Sobey's Planned Depot Will Use New Automated Picking Systems

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Sobey's Planned Depot Will Use New Automated Picking Systems

STELLARTON, Nova Scotia -- Canada's second-largest grocery retailer, Sobeys Inc., said it plans to build an automated distribution center in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada that it expects to tighten its supply chain while improving the service level for dry grocery delivery to its 360 stores within the province.

The chain has enlisted Witron, a leading systems integrator based in Chicago, to plan and implement a new distribution system to accompany the new plant. Sobey's said Witron's responsibility will include the delivery, installation, and start-up of all material flow components.

Automation equipment includes 11 AS/RS pallet cranes that service 38,000 locations and 32 AS/RS miniload cranes with access to 340,000 tray locations. As the systems integrator, Witron will manage all processes below host level with its own IT, material flow, and control applications.

Witron said the new Sobey's new distribution center will be unique in that the majority of case picking will be completely automated through the use of Witron's proprietary "OPM" picking system (Order Picking Machinery). Order pallets will be automatically assembled by 16 "picking machines" that are installed on two-levels within the warehouse. These picking machines will be fed by the tray AS/RS system, which will also be constructed on two levels. A three-aisle "pick to pallet" system with voice control and automated replenishment will supplement the fully automated system in order to handle peak volumes as well as bulky goods.

The design of Sobeys' new distribution center will also facilitate future extensions, with space allocated for addition picking systems to be implemented during operation of the warehouse. Ground breaking for the new distribution center is planned for August 2007, with productive use expected in the spring of 2009.