Cold comfort for Ardo"


Ardo is one of the biggest frozen food companies in Europe, picking, freezing, storing and transporting over 520,000 tonnes of produce across eight countries every year. Due to rapidly increasing volumes, the company needed to consider automation for its central cold storage facility based in Ardooie, Belgium. In 2010, it opened its impressive new 235,000m3 automated warehouse, the largest of its kind in Europe.
The family business, which now has an annual turnover in excess of €566m, turned to logistics integrator, Savoye, to provide the solution to its supply chain challenge. This complex project was made even more demanding due to the fact that most of the warehouse operated in temperatures of minus 22oC.

The challenge

A key consideration for Ardo and Savoye was the sheer variety of pallets and totes used in the frozen food sector. Ardo also used a number of different sized pallets, that all had to be accommodated by whichever automation system was eventually developed.
Another important challenge lay in the fact that the number of stock keeping units (SKUs) would constantly increase, to keep up with the growth in retailers’ brands, mix of products and promotions, which all need individual reference numbers.

The solution

Having assessed several automated options, including cranes, Ardo decided to go down the flexible route, utilising Savoye’s Magmatic solution. This provides higher utilisation and flexibility within the warehouse, as each shuttle vehicle operates individually, employing a lift system to access the high bay storage areas.

The Magmatic system at Ardo is controlled by a bespoke WMS, which links goods in to the sub-zero storage area as well as the picking area (for fast moving goods) and the despatch area.

In order to achieve maximum logistical efficiencies, Ardo wanted to achieve a loading time of 30 minutes for full loads. While this is easy if all of the products are the same, the challenge is far greater once Ardo’s wide range of product types and number of delivery locations is taken into account. Given the fact that a typical fully laden truck can hold up to 33 different loads for scheduled stops, a sequencing solution was integral to the success of the warehouse solution proposed by Savoye.

Another key element of the total solution was the new refrigerated high bay storage area, measuring 36m high, 91m wide and 72m long. Boasting a total volume of 235,000m3, the new facility represents one of the largest cold store warehouses of its kind in Europe. Operating with an impressive 31,400 euro pallets, Ardo’s new distribution hub can now achieve a fill rate of 99 per cent – world class performance by any measure.

The huge cold store area is served by Savoye’s Magmatic system, which in this case consists of eight vehicles. These self-powered VMs run on racking served by three elevators. 

Closely linked to the sequencing capability is order picking, which is divided into three distinct areas; fast moving products; slow moving produce and items requiring shrink wrap/labelling. This area of the warehouse can handle a far larger assortment of products in a much smaller area. This has been largely achieved by the use of intelligent IT, working with the Savoye Magmatic solution to bring ordered batches of goods to the sorting area.

Ardo’s project manager, Ignace Kint, said: “This project represents a significant investment for Ardo, that wanted to embrace automation to achieve world-class supply chain performance in a number of specific areas. Specifically, we wanted to set new standards in the areas of cold storage, retrieval, picking and despatch. We are delighted to have achieved all of these objectives within the often taxing sub-zero environment.