awaiting departure. Finally, the trucks will arrive and pallets will be retrieved in loading sequence to the shipping doors.

“Sometimes it is complicated to make things easy,” – smiles Mats Tornard - “but I believe we managed to create an amazing solution together”.

We cannot agree more.

Where we are now

“Despite all the challenges the pandemic brought to the market, we are happy that we are on schedule with the project realization and have not experienced any delays so far,” - comments Mats Tornard. “We have just completed construction of the DC. SSI Schaefer is now building up the high bay warehouse and the SSI Flexi shuttle racks. At the same time, we are also focused on redesigning our internal processes to benefit the most from the new system.”

Benefits and no doubts

“It is great that both companies see this cooperation as a long-term partnership. We are happy to see that SSI Schaefer is always committed to bringing forward their new solutions that were not available earlier at the layouting and designing stages. This proactive and innovative thinking will definitely help us to realize the maximum potential of our DC.”

The new facility will help Coop to boost its supply chain performance. Coop will get a great increase in the number of daily shipped orders and more accessible and perfectly scheduled transportation owned to the better railroad connection.

Coop aims at reducing unloading time at the stores by providing customer friendly pallets, delegating palletizing to palletizing robots as part of the SSI Case Picking system. It will add up to the current effort and ensure faster and more solid build-up of the pallets.

One of the key advantages the solution is expected to deliver is a safer and more ergonomic work environment. At the currently operating site, all the processes are done manually, which includes lifting and carrying heavy weights, stretching etc. When the new solution is launched, most of the challenging jobs will be performed by automated equipment that mainly requires monitoring and controlling functions from people. This will enable Coop and its employees to shift the focus from potential health-related concerns to the strategic thinking of what else can be done to improve the outcome.

This is exactly how your supportive functions, i.e. intralogistics and supply chain, should be done.

It is on us: sustainable future around the corner

“Sustainability is one of Coop’s core values,” – explains Mats.

And it has been this way for years. For example, 30 years ago the company was the first food chain in Sweden to launch its organic brand, Änglamark. The brand is well-known across Sweden and preserves its initial value - an eco-friendly approach. Thus, in 2020 Änglamark was named Sweden's most sustainable brand by Sustainable Brand Index. This year the award again went to Coop.

Mats continues: “We always consider environmental and ecological aspects before starting a new project.”

SSI Schaefer shares the same approach. In 2020 SSI Schaefer was the first material handling company to join the 50 Sustainability and Climate Leaders initiative. This programme is targeted at fighting against climate change and contributing to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG). The initiative highly encourages its participants to leverage innovation and sustainable business models. The new logistics centre will fit within the Sustainability concept. This means that only certified and approved materials, paint, and components are utilized at the construction site.

The new solution will also bring more sustainable benefits to the company. By moving cold and ambient storage zones into 1 facility, Coop will require less transportation and, therefore, will create a less CO2 footprint.

Coop is already using trains to receive goods because it is more environmentally friendly. For the new DC, the train capacity will be twice more than today. Two sets of railroads will run right next to the warehouse to ensure smooth and fast unloading. The trains will be enlarged to the maximum approved length. With this solution, Coop will be able to support the upcoming growing demand without the need of utilizing other vehicles, e.g. trucks.

“Coop is a company of great individuality, sustainable approach and deep care for its employees. SSI Schaefer shares the same values. This is one of the reasons behind the prosperous and seamless cooperation between our companies. We are delighted to be a part of such an exciting project,” – concluded General Manager of SSI Schaefer in Sweden, Michael Hillström.