Continuous high performance logistics in the deep freeze chamber.


La Provençale: BOXer small parts warehouse (AKL) as hub for food distribution

As a reaction to the continuing growth of the Luxembourg food wholesaler La Provençale, the intralogistics at the location in Leudelange have been converted to provide a completely new base. The heart of this solution is a fully automatic deep freeze high bay warehouse capable of an hourly retrieval rate of 600 trays. In combination with imaginative strategies, this performance is provided by three stacker cranes from the BOXer series from the Swiss intralogistic system provider, Stöcklin Logistik AG. 

Even a brief excerpt from La Provençale’s offer is enough to make even gourmet mouths water: Truffles, goose and duck liver, caviar, crustaceans, anti-pasta and tapenade, seasonal specialties from local fruit and vegetable farmers, exotic fruits and spices. It also includes a large selection of organic and fairtrade products, which simultaneously satisfy highest quality demands while being procured directly from the producer.

Precisely this fine feeling for the spirit of the times and consumer preferences are the reasons for the success of this Luxembourg family enterprise, which was founded in 1969 and has developed into the leading food wholesalers in the region. The continuously changing assortment presently includes more than 35,000 items. Thankful customers include hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, catering companies, airlines, hospitals, supermarkets, grocery stores, bakeries and butcher shops.

Customers receive deliveries six days a week. A company-owned vehicle fleet consisting of approx. 130 refrigerated trucks ensures that hygiene regulations are observed during distribution as well as preparation and storage and that the cooling chain is not interrupted. This ensures that even professional gastronomers from Germany, France and Belgium can be confident that the sensitive goods will reach their destination on time with the desired quality as required for health reasons.

Culinary variety from one company

“At peak times we handle up to 2,000 orders a day”, said Georges Eischen, one of the three business managers at La Provençale. The requirements for high performance and simultaneously flexible intralogistics are accordingly high. “We obtained this objective by reorganizing our storage and picking facilities.” Instead of growing horizontally, those responsible at La Provençale have nearly doubled the storage space at the present location in the vertical direction. Existing buildings were torn down and replaced by a new complex, containing a 14 meter high deep freeze, high bay storage facility as well as a two story hall for handling fresh and dairy products, fruit and vegetables as well as non-food products.

The deep freeze, high bay warehouse serves, among other things, for intermediate storage of high quality frozen articles. In this central function area, La Provençale is completely automated.

“The company profits from optimum space utilization, swiftness, maximum throughput, zero-errors and decreasing process costs”

summarized Stöcklin Sales Manager Domenico Palombo this decision combined with advantages, which pay for themselves in terms of quality as well as cash.

Special aspects of deep freeze logistics as challenge

The prerequisite is consistently reliable availability, which, in the deep freeze logistics sector, requires verified good condition - similar to extreme athletes, who achieve peak performance at temperatures below freezing. Here we are dealing with technical components, which have to provide the required performance without doubt under arctic conditions. And they also have to be low maintenance with long service life.

“To adapt our standard elements for operation in areas with temperatures down to minus 30 degrees Celsius, we rely on the experience we have collected over many years in the course of realizing numerous automated deep freeze storage facilities”

explained Christian Kuner, responsible Manager for Mechanical Components and Small Parts Equipment. The prerequisite is high quality components such as thermally resistant drives and reliable sensors. Just as important in the selection of materials are special types of oil and grease. For example, the viscosity of conventional lubricants increases rapidly under deep freeze conditions.

Another subject important in La Provençale’s deep freeze operations is building costs. In comparison to a manual version, the automated solution from Stöcklin reduces the space requirements by one half. Moreover automation also has other decisive advantages: In addition to accelerated handling of the sensitive, and therefore time-critical goods, the FEFO (First Expired First Out) principle is ensured, which is of elementary significance in view of the stringent requirements placed on the foods industry.

BOXer: Proven storage and retrieval unit for small parts storage

The new automatic small parts warehouse (AKL) offers space for storing 9,000 full trays (600 x 400 mm) or 18,000 half trays (300 x 400 mm). The trays are handled by three automatic stacker cranes, moving in aisles with lengths of approx. 46 meters. These machines from the Stöcklin BOXer family perform their work at ambient temperatures of minus 22 degrees Celsius. The two mast version of the BOXer small parts units (D2) are each equipped with two independent, telescopic load handling devices, allowing goods to be stored double deep as well as quadruple deep depending on the load handling device chosen. The total permissible weight for the half trays is 15 kilograms, for the full trays this value is 30 kilograms.

The BOXer performance is provided by a form-fit omega travel drive, ensuring maximum dynamics, minimum wear and comparatively low power requirements. The mast, with its proven light weight aluminum lattice structure, and the jerk-free curve travel also guarantee vibration-free operation. Generally corrective travel for repositioning is not required.

The service quality is guaranteed permanently even at peaks.

The trays are fed in by a shuttle running in the storage rack. During each cycle the system picks up two full or half trays from the preceding conveyor unit and transfers these to one of the BOXer units.

An elaborate concept resulted from the excellent cooperation with SR Consulting, as the planned solution for storage and retrieval. The stacker cranes do not move in the shelf zone as otherwise usual, but rather transfer the load units to a specific position X below the shelf. From here the trays are moved directly into the picking area. The great advantage of this solution is the reduction in the travel routes. In this manner it was possible to significantly increase the overall storage and retrieval rate in comparison to a conventional link. At peak times, in the summer, for example, when restaurants are booming, up to 600 trays per hour can be retrieved from the three small parts warehouse (AKL) aisles.

“Here at La Provençale we are very satisfied with this special solution custom tailored to our requirements”, added Georges Eischen. “At the bottom line, availability is the decisive criterion for successful sales in a challenging market environment.”

Customers of this food wholesaler don’t need to keep large stocks themselves; they can depend on being supplied with the required goods from Leudelange within a very short time on a ‘just in time’ basis. Thus the new intralogistic technology forms an important buttress for the quality of La Provençale’s deliveries and service. The high volume utilization achieved with this compact, multiple depth storage in combination with the energy efficient design of the Stöcklin BOXer stacker cranes have reduced the operating costs.