High performance distribution center for GRUPO BIMBO sets new standards


Construction has commenced. After nearly two years of planning, Stöcklin, has begun realization of a fully automatic distribution center in Mexico City as general contractor for GRUPO BIMBO. In the future this automated distribution center will supply over 100 subdistribution centers and a number of major customers in the greater metropolitan area. The new distribution center for the world’s leading manufacturer of baked goods is distinguished by maximum turn-over figures while guaranteeing error-free and efficient order handling around the clock seven days a week. Moreover the Warehouse Management System including material flow computer places special requirements on the solution competency of the intralogistics system supplier.

A small bakery in an alley in Mexico City established in 1945 provided the corner stone for the success story of GRUPO BIMBO. Today the company numbers among the largest international foodstuff producers, asserting its position as one of the world’s leading producers of baked goods. This continuously growing group is presently represented by 105 plants in 18 countries, employing nearly 130,000 personnel, with net proceeds of over
13 billion euros. The basic ingredients for this success are: Bread, rolls, cookies, pies, tortillas, snacks and all sorts of baked goods – to meet every taste.

Maximum performance for moderate investment and operating costs

In view of the expansion strategy promoted vehemently for years, the food supply chain implemented by the manufacturer proved to be no longer sustainable in the long term. It was necessary to find a solution to facilitate the processes while providing significantly more efficiency. Here it was necessary to consider all flows of goods between the production facilities and the subdistribution centers right up to the points of sale.
After completing a primary evaluation of various, well known system suppliers, BIMBO placed its confidence in the expertise of the Mexican Stöcklin offices in realigning its distribution logistics for the future.

“Maximum performance and best possible service at lowest possible cost”,

was the slogan. “We were requested to develop a concept, which took into account the immense turnover quantities as well as the operational peculiarities to be considered, from production to final consumer” reported Peter Riesterer, Managing Director at Stöcklin Logistics de México S.A. de C.V., with regard to the challenges associated with this mega project.

The BIMBO subdistribution centers are still being supplied directly from the production plants. In the future this will be handled using central hubs, which will take over a hub function for handling all empty containers as well as ensuring timely, quantity-oriented distribution of finished products. “The classic requirements such as high supply availability and quality with continuously shorter shipping times, dictated by ever increasing dynamics on the market, are satisfied with minimum space requirements and maximum efficiency - and this at the lowest possible costs for investment and operation”, continued Peter Riesterer.

Meticulous planning and project development

Realization required completion of a comprehensive preliminary planning and development phase. Here it was necessary to evaluate nearly 5 million sets of data to determine the order and stock quantities to be handled in the future as well as the structure of the orders themselves. Within the scope of data analysis and the growth and peak time factors to be considered, it soon became clear, that single stage order processing, as used in the past, would no longer suffice to meet the continuously increasing requirements. The GRUPO BIMBO’s willingness to adapt the existing distribution structures to match the quantities to be processed in the future, made it possible to implement a solution comprising two stages for picking and order processing.

This new concept requires that stocking orders for one entire day be known to the greatest extent at least 24 hours before shipment, be processed by the warehouse management system (WMS) and consolidated on an article basis. For each of the more than 100 subdistribution centers to be supplied, this means picking and consolidating the entire daily requirement for one type of article for one or more ordering parties , and forwarding these to the local subdistribution centers according to a delivery schedule with fixed timing. There the consolidated articles can then be picked for the individual orders and shipped to the points of sale as unmixed orders. Parallel to this, empty containers returned to the main distribution center in Azcapotzalco from the subdistribution centers, are washed and stored for a short time before being returned to the production plants.

Following development of the concept, the planned layout was analyzed by simulation based on actual data. Feasibility tests for critical components for the robots intended for use in the scope of fully automatic picking – such as grippers –, support this concept, providing valuable parallel information, which is incorporated directly into the further planning. Finally, the Stöcklin team completed a detailed list of specifications for the WMS to be used, worked out the quantities of resources actually required at the personnel level and calculated the budget for the entire investment.

Balanced automation concept custom tailored to requirements

After completion the new BIMBO distribution center comprises a two-story building with a width of 76 m and length of 192 m. The ground floor contains the receiving and shipping departments, block storage areas for fresh goods and an automatic picking line. The upper floor is equipped with two additional, fully automatic picking stations with sufficient space for manual picking. Moreover block storage for empty containers as well as storage racks for partial pallets and a washing station for empty containers are located here.

The high bay warehouse with a capacity of 24,576 pallet storage spaces, with double depth storage, is structurally an extension of the logistic building with a length of 100 m, width of 60 m and a respectable height of 43 m, forming an impressive landmark visible from afar. Nearly 7,000 pallets are anticipated daily in receiving, and during the same period of time, the shipping department handles up to 8,000 pallets, which are then transferred to approximately 400 trucks waiting at 32 ramps. Over 300,000 containers leave the automatic and manual picking facilities each day.

Intelligent strategies for automatic carrier picking

The heart of the new distribution center, which also posed the greatest technical challenge, is fully automatic picking from the floor. The design for this area required a high degree of creativity combined with technical knowhow. In the end the partners decided in favor of a solution for picking only complete or demi-carrier towers, however not individual carriers. The advantage here is that the motion required for the robots is reduced to a feasible extent.

In practice it looks like this: Pallets loaded with five carrier towers each are moved from high bay storage on the second floor by electric monorails to one of the two picking cells on the second floor or to the third cell on the ground floor. The wrapping foil is removed manually at the upstream work station for safety reasons. Then the pallets run through a mechanism, where the towers are pushed off automatically and transfered to the conveying equipment. In the next step they are separated and transported to a transfer station in front of a robot cell. The gripper picks up the carrier towers intended for replenishment and transfers them to a free storage location on the floor. Each cell has a capacity of approximately 990 carrier towers.

Each carrier to be picked is gripped by the robots as a demi-tower and transferred to the upstream transport equipment. They are then forwarded to a stacking device, where they are reorganized to form complete towers. These are then transported to a station where the towers are pushed onto a previously provided pallet. Finally the units are wrapped automatically, marked with a barcode and transported on to the shipping department.

The load units are fed in from the automatic and manual picking stations on the second floor as well as from high bay storage using electric monorails as well as four vertical lift modules. Fresh products from the dynamic storage facilities on the ground floor are transported by the upstream conveying equipment to the shipping area. Here the concept provides for buffering the shipping pallets in correct sequence on the finished goods lines in four individual subsections.. Such a process is necessary, because the trucks are loaded from the rear and each trip includes up to three unloading points.

High performance hub between production and point of sale

Even during the detailed engineering phase, the responsible staff members at GRUPO BIMBO and Stöcklin worked out detailed function specifications for the WMS. All business processes were agreed on and clearly defined in workshops lasting several days. Due to the complexity of the processes to be realized in the distribution center, this was an essential phase for the success of the project within the scope of project development.

Primary objectives were, for example, exact online stock control, substantially reduced process costs and reliable, automatic processes in combination with minimized resource requirements. Continuously reproducible processes also form the basis for meaningful statistics, allowing continuous optimization of material flow and personnel assignments. And finally the administrative costs are also reduced. Orders are processed centrally and coordination between the distribution warehouse, subdistribution centers and branch facilities is improved. The new XXL storage facility at the outskirts of Mexico City is planned to go into service the middle of 2019.

“The commission for this prestigious project once again confirms the market leadership of the Stöcklin Group in Mexico – a successful achievement resulting from top quality products and professional project realization as well as local availability and high performance service”,

summarized Peter Riesterer. Here customer proximity is guaranteed, ensuring quick reaction times. These criteria are imminently important for BIMBO’s new distribution center to permanently guarantee maximum availability and highest turnover performance in 24/7 operation.

GRUPO BIMBO confirmed its confidence in the Stöcklin Group by equipping three decentralized subdistribution centers with state-of-the-art intralogistic technology parallel to realization of the new distribution center.

As general contractor, Stöcklin Logistik AG is responsible for the following subsystems:

  • Building-supporting racks
  • 8 Automatic Stacker Cranes
  • Pallet transport equipment with 10 elevators, including 4 double elevators and 4 shuttle cars
  • Electric monorail with 58 cars
  • 3 Picking cells with 2 robots each for automatic floor picking from carriers.
  • Material flow computer for control of subsystems
  • Warehouse Management System for automatic and manual order processing, including yard management
  • Planning, delivery and installation of entire, highly redundant IT network infrastructure, including server, switches, storage and WLAN components