To adapt the loading process with Coca-Cola’s recently automated warehouse, Zetes designed a scanning system for forklifts and advised on the design of forklift attachments. Truck loading is now faster, more accurate, and safer.

Coca-Cola's production plant in the Netherlands (Dongen) produces 15 brands for the Dutch market. It supplies the distribution centres of the major supermarket chains, retail and catering businesses throughout the Netherlands. The company produces over 6 days in 7, 24 hours a day, in teams of 20 employees. For each shift, an average of between 50 to 80 lorries are loaded, depending on the weather – in fine weather, more lorries are loaded because the demand for cold drinks is greater.

Coca-Cola recently increased the efficiency of its warehouse processes which are becoming more and more automated. Pallet loading therefore had to be tailored to the processes, with respect to the safety standards. Coca-Cola looked for one type of forklift that is able to carry all the different types of pallets in the warehouse. Zetes conceived a scanning system to install on to the forklift trucks and also advised on the design of the forklift attachments which are able to simultaneously carry up to 3 pallets. Not only did this increase the productivity, but the accuracy and safety of the loading process also significantly improved.

Automation and Safety

The warehouse processes are subdivided into two lines:

  • storage and order processing of its own produced drinks
  • the reception, storage and order processing of supplied drinks

Pallets arrive in the last phase of both warehouse processes packed and labelled onto a conveyor belt. The labelling is done with a Zetes labelling system (Print&Apply).  16 forklift trucks drive back and forth to collect pallets from the conveyor belt and load them into the correct lorry. Loading is done in the open air, on an extensive lorry park, where each lorry has a fixed location.

About three years ago, the plant in Dongen made an automation step in the warehouse which included the introduction of the Print & Apply solution from Zetes. This automation required an acceleration of the loading process, in which safety was a top priority.

The scanning process was a great challenge. The forklifts were able to load up to three pallets, but only able to automatically scan two of these. If a third pallet was picked up, the driver had to get out of the forklift and scan in the third pallet manually with his handheld scanner. This led to time loss and dangerous situations.

High performance lift trucks and scanning system

Coca-Cola actually looked for new forklifts which were able to carry more pallets and also scan them automatically. Zetes was the lead in this project; Coca-Cola was familiar with the company given that it had already installed the labelling system. Zetes conceived a scanning system to put onto the new forklift trucks and also advised on the design of the forklift attachments. With this new system, one type of forklift can either carry 1 euro pallet, 1 block pallet, 2 euro pallets, 2 block pallets, 3 euro pallets or 12 ‘Dollies.

MotracLinde supplied electric trucks which could seamlessly run with the existing battery change and charging system. Durwen equipped forklifts with multi-use attachments and moveable holding devices.

Scan several pallets more quickly and more accurately

Zetes equipped each forklift with three moveable, very robust scanners and sensors on the front. The scanners were also provided with a stainless steel protective cover.

The scanners were able to read the labels on the pallets directly when driving up to them, given that due to the moveability of the scanners, they can read both horizontally and vertically. Then the forklift driver gets a message with the number of the lorry onto which the pallets must be loaded. All data is automatically forwarded to the Coca-Cola SAP system using the application developed by Zetes. The ingenuity of the application is based on its capacity to carry and detect the number of pallets and then use the necessary scanners.

Faster, more accurate, and safer loading

Kees Kroes, Logistics-Warehouse-Transport Manager at Coca-Cola Enterprises Netherlands, explains the advantages of this system: “Now the scanners can read the labels regardless of their position to the pallet, the accuracy has improved from 98% to 99.9%. Furthermore, thanks to the installation of the automatic scanners and the sensors the loading process was considerably faster, gaining 6 minutes for each lorry.”

The safety of the loading process, as a major priority, has also improved. “When picking up three pallets, the driver of the forklift no longer has to get out to scan the third pallet manually. The risk of accidents has therefore been reduced to an absolute minimum”, says Kees Kroes.

Thinking Out of the Box

According to Kees Kroes, the three partners, on the instigation of Zetes, have provided excellent work: “The first forklift truck developed by these three parties together was so good that a test phase was actually not necessary. MotracLinde, Durwen, and Zetes are all innovative specialists in their area that dare to think out of the box and think along with us as a customer, and that shows.”

This unique project received strong support internally and will perhaps also be rolled out throughout Europe in the other Coca-Cola plants.