ECKES-GRANINI: Lean production and logistics with the help of automation

Europe’s leading juice manufacturer, Eckes-Granini, strived to make their overall operations in the factory leaner. After consulting with the Rocla AGV Solutions team, they decided to automate the shipping area to optimise their logistics process. The project is a textbook example of a simple yet efficient solution that brought instant value to the company.

Eckes-Granini Finland Oy Ab is part of Europe’s leading juice business group, Eckes-Granini Group GmbH. They make drinks from berries and fruits. In Finland, production is centralised at the Turku production facility on the southwest coast of Finland.

The primary goal for Eckes-Granini was to make operations more efficient by enabling two-shift operations. They wanted to be lean in both production and logistics, and automation supported this overall goal well. As part of Eckes-Granini’s path towards even more fluent and sustainable logistics, they chose to adopt the Rocla AGV system in the spring of 2023. AGVs are an energy-efficient solution using modern, maintenance-free, fast-charging batteries. The customer has used automation solutions in the past on production but not at the end of the internal material flows in the logistics department and dispatch area, so this was a new level of automation for them.

Cooperation and dedication: the key to a smooth project

The project with Rocla AGV Solutions started in May 2022 and took a total of about 12 months. This included everything from designing and manufacturing the AGVs to testing them before the customer could begin using them. Optimisation and testing were executed with extra care and precision as the vehicles were the first to comply with the new ISO safety standard.

Technical specs:

  • Area: 2 000 m2
  • Fleet size: 3 AGVs, compliant with ISO standard
  • Pallet locations: 3 pick-up locations, 32 drop-off buffer lines, a total of over 400 drop-off locations
  • Loads: EURO, half and quarter pallets
  • Lift heights: 1 m
  • Output: 350–500 pallets per day

Everything was ready for commissioning in the late spring of 2023. By that time, the customer site environment had also been prepared to fit the AGV functions, which included, for example, installing the reflectors and the chargers in the facility. Commissioning was scheduled with the customer to cause as minimal impact on the customer’s daily operation as possible. In the end, the commissioning was executed without interrupting the production at all.

“It was a pleasure working with such a cooperative customer who understood the demands of a new model that needed more attention initially. From the project manager’s point of view, it is rewarding to do things when the client has a deep understanding of his own processes and the guidelines are clear. Also, the client had a good project team, which accelerated the whole process and made it extra smooth,” says Jenni Perukangas, Project Manager, Rocla AGV Solutions.

Textbook example with concrete benefits

AGVs have been harnessed to serve tirelessly in the outbound shipping functionality. The AGVs transfer the loads coming from high bay warehouse conveyor stations to the floor buffer lanes ready for loading to lorries. In addition to moving full pallets, the AGVs also transfer stacks of empty pallets automatically to buffer lanes reserved solely for them.

FleetController shows the supervisor the real-time view of your fleet and operations. The graphic user interface displays the positions and statuses of the vehicles in different colours at a glance.

The automation made the outbound shipping possible in two shifts, and the material flows are now rationalised. Also, the efficiency improved: for example, there are agreed time windows for pick-ups when pick-up times are agreed for trucks, and the whole process can be optimised for efficiency. Now, the three vehicles – named by the Eckes-Granini staff after local singer legends and brothers Matti, Teppo and Seppo – tirelessly fill the outbound shipping area, increasing the efficient operative time. As a side effect of the automation process, the warehouse area has tidied up, as all items have a marked location on the factory’s dispatch area. In addition, Eckes-Granini was able to gain savings on the logistics costs.

Eckes-Granini’s automation is an excellent example of a well-executed standard application where AGVs excel in the automatic filling of the shipping area. It shows in practice that repetitive work is better to leave for machines to execute so that humans can focus on the tasks that require flexibility and creative decision-making.

“Eckes-Granini’s solution is a good textbook example of outbound application of AGVs, with concrete benefits to all; safety, efficiency and hours of operations are increased while human operators are given more rewarding tasks,” remarks Pekka Paavilainen, Sales Manager, Rocla AGV Solutions.

“Overall, the commissioning project went well with Rocla AGV Solutions. Before and especially during the go-live phase, their project crew really put in the extra hours to make the system work as planned and didn’t leave the site until the AGVs were set up as agreed. Even though we still need to optimise some of the features of this new automated process, we are sure that with the help of Rocla AGV Solutions, we gain all the objectives set for this project. We still have unused potential for this system; for the future, we’re already planning to extend the use of AGVs to 3-shifts by transporting incoming materials closer to our production and automating our internal material flows even further,” comments Harri Juntunen, Purchasing and Logistics Manager, Eckes-Granini Finland Oy Ab.