The central warehouse of online delivery service Knuspr in Garching covers 10,000 m², together with the Autostore Fresh facility. Up to 7,000 boxes can be filled and delivered to customers daily via the Autostore facility. "For fresh produce, we work with two temperature zones, with one zone at 4 to 6 degrees Celsius and the other at 9 to 11 degrees Celsius. The temperature in the freezer is -26 degrees," explains Head of Maintenance Christian Fieder, referring to the good quality of the fruit and vegetable products. Fieder accompanied us through the halls, together with press spokesman Manuel Kalleder.
The share of fresh produce in the total of 12,000 items is 26.2 percent.
"You don't find this quality in supermarkets. Admittedly, for some products we only have 5 tons available instead of 20 tons. But first, this means we throw away virtually nothing, and second, we can live up to our claim of always ensuring the freshest products for our customers. Since the shopping experience of stationary retail is missing, customers trust us to offer the items they would have chosen themselves," says Fieder.
Europe's first Autostore Fresh facility
"In the fresh food sector, we were pretty much the first in Europe to install an Autostore Fresh facility. In doing so, we worked out a concept with the manufacturer and distributor of the Autostore system to cover the entire system, including cooling, etc.," he explains. To support employee well-being, full-spectrum daylight lamps were installed over the ports, as well as anti-fatigue mats on the floor. "This also involves employees changing stations more frequently and working at different picking positions within the facility."
An employee picks up an empty crate from the conveyor belt, which she fills with the respective orders. The order was previously transmitted to the Autostore by the customer management system and displayed on a screen. Each crate is assigned a specific barcode that belongs to a particular order.
7,000 crates per day
"In the frozen area, frozen products are stored, palletized and pre-picked. The sizes of the facings on the shelves can be adjusted, depending on what the customer wants," says Fieder. "Using a carousel port, the boxes rotate continuously and are used for both storage and retrieval of goods. All goods that need to be refrigerated are delivered and pre-picked in the refrigerated area. This means that the goods are assembled here so that they can later be placed in the individual sectors accordingly. However, the added value and efficiency of the Autostore system start at the putaway stage."
A carousel port.
The Autostore is powered by 230-volt lithium-ion batteries. This is to keep the energy consumption of the electric motors as low and efficient as possible. "The lights in the hall basically use more electricity than the Autostore itself," Fieder says. The facility is continuously maintained, he adds. "Once a year, the distributor of the facility checks the entire system."
The Autostore's grid of 95 robots.
Autonomously driving, self-learning robots
In the grid, that is, on the surface with the tracks, the Autostore controller ensures that the robots do not get in each other's way. "There are 95 robots up here, all acting autonomously. There are charging stations on the walls, which the robots approach autonomously as soon as they need to recharge. At the individual bays, the robots are waiting to remove boxes from the bays as well as to insert new boxes into the bays. With each new order, the Autostore learns," says Fieder.
A chute below the grid, with a crate.
Employees fill crates below the grid. Photo: Knuspr
Food waste less than one percent
Further, "Save Me" bags discount products with minor blemishes, as well as deliver surplus goods to food-sharing organizations, while goods are picked up twice a week from community kitchens. "This way, we can reduce the percentage of goods that are not sold to less than one percent and the percentage of food that is actually then thrown away to even less than 0.1 percent," Kalleder emphasizes. Customers should be able to do their entire weekly shopping through Knuspr, which is why all other products such as washing powder, pet food, alcohol, etc. can be purchased in addition to fresh produce.
"Our passion is fresh produce, but it's still important that we offer a full range," Fieder says. "Due to our unique supply chain - mainly because the suppliers bring the food to us without intermediate storage and we also pass it on directly to the customer without dark stores or the like - we can guarantee fair prices without having to compromise on quality" adds Kalleder.
In the last station, the expedition area, orders are taken via the conveyor belt and sorted into shelves. "Half of this hall will be automated in the future. After successful implementation of the automation, the remaining manual part of the expedition will also be automated. The robots will then remove orders from the conveyor belt and place them on the shelves. Once the trip route for the orders is determined, the robots place the orders into the flow racks. The picked orders for the tours can then be loaded into our delivery vehicles more easily and quickly. We can then use the employees in the areas where we need more employees anyway." From the end of May/beginning of July, the conversion of the automation system in the expedition is scheduled to start and be completed by the end of August. Another warehouse is located in Bischofsheim near Frankfurt, which is around 8,000 m² in size.