automated warehouse

Automation is Not One Size Fits All

A Continuation of the Series: Automation Is

February 03, 2022

Not all automated warehouses are built the same. Understanding our customers’ needs and organizational outcomes are essential to adding the right amount and types of automation to our facility. Fundamentally, there are three broad approaches to automation as it applies to integration into the cold chain.

The fully automated warehouse.

The fully automated warehouse is a facility run by large scale, fully integrated robotic systems, outfitted with numerous cranes and rows of conveyors for inbound receiving and pallet building. While there will always be a supervisory human component in any facility, 95% of our fully automated warehousing is no-touch.

These new warehouse builds, combined with our algorithms and software, allow for major increases in storage density, throughput and capacity. As a benefit, these facilities are not encumbered by the height restrictions that forklifts impose on manual warehouses. Taller building heights provide flexibility in where we can locate a warehouse, including heavily populated areas.

Lineage Automation in Action: Bergen op Zoom

With a throughput of 5,500 inbound and outbound pallets per day and a maximum storage capacity of 180,000 pallets, our Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands, facility provides a glimpse into the future of cold chain automation. Bergen op Zoom only has 15 forklift drivers per shift.

The Bergen op Zoom facility came into being as a result of our relationship with a European commodity producer. Coordinating with our partner, we developed an electronic data interchange (EDI) that, when married with our warehouse management system software and then received by our I-point (inspection point), allows for a fully automated process from inbound truck to outbound truck.

We achieve such incredible throughput with approximately 100 team members, including one process controller. Acting essentially as a warehouse air traffic controller, the process controller is responsible for ensuring that the thousands of pallet positions on the expansive system of conveyors throughout the warehouse are synchronized properly. When a disruption occurs, it’s the process controller’s job to ensure that there’s no delay for the customer.

As automated processes scale and can build from other processes, Bergen op Zoom will one day be able to increase the overall storage capability to 280,000 pallet positions. Dedicated buildings such as the Bergen op Zoom facility can apply customized automation, specifications, designs and workflows based on a customer’s specific needs. The design specifications of a dedicated facility are a much less speculative exercise.