Briefing: Sigma Alimentos desires automation for new expansion

Sigma Alimentos, Mexico’s top producer of refrigerated and frozen foods, recently installed a Westfalia Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) at their new distribution center in Monterrey, Mexico. This new refrigerated distribution center was Sigma’s first automated warehouse, and utilizes Westfalia’s Savanna.NET® Warehouse Management System (WMS).

A division of Grupo Alfa, Sigma operates one of Mexico’s largest refrigerated distribution networks and leads the Mexican market in processed meat and cheese products, with brands that include Chalet and El Cazo Mexicano. Its products are sold throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and the US. The company also holds exclusive rights to produce yogurt under the Yoplait brand in Mexico and Central America and to distribute Oscar Mayer products in Mexico.

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Case Study: Sigma Alimentos desires automation for new expansion

Challenge: Pallet Storage and Case Order Picking at 1st tier DC

Due to their success and growth, Sigma determined the need for a new distribution center to support a number of smaller, second tier distribution centers. The new facility was partially under construction as a conventional operation when it was determined by Sigma that they desired to automate the facility. One parameter of the project was the need to use the already installed steel framing structure in the building instead of tearing it down and starting over.

Sigma Alimentos required the new cooler (40° F) distribution center to support full pallet storage, case picking, buffering of pre-picked items for future retrieval and truck loading, and the automation of the inventory management process to support all their warehousing operations.  Sigma's pallets are 40” x 48” and weigh up to 3,300 lbs. fully loaded.  Westfalia’s Savanna.NET® Warehouse Management System would need to interface with Sigma’s existing host software system. Westfalia designers worked closely with Sigma’s executives to define and meet specific requirements using both standard and customized system elements.

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

The Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) configured by Westfalia to fit within the existing structure includes two Storage/Retrieval Machines (S/RM), one in each aisle, plus a center pick tunnel within the rack structure.  Unique system features include order picking lanes on both the outside and within the AS/RS rack structure, two and four-pallet capacity high speed transfer cars, accumulation conveyors at shipping, stretch wrapping and the ability to add dual (two) load handling capability on each of the S/RM’s for future expansion in capacity “throughput.”   The conveying system includes 3-strand, CDLR’s, gravity rollers, right angle transfer cars, a newly designed quad transfer car, a pallet squaring station, a slave board dispenser and an electric pallet dispenser.  All pallet movements and machinery are controlled by Savanna.Net and interface to Sigma’s SAP host software.

It is Westfalia’s patented Satellite® technology which permits such an innovative design. The Satellite® load handling device moves pallets quickly and smoothly in and out of the racks and onto the S/RM.  The entire system is capable of placing pallets loads up to 12 pallets deep in a single storage lane, and of having various lane depths within a single aisle.  In Sigma's case, pallets will be stored 4-deep and 5-deep in storage lanes.

Pallets with cases of meat / cheese/ etc. enter the AS/RS from the shipping/receiving dock. Each pallet is conveyed to a squaring station, where it is centered on the conveyor, profile checked and scanned for identification.  If a pallet load is outside the predefined load envelope, it is rejected and pushed into a reject lane.  Rejected pallets require forklift removal and correction before being placed in the system again via the manual input station.

Pallets that pass the profile check and scanning station are conveyed to the infeed of either S/RM, and are placed in the storage rack as directed by Savanna.NET® WMS.  When selected for shipping, the Satellite® load carrying device enters the rack, as directed by Savanna.NET, and loads it on the Storage/Retrieval Machine (S/RM).

Westfalia’s Savanna.NET® WMS will manage all products as they travel through the distribution center, including order picking. With its modular structure, Savanna.NET® is capable of adapting and integrating individual logistics requirements, such as the case and carton picking, along with full pallet demand, SKU organization and the order consolidation Sigma requires.

System Features:

  • Capacity:

    • 3,349 pallet storage positions
    • 3 level rack structure
    • 4 - and 5- deep pallet lane depths
    • 290+ pick faces via internal center rack pick tunnel and 2 outside rack pick lanes
  • Technology:

    • 2 Storage/Retrieval Machines (40 degree F cooler)
    • Conveyor System:  gravity rollers, CDLR, 3-strand, turntables, 2 or 4 pallet high speed transfer cars, right angle transfer cars, squaring station, & pallet dispenser
  • WMS:

    • Savanna.NET® with integrated Order Picking Module, etc.....

System Benefits:

  • 40% increase in storage density with a Multiple-Deep AS/RS
  • 30% reduction in energy costs, 30% due to efficiencies of AS/RS systems 
  • 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
  • Increase in employee productivity and safety
  • Handles current storage needs, and leaves more space to accommodate projected growth

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