Case study: Automated transport and storage systems for thermally insulated containers

Case study: Automated transport and storage systems for thermally insulated containers Problem description

The Client had a problem in the form of a bottleneck ? insufficient efficiency of the transport process carried out with fork lifts and manual washing of thermally insulated containers. Also the insufficient capacity of the buffer zone, dispersed in the areas where containers returning from branches were received and in the re-packaging areas became a problem.


Optimisation of transport processes by way of minimisation of washing, loading, and transport time for thermally insulated containers and increasing the buffer zone's capacity.

Solution applied

Europa Systems has designed, manufactured, and implemented in the distribution centre a multi-level, automatic system for transporting thermally-insulated containers of the following dimensions: height: 2,150 mm, length: 1200 mm, width 900 mm. The system is comprised of two independent handling lines of chain conveyors and transport lifts with electrical drive. The line has been also integrated with container washing devices. The transport of thermally insulated containers in the entire system, from the loading station to washing and drying devices, and then from the washing point to the buffer zone and further to the collection zone, is automatic. The work of forklift operators has been reduced to restoring the thermally insulated containers to free storage locations and collecting them from the collection points. Elimination of forklift transport limited the number of warehouse movements, which has translated directly into increased safety in the enterprise. The buffer zone in which thermally insulated containers are cooled down to 2–5°C is closed by two high-speed doors. Thanks to the gates, consumption of energy necessary to maintain the appropriate temperature in the buffer zone has been minimised.

Benefits achieved
  • The area use has been even quadrupled
  • Creation of a buffer zone for up to 600 TKT containers
  • Reduction of cooling energy costs
  • Increased security
The investment has quickly translated into productivity growth. In addition, the following benefits have been achieved:
  1. Increased efficiency of the distribution centre? the automation of the transport and buffering process and the integration of the system with washing devices have significantly improved the quality and efficiency of the warehousing and transport processes related to thermally insulated containers, combined with washing and cooling to the required temperature. The automation made it possible to introduce an entirely new functionality, while at the same time increasing the warehouse's capacity without the need to increase headcount.
  2. Space-saving - taking advantage of the maximum height of the warehouse and implementing a multi-level system enabled to use the available space to the most. The company has gained a buffer area for thermally insulated containers which is more than 4 times larger than previously.
  3. Reduction of energy costs - increasing the capacity of the buffer zone to 600 thermally insulated containers generates savings in the costs of energy necessary to cool down the containers.
  4. Better product control - the whole system – within an input-output relation – is based on the FIFO model which makes it possible to fully control the products stored in the warehouse.
  5. Safety - When designing the system, a lot of attention has been given to safety, considered as a multifaceted issue. First of all, threats resulting from forklift traffic which was reduced to the loading and unloading areas, have been significantly reduced. In the system itself, the most advanced devices supporting use safety have been installed. On the basis of a highly detailed risk analysis, a security system has been developed and implemented, based on the full access control of hazardous zones, complying in this scope with the requirements of the Machine directive and EU standards in their strictest interpretation. The secure automatic system control ensures a well-developed control system equipped in operator panels visualising the status of the whole handling and warehousing system. The system is also equipped, among other things, with extensive auto-diagnostic functions, which significantly simplifies servicing activities as well as the tele-service function enabling remote support of the Client by way of manufacturer's access to the control system via the Internet.

Europa Systems had produced and implemented or modernised transport and buffering systems for thermally insulated containers for 90 distribution centres of global chain retail trade companies.