HKScan is one of the leading food companies in the Nordics, delivering products to customers in over 50 countries every single day. In Linköping, Sweden, HKScan operate a warehouse which serves customers throughout the entire country. With the help of Consafe Logistics, it recently implemented functionality which has drastically improved the way the warehouse works.
Shops all over Sweden order and sell HKScan products, from smaller independent shops to large supermarkets. The shops might be different, but they are all served by the same central warehouse in Linköping, which is where every product is processed and shipped. This warehouse is highly automated and efficient, and HKScan has been effectively using Consafe Logistics solutions for many years.
“We use two different products from Consafe Logistics, which are Astro WMS together with WCS,” says Leif Gustafsson, System Specialist for HKScan. “Astro WMS is the brain behind everything and decides where and when items will be picked and prepared for delivery. It takes all of the customer orders and works out the most efficient way to complete the task. The automation software, WCS, is the interface between Astro WMS and our automated hardware.”
There are three flows in the HKScan warehouse – full pallets, TOP pallets (transport optimized pallets) and mixed article pallets. Full pallets are just one product type, TOP pallets are multiple types but are based on entire layers, and mixed article pallets tend to have a wide range of products on a single pallet. The full pallets account for 60% of the warehouse, but it was also a flow where they encountered one specific challenge over and over again.
“Our customers would often order full pallets with, for example, 48 product totes on them,” explains Gustafsson. “However, in our warehouse there could be two pallets, each with 24 totes of the required product on there, but the system wouldn’t pick this up automatically. This would mean combining the two manually and placing it back into the high bay for it then to be recognised by Astro as a pallet which is ready to be shipped. which of course takes a lot of personnel hours and a lot of physical effort.”
This challenge led to discussions with Consafe Logistics and the provider of the automated hardware, to see if it was possible to come up with an effective solution. The end result was an add-on called Extended Pick, which has now been successfully implemented.
“With extended pick, we wanted Astro WMS to search for these pallets which could be combined, so the full pallets would be built up by the robot automatically. Now if we have two pallets with 24 totes in our high bay, Astro WMS finds these two and sends them to the robot, which then puts them together, so we have a full pallet which is ready to ship.”
This implementation has already had a significant impact on the warehouse. Each tote can weigh up to 25 kg, so when the work had to be done manually it could result in the operator lifting a total of 500 – 600 kg per pallet. Automating this process has already saved a lot of time and effort, and it’s safer for the operators too.
“We still fulfil all of our orders in time,” adds Gustafsson, “but without as many man hours. In the long run we know that we can add more flows in the warehouse if we need them, as picking is now much faster and smoother.”
DEDICATION TO COLLABORATION
In order for the software to be effective, the development and implementation required a positive, collaborative approach by all involved. For Consafe Logistics, this involved listening to the requirements from HKScan, listening to the capabilities and possibilities of the automated machinery and how that interacts with the software, and coming up with a solution that does exactly what it needs to.
“We developed this together with Consafe Logistics,” Gustafsson says. “We had workshops where we all sat together, including developers and software consultants, and we discussed what we could do, and how we could find the right solution for the warehouse together. Once we had finalised plans, the development process was actually very quick, which was great as it wasn’t only Consafe Logistics involved, but the hardware supplier. We also needed to change the way the robot worked to enable it to pick carton boxes and wooden pallets, which it couldn’t do before.”
The implementation was also done entirely via remote, due to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. This presented challenges, but through a combination of online meetings, remote access and clear communication, everything went smoothly and the Extended Pick module is working exactly as intended.
“During this project, we have been working with really skilled people with good knowledge of our processes and how we work,” concludes Gustafsson, “so we have a really good working relationship together with Consafe Logistics. It’s so important to have the right people from both sides, and I think in this project that has been a real success.”
HKScan’s target is to grow into a versatile food company. With over 100 years of experience, we make tasty, healthy and responsibly produced food responding to the needs of consumers and customers. For us at HKScan, responsibility includes the development of food production throughout the value chain, from farms to consumers. Our home markets cover Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the Baltics. Our nearly 7,000 HKScan professionals ensure tastier life – today and tomorrow. Our diverse product portfolio includes poultry, pork and beef, as well as meat products and meals. Our strong brands are HK®️, Kariniemen®️, Via®️, Scan®️, Pärsons®️, Rakvere®️, Tallegg®️ and Rose®️. In 2019, net sales of the publicly listed HKScan totalled EUR 1.7 billion.