Sustainable process solution for frozen french fries


The joint venture Lamb Weston Belaya Dacha has invested 115 million euros in the construction of a new, cutting-edge factory to produce french fries in the Russian city of Lipetsk. Attached is a deep-freeze, high-bay storage warehouse that will be used for the distribution to McDonald’s restaurants across the country—from Moscow to Murmansk.

Belaya Dacha was founded in 1918 as an agricultural business. One hundred years later, the company has grown into today's Belaya Dacha Group and established itself as Russia’s leading producer of prepared salads and vegetable products, with additional activity in the real estate business. The new, state-of-the-art factory in Lipetsk, located southeast of Moscow, is a joint undertaking between Belaya Dacha and Lamb Weston / Meijer, Netherlands, one of the world’s leading brands for high-quality potato products.

The construction was connected with the goal of establishing—for the first time—a highly automated factory for the processing of potatoes in Central Russia, in order to be able to provide the domestic market with quality products from local farms. This ambitious venture was supported by subsidies from the Russian government’s state program to assist domestic farmers and companies in expanding their production. The new factory is expected to reach its full capacity of around 200,000 tons of potatoes per year by the end of 2019. The primary customers of the prepared foods are, in addition to McDonald’s, other fast-food chains like KFC and Burger King.

The art of the potato, recalibrated

The architecturally ambitious factory was officially opened on April 25, 2018 in Lipetsk. “This plant is one of the key projects for the Belaya Dacha Group. I am delighted that we were able to combine our knowledge and extensive international experience in french fry production with a partner from abroad. We are convinced that we will be able to successfully implement the new approach to food production in Russia with this new factory,” said Victor Semenov, Supervisory Board Chairman of the Belaya Dacha Group, at the celebratory opening event.

The integrated deep-freeze high-bay warehouse went into operation in January in the same year. The 38-meter-high system, which features rack-supported building construction, has around 14,100 pallet spaces, and is entirely integrated with production from a logistically-technical standpoint. Both the deep-lane storage, which is served by a shuttle, and the conveying technology in front of it are chilled to a constant -20 oC, so that the quality of the products temporarily stored there remains flawless. Executing the project took a mere 14 months.

Optimal performance in ice-cold temperatures

“The intralogistics partner’s job was to put a fully automated system into place with the highest possible performance and storage capacity,” explains Wladislaw Jaroschewski, Systems and Equipment Division, Stöcklin Logistik AG, Dornach. Drawing on new, cutting-edge fabrication lines, this system was expected to display a comparable level of technology. “In this context, and in light of the small number of SKUs —a total of seven—we recommended deep-lane storage and compact storage solution in combination with Stöcklin Logistik’s PowerShuttle,” the head of sales in Russia continued. “Joint visits to reference systems in Europe and great personal dedication were the deciding factors that convinced us to trust Stöcklin Logistics to implement this project,” describes Andrey Kochubey, Technical Director at Lamb Weston Belaya Dacha. The Swiss intralogistics company’s strength in innovation, which was previously known to the Dutch co-investor, only reinforced this decision.

The safety concept was also compelling. To provide the required level of fire protection, Stöcklin constructed the system as an inert storage space where the oxygen content was reduced to 16%. That sort of atmosphere prevents fires from spreading. If a fire somehow develops, the flames are extinguished nearly immediately. “Another advantage in comparison with the more common sprinkler technology is that goods are not damaged, or in a worst-case scenario completely destroyed, through the use of water to extinguish the fire,” adds Jaroschewski. In light of the permanently frozen environment, the components installed here had to meet the most demanding standards. Both the mechanical and electrical elements had to be cold-resistant. Oils, lubricants and seals, which are used in the operation of all storage and conveying installations, are also affected by the cold.

High-density storage with moderate operating costs

Goods sent from production initially pass through a pallet wrapping system. Next the load carriers are transferred to the conveying mechanism and their overall profiles are checked, in which heights of up to 2.125 meters are allowed. The weight of the euro-pallets, including the load, may not exceed 750 kilograms. After passing through the high-speed door, the pallets are sent along and prepared for storage in the deep-freeze, high-bay storage. Two stacker cranes, model MASTer 40 MD 2Z by Stöcklin Logistik, operate in two aisles there.

“From both the product and the order profiles, a concept using conventional single storage or even double-depth storage was not optimal,” says Jaroschewski. A solution that saves space with deep-lanes that store as many as eight fully loaded pallets offers a real return on investment. The ability to effectively use existing space with the help of channel storage is particularly valuable in the area of temperature-driven logistics. Because, in the end, every unused cubic meter uses energy and therefore costs money.

The job of placing goods into storage and then later removing them is handled by two PowerShuttles, which were also developed by the Swiss intralogistics specialist and manufactured in its Dornach factory. Storage locations are determined by the Stöcklin Warehouse Management System (WMS). The best before date for the potato products and french fries practically provides FIFO order selection (first-in-first-out).

Shuttle car with integrated intelligence

The goods are placed into storage in the deep-freeze, high-bay storage system by the PowerShuttle, which is placed by a stacker crane into the desired lane of the shelving, where it then drives into the shelving using horizontal tracks. Then the pallet is set down—stored units that are needed are subsequently driven out of the shelving and removed. All of this takes place without a cable connection to the mother vehicle, because the shuttle communicates wirelessly. The exact positioning is set by means of a laser measurement device in combination with absolute encoders and sensors. The system, which is also suited for deep freeze functionality, is constructed as a Double-PowerShuttle, so that two pallets can be transferred simultaneously.

The drive is powered by an energy source with “supercaps” and an emergency battery (vehicle voltage 24 VDC). “These double-layer capacitors are recharged within ten seconds after driving through pressure contacts on the stacker crane,” adds Jaroschewski. “The long life of up to a million charging cycles is a tremendous advantage compared to conventional batteries." The integrated energy management continually monitors the supercaps for heat levels and operating voltage. The programmable logic controller (PLC) is constantly informed of the remaining available energy through the charge level monitoring. If the level falls below a threshold, the shuttle can be directly and safely returned to the mother vehicle. Unused brake energy is directed back into the battery, where it can be used for additional charging processes.

Prestigious project with national relevance

Since going live at the beginning of January 2018 and working through a subsequent stabilization phase, the deep-freeze, high-bay storage system allows for increased output of up to 1040 pallets per day (retrievals for 16 hrs/day). In combination with the channel storage and its PowerShuttles, the integrated conveying technology—which is managed and controlled by the modularly designed and user-friendly StöcklinWMS, including material flow computers—also contributes to this increased output. Pallets set for removal are transported toward the exit and pass along the way through a high-speed door installed to provide temperature protection. A double transfer trolley brings the pallets to shipping tracks in the form of gravity roller tracks, which place the pallets for loading into a truck.

The entire project team shares the satisfaction with its accomplishments in the Russian city of Lipetsk. “With this french fry production facility, which is based on the most modern technology, we are setting new standards for the production of food in our country,” emphasizes Andrey Kochubey of the joint venture Lamb Weston Belaya Dacha. “And the integrated deep-freeze, high-bay storage is truly a showpiece,” the project leader continues. “Our high inventory and relatively small number of SKUs can be stored in a space-saving manner while still being available for shipment in the quickest way possible, all thanks to the high-performance, completely automated storage and conveying technology.” If 200,000 tons of potatoes are processed per year at the end of 2019, this will now equate to a production output of around 100,000 tons of finished product. This level of production—processing that much volume—will not present a problem for intralogistics in Lipetsk: They are prepared for everything.