British Sugar: automated systems to meet future supply chain challenges

British Sugar has consolidated its logistics processes thanks to the speed and efficiency of its new warehouse at the Wissington refinery.

Video transcription

Having a single provider such as Mecalux, who were able to supply and provide both the automation and software solutions, provided benefits during the design and the commissioning phase, but has also proved invaluable now that the system is operational.

Michael Burton Customer Supply Lead

British Sugar, founded in 1912, is the main producer of sugar in Great Britain and Ireland.

The British company produces 1.3 million tons of sugar a year in its 4 production centers.

The village of Wissington is home to one of British Sugar’s most iconic facilities: the biggest sugar refinery in Europe.

Logistic operations are crucial to British Sugar's business strategy. We're committed to being supplier of choice for our customers, and this involves optimizing our post-silo network, of which logistics are a critical part.

Michael Burton Customer Supply Lead

To drive its growth rate, British Sugar has turned to technology. Mecalux has developed an automated solution that speeds up handling and storage operations, maximizes available surface area, and ensures precise product traceability.

The new warehouse, connected automatically to the production center, is equipped with the Pallet Shuttle system with stacker cranes. The solution, which automates all product movements, allows British Sugar to speed up storage tasks and efficiently cope with increased demand.

Composed of 6 aisles, the automated warehouse can store 4,500 pallets and is equipped with 6 pallet shuttles and 6 stacker cranes.

Innovation is at the heart of everything we do and crucial to our factories of the future. And so we're continuously looking to improve our operation. Part of this is optimizing our warehouse, which, in turn, is vital for meeting the needs of our customers and becoming that supplier of choice.

Michael Burton Customer Supply Lead

The stacker cranes take the pallets to the right storage location. Then, a pallet shuttle moves along the channels to store and retrieve the goods entirely autonomously.

The British Sugar facility also has a pallet conveyor system that connects the warehouse to the production center and automates the transfer of finished products from the production lines.

The automated Pallet Shuttle system with stacker cranes and the pallet conveyors allow the company to achieve the necessary cycle times to meet customer demand.

Another cornerstone of British Sugar’s supply chain is digitization. Mecalux’s Easy WMS software directs the logistics processes and manages the stored goods in real time.

Easy WMS ensures strict control of the goods and the traceability of stock from the moment it arrives from production until it is shipped to customers. As a result of the solution designed and implemented by Mecalux, British Sugar’s automated warehouse carries out around 3,000 product movements per day: 1,500 new pallets from the production lines, which are stored automatically, and 1,500 additional pallets that are shipped to customers all over Europe.

The logistics process begins when the finished products from the production lines are placed on the conveyor at the front of the automated warehouse.

Once the products reach the checkpoint, the Easy WMS management software checks that the pallets meet the requirements for storage.

The pallet conveyors connect the automated warehouse with production and distribute the goods among the 6 aisles.

The stacker crane, with the pallet shuttle in its cradle, collects the goods from the conveyor and transfers them to the storage channel assigned by Easy WMS. The pallet shuttle takes the pallet to the first free position in the storage channel. The control of movements with Easy WMS ensures total traceability in real time of all SKUs stored.

With Easy WMS, goods are shipped efficiently and without errors. The system ensures on-time order delivery and guarantees customer satisfaction.

In the dispatch zone, managed by Easy WMS, British Sugar’s facility has a system for making truck loading easier and faster. It consists of 4 conveyor lines where the goods to be shipped are grouped. Operators load the goods through the truck’s side openings. With this system, as many as 104 pallets per hour can be loaded, or one truck with 26 pallets every 15 minutes. A secondary loading dock has also been set up in the warehouse for loading products through the back of the truck.

Automation's provided a number of benefits, most notably the improvements in safety and health as a result of the reduction of forklift movements within the warehouse.
Being a supplier of choice, it is extremely important that we have full traceability of our product. Easy WMS allows in-depth analysis, if needed, to understand the full history and origin of any pallet within the warehouse.
British Sugar is an agile business, and it's crucial that we've got the flexibility between our systems and plant to manage fluctuations within our production demand effortlessly and seamlessly.

Michael Burton Customer Supply Lead

British Sugar has consolidated its logistics processes thanks to the speed and efficiency of its new warehouse at the Wissington refinery.

Mecalux, as the one-stop provider of this logistics solution, has reaffirmed British Sugar’s commitment to innovation and technology, providing the right automated systems to meet future supply chain challenges.