Smithfield Foods Inc. and Lineage Logistics have announced the opening of an automated, next-generation distribution center in Olathe, Kansas.
“We are thrilled to announce the opening of the state-of-the-art facility that Lineage designed and built for Smithfield in Olathe,” said Greg Lehmkuhl, president and CEO of Lineage. “At Lineage, we seek to partner with customers who are dedicated to transforming the food supply chain and, by leveraging our innovation and expertise, Smithfield will optimize their operations for speed and efficiency.”
Lineage designed and built the new facility to enhance Smithfield’s distribution network, which supplies thousands of destinations with frequent shipments of protein in varying quantities. Spanning nearly 20 million cubic feet with over 62,000 pallet positions, the distribution center’s innovations provide new levels of operational efficiency and reliability via automation.
At the facility’s core are 18 automated cranes that move inventory into, out of and within the facility, which also features one of the largest temperature-controlled layer-picking systems in the world. Layer-pickers disassemble and reassemble pallets of goods, a process previously performed manually. As a result, the robotics and software fully automate over 97 percent of the product movement through the facility.
Lineage sponsored academic research in mathematics to determine how to schedule and dispatch components in the facility, increasing throughput capability. Computer vision systems automatically identify the contents of each pallet, decreasing the building footprint. Lineage’s technology teams refined the robotic layout in simulation, stress-testing it against high growth, food holidays and even March 2020 panic-buying.
The facility also features Lineage’s patented blast cell technology that reduces freeze time and energy use by approximately one-half relative to traditional blast cells, aligning with Smithfield’s industry leading commitment to sustainability. Smithfield has pledged to become carbon negative, reduce GHG emissions 30 percent and halve food waste in its U.S. company owned operations by 2030.
“As a major food company feeding a growing global population sustainably, we’re continually working to implement enhancements across our value chain, including our distribution network, to support our customers and reduce our environmental footprint,” said Shane Smith, President and CEO of Smithfield. “We’re pleased to partner with an innovation-driven company like Lineage to further optimize our operations and better serve our customers. ”
The facility will also feature Lineage Link, a customer experience platform that provides Smithfield with access, visibility and control to their products. With the ability to see inventory levels and receive timely alerts, Smithfield can place the necessary orders and schedule the shipments to ensure their product reaches consumers when it is needed. This platform in turn interacts with the operating software to ensure the tasks are prioritized for the requisite appointments to maintain the highest level of throughput and productivity.