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Inside Retail & Dematic

Bolloré Logistics has taken its 3PL services to the next level with Dematic

(Source: Supplied)

With the growing demand for e-commerce, fierce global competition and increased consumer expectations of faster delivery times, retailers and brands have been ramping up their efforts to accelerate order fulfilment capabilities while keeping costs low.

Driven by strong growth in the region and the need for accuracy, speed and productivity, Bolloré Logistics has recently ramped up its existing distribution facilities, partnering with intelligent automated solutions provider, Dematic, to build new automated systems for order fulfilment at its ‘Green Hub’ and new ‘Blue Hub’ facilities. These automated systems are designed to support Bolloré Logistics’ growing customer base including several cosmetics and luxury product brands.

Bolloré Logistics is a global leader in international transport & logistics and a tier-1 partner to some of the world’s best-known brands. The company opened in Singapore in 1983 and has since grown into a key regional centre with the largest distribution operations for the company in Asia-Pacific. Bolloré Logistics Singapore has grown to more than 1600 employees with 210,000sqm of warehousing operations across 14 locations.

Building on the success of Green Hub, the company planned another facility to support further growth of its business and to help it expand the number of clients it could service, particularly in the perfume and cosmetics sector.

For its new 50,000sqm Blue Hub distribution centre, Bolloré Logistics and Dematic worked in partnership to drive further productivity improvements with a focus on solution innovation and the adoption of new technology.

Home to a fleet of robotic shuttles and the tallest conveyors in Southeast Asia, it takes just 20 minutes for an order in the eight-storey Blue Hub to be picked, packed and labelled, ready for delivery. It offers an innovative automation solution providing space-efficient storage with fast and accurate picking to meet the expectations of Bolloré Logistics’ clients. Blue Hub was designed and built from the ground up to cater for business transformation in terms of omnichannel distribution, especially in the growing area of e-commerce.

“Now, goods are going from everywhere to everywhere,” said Frederic Marcerou, Managing Director at Bolloré Logistics Singapore.

There were three main business drivers in mind when building this customised distribution centre, Marcerou said. “Here in Singapore, a big component is the cost of the space. So automation is helping us with storage densification to reduce our footprint. And this is the first big advantage.

“The second one is in terms of productivity. We are able to be much more productive than we were in the past when pickers went into the aisles, to each shelf, doing manual picking.” 

And the third one, which is as important, is operational excellence. This system allows us to improve our operational excellence and the service we are giving to our clients.”

Considering the scarcity of land in Singapore and the value of floor space, economical use of space was critical to the project.

Bolloré Logistics’ brief to Dematic was for a system that:

  • Could service multiple clients on multiple floors.
  • Supported both retail and e-commerce channels.
  • Provided space-efficient storage capacity.
  • Adopted automation to maximise productivity and reduce manual processes.

To meet these requirements, Dematic designed an integrated order fulfilment system with a central storage and order picking area, but with customer-specific value-added services, packing and sorting areas arranged on different levels of the building.

At the heart of the automation is an eight-aisle Dematic Multishuttle storage and retrieval system which securely stores more than 35,000 totes of products. The Multishuttle works as a high-rate fulfilment engine, delivering these totes to pickers at seven ergonomically designed workstations, where operators fulfil orders whilst remaining in the one place, rather than having to travel around the distribution centre to locate products. This “goods-to-person” methodology streamlines the fulfilment process, improving productivity, reducing operating costs, and improving workplace safety and health for operators.

The Dematic Multishuttle system.

The system design allows Bolloré Logistics to easily turn on and off capacity and to suit operational demand and provides flexibility to adapt to changes in SKU range and order profiles including both retail and e-commerce orders. Servicing both B2B and e-commerce distribution channels, the system can handle a large range of SKUs in a small footprint.

The system delivers not only very high-rate, accurate and ergonomic picking, but also efficient order packing and processing with automated carton assembly, lidding and labelling.

Bolloré Logistics and Dematic worked in partnership to drive further productivity improvements with a focus on solution innovation and the adoption of new technology. This included a pilot project using Dematic robotic picking cells which can support orders being picked, packed and labelled for dispatch by a specialised picking robot, without the involvement of an operator.

A major challenge with both hub projects was working out how to minimise disruption to operations while the expansion was being carried out. Certain tasks needed to be done outside normal working hours to avoid any interruption and Dematic’s project team were called on to conduct careful planning and flawless execution.

“Planning and scheduling had to be precise to avoid clashes with operations and to maintain supply,” explained Green Hub Manager Ingrid Caes. “It’s a crucial balancing act that both Bolloré and Dematic teams successfully pulled off.”

The partnership between Bolloré Logistics and Dematic didn’t just work – it thrived. The two companies worked closely together through the entire process, and in doing so, were able to optimise Blue Hub.

“Collaboration was definitely a key success factor for this project,” explained Patrick Escalle, Bolloré Logistics Director. “From design through to installation and commissioning, Dematic has been outstanding in delivering to promise, coordinating with our team and helping us achieve our target business outcomes.”

With Dematic automation at the Blue Hub facility, Bolloré Logistics is experiencing significant improvements to operational excellence.

“Gone are the days where our employees had to push carts from aisle to aisle or carry heavy cartons off the shelf and put them back after picking. With less workplace injury, we are seeing bigger smiles on our employees’ faces,” said Jennifer Deng, assistant warehouse manager at Bolloré Logistics Singapore.

“The software brings together all automated equipment in the warehouse. This enables us to view orders, schedules, and stock inventory status, all on one screen. Most importantly, better data visualisation has helped to streamline our process to reach our optimised performance. Our core goal is to continuously grow and improve ourselves, and bring more value-creating ideas to our customers. With the Dematic system, we can now plan our labour and anticipate trends based on demand, achieving more efficiency.” she added.

The Dematic GTP at Bollore Green Hub.

In providing all the specific skills needed for such a project, Dematic used its depth of in-house resources covering all disciplines from project management to site management to software, mechanical, electrical and controls engineering. To ensure maximum system uptime, Dematic provides Bolloré Logistics with a comprehensive service and support offering including an on-site residential service team and 24/7 remote software support.

“The good organisation, coordination and communication between both teams, as well as the resources deployed by Dematic, have allowed us to deliver a complex project on time and to our exact requirements,” said Clement Trupcevic, Blue Hub Integration Manager. “It was a rewarding and satisfying 18-month journey together.”

“We were able to complete the installation on time and on budget,” adds Deng. “We received terrific support from the Dematic team when going live and the hands-on training sessions made a big difference in helping us understand and familiarise ourselves with the new system. The team was there to support us every step of the way and was quick to help solve any challenges that arose as we were going live.”

Read more about Bolloré Logistics’ Singapore transformation here.