While handover occurred just before the busy Easter trading period, trust in Cimcorp’s automation led the grocery retailer to fly solo

 Cimcorp, a manufacturer and integrator of turnkey robotic order fulfillment and tire-handling solutions, announces its automated fresh food intralogistics solution is up and running in Mercadona’s new Zaragoza distribution center. This is the first of four automated systems the leading Spanish grocery retailer has ordered from Cimcorp, with the remaining three to be installed in new logistics facilities located in San Isidro, Huévar and Sagunto.

Javier Blasco, Mercadona1.jpgInstallation and commissioning at the Zaragoza distribution center was finalized just before Easter, the busiest time of the year for Mercadona. While installation teams often stay on site after handover to address any issues, trust in Cimcorp’s automation led Mercadona to fly solo. The simplicity of the automation made it easy to use, and there was no need for big team.

Javier Blasco, Warehouse Purchasing Coordinator for Mercadona, explained, “Our goal is to serve the orders of our stores with the highest possible quality, and we must know how to do it on our own. We had the confidence do to it this way, because the robustness and reliability of this solution has been verified during the assembly and commissioning, and our staff is trained to use it.”

Mercadona has ordered the same automation for all four of its new distribution centers. Each facility will have different climate zones for packed meat products and for fruit and vegetables. By using the same independent automation modules—with the number of modules scaled to meet the needs of each individual logistic center—Mercadona gains many benefits.

“Having modular solutions has advantages. All our personnel will know the installation regardless of in which city it is in. Additionally, it’s easier to scale up the solutions and standardize processes,” Blasco continued. “The best part has been sturdiness of the application; we haven’t had operational surprises with real orders, and we’ve been able to provide a guaranteed service to our stores.”

Lifetime learning leads to partnerships

Cimcorp’s partnership with Mercadona extends back to 2013, when the automation solutions provider implemented a fully automated order picking system for fresh produce at the retailer’s distribution center in Guadix, near Granada. However, the now finalized installation in Zaragoza marks the first time that Cimcorp acted as system integrator for leading Spanish company. Though COVID-19 created some challenges and limitations, Cimcorp’s project management expertise ensured the installation was ready on schedule, and, most importantly, prioritized everyone’s health and safety.

Jarkko Hakkarainen, General Manager of Cimcorp Iberia, said, “Designing optimal handling and control systems is only the first step in implementing intralogistics automation. Project management is hugely important element in the successful delivery of robotic solutions, but also in developing long-term partnerships. It is important that we are able to keep things in order even if things are not proceeding as planned. In these situations, quick response time and good adaptability are essential skills.”

Automation secures employee and food safety

Food safety and a temperature-controlled supply chain are always essential when dealing with groceries. In Cimcorp’s fresh food solution, there is no need for shelfing, which not only reduces costs, but also improves employee as well as product safety.

"In our solution, overhead gantry robots handle food crates that are stacked on the floor. So when you need to clean the area, there’s no need to climb up the ladders and check every shelf,” explained Hakkarainen. “Everything is on the floor, where it is safer and more ergonomic to clean.”

“Mercadona always prioritizes hygiene and quality in all products, whether in conventional or auto-mated warehouses,” commented Blasco.

Mercadona approach to automation is very human, also focusing on how the accuracy and quality of picked pallets, as well as shortened lead times, will benefit people. Although the total cost of owner-ship, purchase price, and cost of operation effected decision-making while sealing the deal with Cimcorp, Blasco highlighted that for Mercadona, it is always about employees and customers.

“Even if the economic values are important, they’re not the first priority—we prioritize good customer service, taking care of our personnel, and doing it in a sustainable way. The biggest advantage of automation is the reduction of errors to guarantee a better service for our stores and customers. The other main goal is to secure employee safety and avoid excessive workload,” said Blasco.

Better service level through last-moment fulfillment

To satisfy the diversity of delivery orders coming into logistic centers, grocery retailer needs fulfill-ment strategy capable of prioritizing orders as they come in. Cimcorp’s automation will enable Mercadona to handle any last-moment requests entering the supply chain that demand a shorter shipping and fulfillment cycle—without negatively affecting the rest of the fulfillment operations.

According to Blasco, the Easter season went smoothly and according to plan. “There were no major problems—as expected. Nothing remarkable happened.”