Robots (AGVs) and SAP Extended Warehouse Management — Operating the Worlds Largest Liquid Dairy for Arla Foods

Robots (AGVs) and SAP Extended Warehouse Management Operating the Worlds Largest Liquid Dairy for Arla Foods

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Multi Award-Winning Digital Supply Chain Innovation

Arla Foods has created, not only a more efficient operation but also one that is environmentally friendly. The level of technological innovation that has been installed is inspiring and it all works together as an integrated whole, creating not just a super dairy but a vision of the dairy for the future.

Winner of the Gold Award for Innovation from SAP Quality Awards for UK&I
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2015 Best Factory Awards - Innovation Winner

The World's largest dairy at Arla Foods, Aylesbury, UK, where Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) controlled by SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) make a significant contribution to the optimisation of the cold-store processes and intralogistics.

The AGVs work tirelessly and significantly reduce the labour needs and operating expenditure of a typical labour intensive supply chain; enabling over one billion litres of fresh milk to be handled yearly.

Our Client

Arla is a consumer products business producing and selling dairy-based beverages, infant nutrition, cheese and desserts across Europe, Asia and Africa, via its own subsidiaries. Arla now also produces both the Lurpak and Anchor butter brands in the UK. The business has an annual turnover of £2 billion and is the UK's number one dairy company.

Working as Arla Foods' implementation partner and alongside the AGV provider EK Automation, Rocket helped create this state-of-the-art dairy using SAP's Digital Supply Chain software to underpin Arla Foods continued ambitious growth strategy and success in supplying a full range of fresh dairy products to the major retailers and food-service customers, whilst keeping in-line with their environmental ambitions, and their ongoing commitment to support British dairy farming. 

The Challenge

Arla had clear aspirations for the new dairy, aiming to be the first zero-carbon milk processing facility in the world and, throughout the design stage, the potential impact of the dairy on the environment was carefully evaluated. Arla committed to utilising the best available construction techniques, advanced process technologies and cutting edge renewable energy opportunities.

As existing users of SAP Warehouse Management implemented across several existing sites, Arla knew their demand for creating high-efficiency operation, built around advanced process technologies & working practices, would require a new solution to support this and their IT strategy of software standardisation. 

A digital supply chain software evaluation was carried out with expertise from Rocket's specialist consulting services, the outcome of which provided a clear and well-informed decision to go ahead and invest in a new SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) system for this site and as the basis of its supply chain template going forward.

For the Aylesbury dairy where advanced robotics would be used to significantly reduce operating costs, making use of the ‘built in’ Material Flow System (MFS) functionality to control the Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) which handle the movement of milk trolleys in the cold store was a key success factor.

The Approach

As the chosen SAP EWM implementation partner for Arla, Rocket worked across the full project lifecycle to ensure success in all areas of design, implementation, technology enablement and support.

Consulting

Working in partnership with the Arla site design team and business experts, Rocket led the creation of the operational process design to create the solution blueprint. Following the Rocket design and operational thinking approach assured a comprehensive joined-up design across a wide range of SAP and external systems, extensive mobile (scanning, voice and RFID) and operational technology, operation layout and processes, all whilst ensuring the solution was easy to use for the people working in the chilled environment.

Implementation

Rocket was responsible for the configuration and build of the entire EWM solution, integration into the existing SAP ERP (ECC) system, production systems and external business partners systems. The SAP EWM developments, including the creation of several high-impact extensions where the SAP EWM capability did not meet the specific needs of the dairy industry and processes, were all taken care of by the Rocket development team. Several pre-built EWM enhancement solutions‘Rocket Packs’were used to accelerate implementation and reduce overall cost and risk.

Working openly in partnership, Arla and Rocket agreed on the solution handover approach. Rocket was responsible for the build and unit testing in the development environment and then handed over to the Arla line of business team to carry out all end-to-end testing in the quality systems, with Rocket closely supporting the remainder of the project phases. As part of the knowledge acquisition by Arla, Rocket trained the Arla trainers who carried out the end-user training.

Technology

To achieve the adoption of seamlessly integrated advanced operational technologies, the Rocket technology team bought a wide range of know-how to the project. A comprehensive mobility team provided all aspects of the selection, provision and deployment of the mobile solutions which included:

  • Scanning
  • Voice
  • RFID
  • Mobile Device Management

A key project success factor was the seamless interaction of the SAP EWM system and the Automatic Guided Vehicle systems and controls. This would not have been possible without the close partnership between Rocket and EK Automation. Rocket’s Operational Technology (OT) & automation integration experts worked closely with EK Automation AGVs specialists following Rocket's proven warehouse automation integration approach to create a well-aligned and tightly integrated robotic solution at the heart of the fresh milk dairy.

As a certified Vocollect 'VoiceDirect for SAP' implementation partner, Rocket was fully responsible for all aspects of the SAP voice solution.

Support

Rocket provided go-live and high attention support during the ramp-up of the new site. This then transitioned into a multi-year third line application support for SAP EWM, fully integrated into the global support structure used by Arla.

Project Management & Governance

The project was successfully achieved with a diversely experienced team from Rocket, including an SAP EWM solution architect with process and application consultants, a technical architect leading a team of specialist developers, mobile technology and warehouse automation integration experts. This team was coordinated under Rocket project management using the Rocket mission control implementation methodology and toolset, within which are specific constructs for managing the complexities of warehouse automation projects with multiple partners and the essential need for process design, technical integration and delivery alignment.

Business Outcomes & Benefits

Creating the world's largest liquid dairy was an ambitious goal from the outset, however, it has been successfully achieved with the site able to manage over one billion litres of milk per annum thanks to the SAP EWM software, as well as advanced process technologies such as the AGVs and mobile solutions. Not only that, but Arla achieved their goal of creating a carbon-neutral facility and has been recognised for the achievement of the inspirational vision, innovation and integration of the site and solution as a whole. Furthermore, the project succeeded in creating a strategic platform with flexible warehouse templates for future expansion which has been rapidly rolled out to support multiple new dairies since the initial two template go-lives (Aylesbury and Hatfield).

Benefit highlights include:

  • Opex Reduction - Cold-Store Automation / Robotics - the integrated solution across SAP EWM and the AGVs have delivered a significant reduction in operating expense (Opex) through labour savings.
  • Traceability 1000 x faster - using mobile scanning and RFID technology has allowed significantly improved traceability data and processing.
  • Productivity increased - manual operations for small-picking are significantly faster with fully embedded SAP Voice technology.
  • Clear management information - who is doing what, where and when.
  • Improved operations management - SAP EWM warehouse monitor used to provide real-time visibility of information as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for reporting.
  • Wave simulation – custom solution to enable better decision making at wave release.

"The level of technological innovation that has been installed is inspiring and it all works together as an integrated whole; creating not just a super dairy but a vision of the dairy for the future. Arla Foods has created not only a more efficient operation but also one that is environmentally friendly.”

— Director of the Best Factory Awards, Professor Marek Szwejczewski explained why Arla Aylesbury won.

"I can’t say enough good things about Rocket. They understand the business and our processes. Some of the vendors we’ve used in the past have been good at the technical stuff, but they don’t really think about the impact to the business process. Rocket are much more of a solutions consultant package than just a technical consultant."

— Senior Solution Consultant for Warehouse and Distribution at Arla Foods

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