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UNFI Implements Process Improvements, New SAE Technology


United Natural Foods advancing initiatives to improve its supply chain

Providence, Rhode Island-based United Natural Foods Inc. has announced further actions to improve its supply chain capabilities and overall customer experience as part of its four-part transformation agenda.

These actions include improved operating procedures, increased associate training programs and the deployment of technological improvements, such as the rollout of Systems Application Enterprises Inc. “SAE” scanning technology. It also plans for a new Symbotic Inc. A.I.-powered robotics and software automation system to be installed at its 1.15 million-square-foot Centralia, Washington, distribution center.

“The efficiency of our supply chain is fundamental to our customer experience. We have been engaged in a detailed review focused on broadly improving our operations,” said Erin Horvath, UNFI’s chief supply chain transformation officer.

“This includes strengthening our standard operating procedures across our 56 distribution centers, training associates for improved speed and accuracy, and implementing technology and automation tools to enable greater network capacity, scalability and profitability. Our goal is for customers to benefit from the comprehensive and innovative product offerings we provide, while continuing to make doing business with UNFI easier and our end-to-end supply chain more efficient.”

For the past year, UNFI has been working with SAE to implement three of its distribution technology solutions to help modernize UNFI’s distribution capabilities:

  • Selector Pro, which directs scan-based selection activities to improve order accuracy while providing visibility throughout the warehouse;
  • Loader Pro, which directs scan-based loading activities to ensure accuracy and efficiency of outbound deliveries; and
  • Driver Pro, which focuses on “proof-of-delivery,” providing scan-based validation that each customer order has been delivered accurately.

These tools are being utilized in 18 UNFI distribution centers with plans to implement them into additional distribution centers.

UNFI’s Centralia distribution center will be the first facility to receive the new automation systems. Symbotic’s end-to-end solution will be used within Centralia’s dry grocery area to enhance operational capabilities and efficiency, improve order accuracy for customers and better organize products on pallets.

“Our Centralia distribution center supports a large customer base in the Pacific Northwest, including retailers in Alaska and export customers through the Port of Washington,” Horvath said.

“To support our growth and a robust retailer base in this region, we’ll be deploying automation to improve the service we provide retailers, better manage external labor resources and create a more efficient operating network system in the Pacific Northwest over time. These actions are key pillars of our overall transformation agenda, including our mission to invest in service, quality and efficiency improvements for our existing and future customers and delivering more profitability for our shareholders.”

UNFI’s preparation work for the installation of the Symbotic automation system in Centralia is scheduled to begin this month with plans for testing, training and the full rollout of the new system anticipated in 2024.

To learn more about UNFI, visit unfi.com.

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