Briefing: Organic Valley seeks solutions to maximize space while protecting the environment

CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley Family of Farms is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers, and is known for its cheese, milk, eggs, butter and meat products. Westfalia Technologies, Inc. installed a high density Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) for CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley Family of Farms’ new 80,000 square feet distribution center in Cashton, Wisconsin. To keep the refrigerated and frozen warehouse running smoothly and efficiently, Westfalia also supplied their Savanna.NET® Warehouse Management System (WMS). The new distribution center gains environmental and operational efficiencies made possible by automation and consolidating the distribution under one roof, rather than multiple locations.

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Case Study: Organic Valley seeks solutions to maximize space while protecting the environment
“The new Organic Valley Distribution Center is a symbol of our co-op's growth and its ongoing commitment to creating sustainable communities through organic farming.” George Siemon, CEO

Challenge: Maximizing Cold Storage While Caring for the Environment

Due to their phenomenal growth, and projected growth, Organic Valley needed a logistics solution offering increased storage capacity and efficiency in their material handling processes. Central to Organic Valley’s core beliefs is caring for the environment and people by growing healthy organic food. Westfalia’s high density Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) meets both these core concerns. Organic Valley’s tremendous growth presented them with a distribution problem: renting warehouse space at five separate warehouses was a costly and inefficient method of distribution. This, plus the expectation of future growth as organic foods became mainstream foods; lead to the conclusion that a new company-owned centralized warehouse was needed. The location needed to be close to the co-op farmers and major highways, in order to reduce transportation costs. The facility would need to be large enough to store 10,000+ pallets of product, be able to handle projected future storage needs and it must be financially viable.

Solution: Go Green High Density AS/RS and Savanna.NET WMS

A small team led by Louise Hemstead, Organic Valley’s Chief Operating Officer began investigating warehousing options and locations. They were impressed by the space maximization and cost savings offered by an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS). They selected Westfalia’s high density multiple deep AS/RS and WMS. According to Louise Hemstead, “This AS/RS allows this facility to have a smaller footprint than typical warehouses. We want to use as few land resources as possible. We also expect the system will enhance our inventory management and virtually eliminate product loss due to expiration dates.”

Westfalia proposed a high density automated warehouse of 66,000 sq. ft, which is 40% smaller than the 110,000 sq. ft. conventional warehouse originally proposed. The taller, denser warehouse means less impact on the environment around the facility, in addition to lower construction costs for a smaller building footprint. The proposal benefited Organic Valley with a 30% reduction in their energy costs, as the cooler and freezer AS/RS sections utilize cooling energy much more efficiently than traditional warehouses. They gain another 10% in energy savings from other green features of the facility, such as denim insulation, white roofing, waterless urinals and automatic faucets.

Westfalia’s automated storage system consists of three Storage/Retrieval Machines (S/RMs) with two servicing the refrigerated area (35-40° F) and one servicing the frozen area (-10° F). Products having a variety of specific temperature requirements, such as produce, are stored in a conventional storage area located adjacent to the AS/RS. Savanna.NET® controls both the conventional and the automated areas. The AS/RS measures 80 feet tall, has 11 levels, and has the capacity to store 12,000 pallets of Organic Valley products. Flexibility is a key feature of the Westfalia design as this installation has the capability to store anywhere from 1 to 6 deep on the upper 10 levels.

The bottom level of the rack structure has integrated order picking tunnels where order selectors pick cases to a pallet jack. Products flow from the AS/RS to the picking lane, and fork lift trucks pick up pallets in designated areas. Food safety inspections occur for Organic Valley products on the lower level, as one case from each lot is taken away and tested. The second level has over 900 linear feet of conveyors, air-chain, roller, lift and right angle transfers to keep the products moving throughout the distribution center.

System Features:

  • Size:

    • 238' long, 146' wide, 77' high
  • Capacity:

    • 12,000 pallet storage positions
    • 11 levels
    • Variable depth lane storage from single to 11 deep
  • Technology:

    • 3 Storage/Retrieval Machines (2 cooler, 1 freezer)
    • Conveyor system: 16 air-chain, 31 CDLR, 1 lift, 10 3-strand and 6 right-angle transfers
    • Savanna.NET® with integrated order picking
  • Functionality:

    • Racks made of recycled steel
    • White roof to reflect heat
    • Recycled denim for interior wall insulation

System Benefits:

  • 40% increase in storage density with a Multiple-Deep AS/RS
  • 40% reduction in energy costs, 30% due to efficiencies of AS/RSs alone
  • Go Green with High Density design protects the environment – taller building design utilizes less land, less environmental impact
  • Efficient movement of all products within facility controlled and tracked by Savanna.NET® WMS = less waste and product loss
  • Integrated picking lane on lower level in rack structure
  • Increase in employee productivity and safety
  • Handles current storage needs, and leaves more space to accommodate projected growth
  • Employee safety is improved since employees are not moving heavy loads overhead as they would in a conventional warehouse.

Our Mission: To deliver unparalleled warehousing solutions by earning the trust of our customers, understanding their business needs and honoring the commitments we make.