When refrigeration meets automation: a perfect warehouse match for Schaal Chocolatier
Schaal Chocolatier, one of the leading companies making luxury chocolates, automates its supply chain in France
With 150 years of expertise and tradition, Schaal Chocolatier is a leading French manufacturer of high quality chocolate.
Located in Strasburg, the company is extremely demanding when it comes to the quality of its products. Accordingly, it has its own distributors of cocoa in Ecuador and of hazelnuts in south-west France. The company features a wide variety of chocolate candies and eggs in addition to original gourmet creations.
It boasts a catalogue of 600 SKUs while offering its customers personalised chocolate delights.
The company recently opened a 2,000-square-metre warehouse noted for its fully automated operations.
This facility was designed and built by Mecalux to store and dispatch Schaal’s products.
The main reasons for building this warehouse were to eliminate all externalised storage of finished products and to enhance the quality of our goods by keeping them at a constant temperature. And, last but not least, we wanted to accommodate all our production workshops.
The automated warehouse is connected to Schaal’s production centre and consists of 5 aisles, each with a twin-mast stacker crane.
Standing 16 metres tall, this storage system has 8 storage levels, single-deep racks and capacity for 6,200 pallets.
Mecalux has installed a conveyor line, charged with moving inbound and outbound pallets containing product, and a transfer car, which distributes those pallets in the different aisles of the automated warehouse.
Once in the aisles, the stacker cranes deposit or remove the pallets from their corresponding locations.
The 4-storey production centre is seamlessly connected to the automated warehouse to streamline goods entries and exits without interrupting processes.
The 4 main aisles that make up this facility work at a temperature of 14 °C.
The first aisle houses semi-finished goods and the moulds needed for production.
The next 3 aisles store the finished products, raw materials and packaging.
The fifth and last aisle operates at 5 °C and also manages finished products and raw materials.
The stacker cranes travel at a speed of 120 metres per minute and have a lift speed of 38 metres per minute. These stacker cranes are also adapted to handle different pallet sizes: 800 by 1,200-millimetre Euro pallets and 1,000 by 1,200-millimetre GMA pallets.
This facility provides us with numerous advantages. Stacker cranes ensure the immediate availability of products and less handling of pallets, which is very important. Plus, they bring flexibility to the management of storage space because these machines control and optimise slots in the warehouse. And one last benefit is that the warehouse provides information on stock and on product movements in real time.
This warehouse is equipped to respond efficiently to the various peaks in demand seen throughout the year.
During high consumption periods — from September to February — the facility distributes up to 240 pallets a day, compared to 180 pallets a day the rest of the year.
We needed to have a storage capacity of almost 12 months and for the chocolate not to lose any of its qualities beyond that time. And we’ve achieved this by lowering the temperature. This low temperature is ideal for chocolate, as it helps to prolong its shelf life. The solution proposed by Mecalux with two different zones — one operating at 14 degrees and another at 5 degrees based on season and product — was exactly what we needed.
Just beside the loading docks are 2 pick stations. Operators manning these stations receive the pallets directly from the automated warehouse. They then sort and group the goods by order.
Easy WMS, the warehouse management system from Mecalux, serves as the brain of the facility.
The main advantage this WMS has given us is management of semi-finished products. Previously, these goods remained in our workshops and were managed manually. Now, once the products have been manufactured, the warehouse and the WMS software enable us to identify the goods and, thus, to better monitor and preserve them.
The software supervises location management and goods outflows in real time.
Likewise, it takes into account the temperature at which each product entering the warehouse should be stored, assigning it a location according to its demand: high-demand goods are placed closer to the exit, while low-demand ones are slotted further away.
We chose Mecalux because of its experience and know-how in warehouse management, which are recognised internationally. The interpersonal relationship was also vital for me; it’s essential to be able to trust and respect the people you’re working with. And this trust undoubtedly facilitates the exchange of ideas, contributing towards the success of the project.
With this automated warehouse, Schaal Chocolatier has maximised space in its production centre. It also knows and can control the status of its stock in real time. As a result, it has increased the productivity of its warehouse, allowing it to effectively handle the continuous growth of its business.