Combilo is a successful wholesaler for the import and export of fresh fruit and vegetables. Based in Waddinxveen in the Netherlands, it has access to an extensive network of growers, supplying high quality greenhouse and outdoor grown produce to customers all over Europe and beyond.
As the demand for freshness and traceability has soared, the company has adapted and expanded its operation. From small beginnings in 1924, it now handles up to 300,000 cartons a day. In addition to offering storage and transshipment facilities, it also packages products from suppliers including their partner company Van Nature. In both instances, the priority is always the same: Combilo fruit and vegetables: always fresh, always safe and always healthy.
This increase in trade and the introduction of new product groups meant the company had outgrown its existing premises. They therefore commissioned a new 23,000 m2 state- of- the- art logistics hub.
Whilst the exterior design was already established, their requirements for the interior meant they wanted a company who could offer expertise in finding solutions for their very labour intensive storage. A number of companies were asked to submit ideas, and on the advice of their architect, they chose Dexion.
Unlike others who were asked to bid for the project, the Dexion team took the time to discuss what Combilo wanted to achieve. Their research enabled them to gain a deep understanding of the issues associated with storing perishable and time-sensitive items.
This knowledge helped Dexion to draw up detailed plans that addressed all the issues, and led to a solution that put traceability and accessibility at its core. The recommendation was to use automated processing lines, which can bundle together products from different growers, packing and dispatching on time according to clients’ specifications. The products that would achieve this were Dexion Cart Push- Back Trolleys.
Cart Push-back Trolleys work on the Last in First out (LIFO) principle. They provide high-density live storage so the picking teams can have quick and easy access to loads. Pallets can be loaded and unloaded from the same aisle face which reduces truck travel distances and cycle times. As the pushback channels are not too deep, and the racks are equipped with 4 or 5 trolleys, blocks of 4-5 or euro pallets per channel can be achieved. The advantage is that the goods can be stored in separate channels per batch of the various suppliers. For example, Combilo can dispose of the products of supplier A on the top level and the products of supplier B on the bottom two levels.
Trolleys come in a range of sizes to suit all types and sizes of pallets. To be prepared for the future, Dexion recommended increasing the pallet load of 1,200 kg. to 1,400 kg. This is particularly useful for citrus fruits to allow them to be stored at every level. The trolleys are also made deeper, namely 1.050 mm. This is "only" 50 mm longer, but ensures that pallets with over-bloom can simply be stored and the risk of damage is reduced. The unique shape of the trolley ensures that the pallets are horizontal, which prevents damage and the risk of the load falling. The coloured 'operating fins' ensure that the operator can see how many pallets are in a storage channel. The operator can also use these fins to place a next pallet in the rack without the pallets or loading being touched.
In the design phase Dexion also took into account the mast height of the forklift truck. The lower pallets are simply on the building floor and the forklift truck may only have a certain height of the mast to enable easy access to these pallets. Thanks to good engineering, Dexion came up with the most optimal height layout of the pushback racks. The pushback racks have protectors, a guard rail over the entire depth of the channel and at the rear the ground level is fitted with corner lines. In this way, collision damage is prevented as much as possible. The frames and beams, the rails and trolleys are entirely made of pre galvanized steel.
Combilo now has the ultimate future-proof cold store with pushback racks, suitable for the storage of up to 2,000 block pallets.
“We had never purchased storage racking before, so this was new to us. Dexion gave us a good feeling through detailed drawings with exact dimensions. Also the advice to adjust a few things so that we are prepared for the future ensures that we are flexible in where and what we want to save. The extra cost of a heavier system was, considering the entire project, relatively acceptable, so the choice was not that difficult.”
Richard van Bergenhenegouwen, Director Operations & Logistics. Combilo.
With fruit and veg, as with any other business sector: time is money. Any product on the road for too long will lose its appeal, with a corresponding loss of value. Bridging the distance between grower and buyer is a challenge that has to be met as smoothly, fluently and as quickly as possible.