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Tech powers dairy of the future

01 July 2016

Supply chain and mobility specialist, Rocket Consulting, is working as a strategic SAP partner on an Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) system with Arla Foods.

Installed at Arla Foods UK’s dairy in Aylesbury, the EWM is fundamental to the technological innovation that has seen the cutting-edge operation identified as the ‘dairy of the future’ for its ability to combine efficient operation with being environmentally friendly.

Opened in 2013, Arla’s Aylesbury dairy is the largest fresh milk factory in the world, processing and packaging the equivalent of 1.5 million bottles of milk a day. The EWM implementation, which covers the dispatch element of the operation, won the 2015 SAP Quality Award for Innovation and the 2015 Best Factory Award for Innovation.

Rocket Consulting was selected by Arla for its knowledge, expertise and experience across four key business and technical levels: supply chain and mobile (a skillset that Rocket has since expanded to include Internet of Things); SAP technology; food and beverage industry; and Arla’s business and business process.

Rocket’s EWM implementation handles the milk bottles as they arrive in the cold store from Arla’s high speed processing facility before they are distributed to customers. Specific Rocket activities include introducing operational technology such as the control system interface for the 90 AGVs that move the milk in trolleys around the warehouse. Rocket also specified the voice picking and RFID system that provides information in real-time for all related cold store activities to inform decision-making.  

In addition, and critical to the project, Rocket was responsible for ensuring that all the constituent and complex EWM technologies communicated correctly to ensure the smooth operation of the warehouse.

In line with Rocket’s transformation methodology, the project uses standard (SAP) EWM software wherever possible in order to build a global roadmap that enables faster delivery of future roll-outs and minimises the risk for future upgrades. Enhancements and bespoke functionality were added by Rocket as required.

Colin Fearon, senior solution consultant for warehouse and distribution at Arla, explains: “Our system needed to fit our businesses, rather than Arla having to adapt its business to fit the solution. Rocket was instrumental in making that happen. The consultants understand SAP and EWM technology inside-out but, more than that, they know how we work, what we need to achieve and why. They then explore all avenues to get us to the desired end-point.”

Project highlights

In September 2011, Arla’s planning application for a new £150m dairy in Aylesbury was approved. Arla UK has an ambitious growth strategy and the new one-billion litre fresh milk dairy was key. In addition, a new DC was planned for Hatfield.

The company decided to invest in a new SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) system at both greenfield sites. Part of the reason for this was to make use of the ‘built in’ Material Flow System (MFS) functionality to control the Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) which handle the movement of milk trolleys in the cold store.

Highlights include:

• Production facility with cold store warehouse on EWM.

• EWM solution to supply DCs with fresh milk and also deliveries direct to customer.

• EWM integrating with AGV control system to move stock.

• Voice and RFID enabled mobile execution for cold-store operators (fine picking and physical inventory).

• Mobile bar-code execution for operator functions (inbound and loading).

• Visibility of information through warehouse monitor – ‘one stop shop’ for reporting.

• Clear management information - who is doing what, where and when.

• Integrated warehouse for 3PL activities.

• Flexible warehouse – use of activity areas allows different sort orders for different activities.

• Resource Management – allocation of work to the right person at the right time.

• Wave simulation – custom solution to enable better decision making at wave release.

• Enhanced use of Warehouse Monitor to integrate custom reports and make it the central point for all processing by enhancing the views with new methods and functionality.

• Pallet Cubing – maximising pallet fill keeping haulage costs down.

• Leveraging MFS – significant saving on labour.

• Dynamic control of voice v RF.

• Template labelling.

• Strategic platform for future expansion.