Few industries are busier than the daily wares and food industry. What happens in this industry affects the whole planet on a daily basis. Dematic contacted us when they needed lift tables for a massive distribution center project in eastern Europe. They wanted to build one of the safest and most efficient distribution centers ever built. Easier said than done, especially when the center in question handles food items. Food items often equates to large quantities, specific temperatures, hygiene requirements, strict laws and various cumbersome precautions.
With help from VPG a project plan began to take shape. It needed to address the concerns mentioned above and Dematic also wanted to increase lifting productivity, profitability, safety, ergonomics and prevent work related injuries.
“The food industry is changing at its core,” says Detlev Doernbrack, Sales Manager at VPG.
“Previously focus was on the processes but it’s evident that speed and logistics are more important today. It’s about avoiding bottlenecks and guaranteeing swift deliveries even when demand fluctuates,” Detlev explains.
Ambient or Chilled
One of the challenges was to meet the strict hygiene and temperature requirements. Meaning that the equipment, working platforms and food items all needed to stay within the different temperature tolerances at all times. Two such are Ambient, 5-35 °C and Chilled, 0-4 °C. The working platforms and lift tables therefore had to operate well in cold temperatures, be easy to clean and withstand extensive wear and tear.
The solution was to equip the work stations differently depending on their placement and their function since the cold temperatures affect the platforms in multiple ways. The oil reacts differently when chilled and even the steel is affected. For example, when under stress in cold temperatures, steel can become more porous and weakened. Therefore the platforms and lifts were reinforced with stronger and corrosion resistant steel to ensure safe operations in the cold.
Ergonomics and Safety
The main purpose of the platform was to enable workers to safely and ergonomically work standing upright. To avoid unnecessary stress on the shoulders, neck or back. The finalized platform and lift therefore allows the worker to easily set the correct working height. The platform is also spacious, robust and is designed to reduce shaking, for safe and precise working conditions. Additionally, each type of platform is equipped with custom gates, safety equipment, adjustable buttons and kickplates. All custom built for the specific task of that working platform.
When storing and working with food items hygiene is of the utmost importance. As a result, stations and shelves often needed to be cleaned and disinfected. To minimize the risk of slipping, floors and steps were designed with a wet climate in mind and were covered with a non-slip covering.
Minimal Space Solution
Another challenge was to build well-equipped and flexible working platforms yet using the space efficiently. Even more so in a chilled environment where every square meter is especially costly. One such detail was the step or ladder required to reach the platform. To solve this issue we devised a telescope ladder that retracts automatically. A safe yet space saving solution.
An Ever Growing Need
I think it is safe to say that the food industry is one of the most important industries in the world. The better we become at efficiently producing, storing and delivering food, the more resources we will have to solve other important matters. A smartly built and efficient distribution center is at the heart of that development.
“To be able to quickly adapt storage needs, and be able to deliver faster, are some of the most important capabilities today for any logistics company. And to do it safely. I am stoked to have been part of this project and even though it has been hard at times the end result is always worth it,” Detlev concludes.