Mars deploys robots to help manage volume growth
09 March 2018
The French subsidiary of the agri-food group Mars has implemented automated handling systems and robotics at the XPO Logistics site at Boigny-sur-Bionne, near Orléans.
XPO manages the site for Mars. Mars and XPO collaborated on solving the challenges associated with package preparation while managing volume growth and retailers’ expectations. The result is an innovative and customer-focused approach that has the capacity to accommodate up to 10 million packages a year. XPO has deep expertise in automated applications for the logistics sector, and utilises advanced automation at more than 25 sites in Europe, a third of which are located in France.
In less than a year, a joint innovation team comprised of specialists from XPO and manufacturer Alstef mechanised 1,600 square meters (17,200 square feet) of space at the temperature-controlled Boigny site. The facility manages the storage and distribution for a wide range of Mars products.
To increase competitiveness through productivity, the Boigny site has been equipped with a robot that can prepare 50,000 to 60,000 packages per day while operating on a continuous basis. It increases reliability by minimising errors during strenuous aspects of order preparation, making the best use of employee labor and enhancing working conditions.
Jonathan Jambon, French market supply chain director of Mars, said: “Our growth in volume, the expansion of our product range and the development of new distribution channels have led to increased demand for layered pallet preparation and package preparation. To adapt to these changes and satisfy our customers, we have put our trust in XPO to design an innovative solution that is both flexible and meets the requirements of Mars Quality standards."
Richard Cawston, managing director of supply chain, XPO Logistics Europe, said: “In light of the growth of our customer Mars, our challenge was to completely transform the logistics solution by tailoring the latest technical advances in software, robotics and pneumatic equipment, all without disrupting activity. With this new solution, we can realise efficiencies in distribution while lowering operating costs for Mars.”
Produced by Alstef, a designer and manufacturer of automated handling and storage systems, the customised solution is integrated throughout the package preparation process, from the arrival of goods in plastic film wrap to the preparation of new pallet loads ready for shipment. Upstream in the process, an automated storage and retrieval system places the pallets in racks at high speed. Each type of package is handled in the fastest and most consistent way possible without sacrificing workstation ergonomics.
The system’s major innovation lies in the preparation stage. The robot’s articulated arm can pick up as many as five stacks of packages at one time to assemble pallets with multiple product codes. Equipped with grippers and a pneumatic system, the robot ensures product safety at each stage. Nearly 90% of Mars products are compatible with the automation, which has the flexibility to adapt to the constraints of the various packaging options (glass, cardboard or plastic bags). For outsized packages, a manual preparation system has been designed to reduce repetitive employee movements as much as possible through the use of automatic conveyors.