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Food Distribution

Boxed Beef Distributing

Introducing an automated inventory management system

Conveyor and palletizing system in a food warehouse

The Client

A beef processor headquartered in the Midwest United States, that produces fresh, chilled, and further processed beef and beef by-products for clients worldwide. The company’s main products include branded boxed beef, client-ready beef, portion-control beef, and wet blue leather.

The Challenge

For years, beef plants have succeeded in being very efficient on the production side yet struggled with antiquated systems for picking and shipping on the distribution side. This company needed a new concept for picking and storing single boxes of beef and a new inventory management system.

The Solution

KPI produced an award-winning simulation detailing an automated inventory management system solution that would change everything. With the client’s approval of the design and their belief in our commitment to the implementation of the project, KPI was chosen as the supplier for a new, totally automated material handling system. KPI refined the basic concept of bringing boxes of beef from the plant into the automated box storage system. Some of the technologies that were implemented include:

  • Stacked horizontal carousels with front-end robots that store and retrieve specific SKUs by date, age & weight. The boxes are stored in the carousels with one box per shelf location. This allows them to retrieve any one of tens of thousands of different cases at any time. These cases are stored and retrieved without ever having to be touched by personnel.
  • Once retrieved, boxes are sorted to an accumulation deck. Here, orders are pre-staged in accumulation lanes until a complete pallet of cases has arrived.
  • After leaving the accumulation deck, boxes are then sent to in-line palletizers. Their rugged design allows high throughput rates of up to 50 cases per minute, per machine.
  • After palletizing and stretch wrapping, the pallets are then delivered to one of two locations. Some pallets are ready for shipping and sent straight to the shipping dock. The remaining pallets are held in a Unit Load Crane System. The pallets are automatically delivered via conveyor to the crane which delivers and retrieves them to and from a storage position in the rack system. They are held here until the time of shipment.

Conveyor systems that support this process typically include over 5,000 feet of powered conveyors and multiple high-speed shoe sorters with numerous divert locations.

These box storage systems have the capacity for 6,500 head of cattle to be processed through a plant every day creating up to 58,000 boxes of beef.

Solution Highlights:

The entire inventory management system implemented at this site is virtually a hands-free operation. In many instances, boxes of beef are delivered, stored, picked, and shipped without ever being touched by a human hand. Record shipments are happening regularly with efficiencies that would never have been achievable before the implementation of this new inventory management system.

The Value:

  • Pick any box, any time from the storage area
  • Build mixed pallets by layer, by SKU type, by age and by weight
  • Load trailer in route stop sequence by SKU, by age and by weight
  • Pre-stage loads when needed
  • Handle peak rates of up to 90 cases per minute coming from the case sealer rooms
  • 50,000 sq. ft. building, 65 ft. high building, 16,000 sq. ft. mezzanine
  • 70,000 outbound / 70,000 inbound boxes every 24 hours
  • 6,500 head of cattle processed through a plant every day creating up to 58,000 boxes of beef

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