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Swisslog and KUKA are automating the distribution logistics at Almarai

With the automation of the flow of goods, the Saudi dairy company Almarai intends to increase the efficiency of its logistics. The goal: having processes run more quickly, transit quantities increased and costs reduced. The solution for the proposed improvements is delivered by Swisslog, supported by KUKA.

The initial situation

The Saudi Arabian group Almarai is one of the largest vertically integrated dairy companies in the world. It also produces fruit juices, baked goods, poultry and infant formula – fresh foods and refrigerated foods as well as long-life foods. The largest Almarai factory is situated in Al Kharj. In order to efficiently manage the complex flows of goods at that location, Almarai decided to perform a complete strategic reorientation of its logistics.
The Almarai production and logistics buildings stand in the middle of the desert in Al Kharj, a good hour and a half’s drive from the Saudi capital city of Riad.

The task

Almarai intends to continue its decades of success and expand on its competitive position.  This is why the complete distribution logistics will be automated and related processes will be optimized – from intralogistics solutions and commissioning systems to delivery chain management and maintenance. While doing so, the highest regulatory requirements regarding processing and handling of foodstuffs must be satisfied. In addition, the complex climatic conditions have to be taken into account. While the components may be installed at extremely high temperatures, subsequently when the logistics center is in operation the systems have to work in a refrigerated environment at three to five degrees Centigrade.
Swisslog experts in Obernburg are testing the system concept for the new Almarai logistics center.

The solution

A great advantage is the experience in the region that both Swisslog and KUKA have. A further advantage is the expertise of the two companies which are united within the KUKA Group. Swisslog is providing Almarai with several warehouses for palletized finished goods and a fully automated picking and goods distribution center. Swisslog is also managing five sub-projects which implement the internal logistics systems within the various factories; step by step so that the company can continue to operate at the same time. The multi-million euro project includes supply and installation of the following components:
  • storage and retrieval machines
  • conveyors
  • refrigerated trucks (Automatic Reefer Loading System, ARLS)
  • systems for automatic loading of HGVs
  • automatic picking modules supplied by KUKA 
  • electric monorail suspension systems
  • SAP’s warehouse management system to control the material flows and data intelligently and efficiently
A monorail suspension system conveys the pallets within the extended Almarai production complex. In the logistics center alone there are 40 monorail trolleys in use.
The hub and pivot of the automation is the newly built logistics center (Consolidation Facility). This provides space for intermediate storage of entire pallets containing a single product, picking goods on to customer’s pallets and preparing them for dispatch – for the most part without laborious manual work. The Consolidation Facility is immediately adjacent to the production buildings and each area of the logistics center is cooled, so that all goods – be they fresh or long-life – can be processed without delay. Here, three KUKA systems at six stations carry out the task of picking and palletizing customers’ orders.
Using a vacuum gripper, the KUKA robot picks up the layers of fruit juice cartons and places them in a specified position in the buffer area.

Thanks to the combined experience of Swisslog and KUKA, Almarai benefits from a solution which enables future growth and embodies the age of ‘industry 4.0’ with state-of-the-art, robot-based automation supported by data management.

Urs Hofer, Project Manager at Swisslog Warehouse & Distribution Solutions

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