Automation specialist ReflexSystems and Espera-Nederland, experienced in the field of pricing and labelling, had already worked together regularly to provide total solutions for meat and food manufacturers. Around sixty companies can now prove that this is a successful collaboration. The most recent example of this is the installation of Espera ES 7000 weighing and pricing lines, which are controlled by Reflex 3000 software, in the new factory of 2 Sisters Storteboom in Zeewolde. Because of this successful implementation, Meat&co. headed off to the south of Flevoland.
Innovative pricing & labelling
As part of the German parent company Espera-Werke, Espera-Nederland supplies custom-made machines ranging from simple, manually operated labelling machines to fully-automated weighing and pricing machines and total production solutions. “Espera stands for innovative pricing and labelling,” stresses Mischa Schmitz, Sales Manager for Espera-Nederland. “As a specialist in the field of specific applications, ‘unusual’ requirements do not pose a major challenge. From the base in Heeze in North Brabant, we not only supply packers of fresh food such as meat and chicken with machines and parts but we also provide an excellent service thanks to our motivated team of 20 employees.”
Becoming the best retail partner in the Netherlands in the field of fresh and frozen chicken products is the undisguised ambition of 2 Sisters Storteboom, an independent Dutch division of the British 2 Sisters Group Ltd since 2010. Strategic takeovers, such as Branderhorst Freshfood in Sprundel and Brink Pluimveeprodukten in Zeewolde, illustrate the hard work recently put in to achieve this ambition. Due to the active takeover policy, 2 Sisters Storteboom now has three slaughterhouses, three processing plants for the production and processing of filleted products and three other processing plants. The overall slaughtering capacity is around three million chickens a week. The capacity for filleted products is around 1400 tonnes a week and the overall group turnover amounts to 600 million euros.
The addition of Alfons Oortwijn in 2012 as Retail Operations Manager has strengthened the ranks of 2 Sisters Storteboom. Having already twelve years of experience working for a large meat company, Oortwijn now deals with the retail activities of the company from his base in Zeewolde. “As Europe’s leading poultry producer, the British 2 Sisters Food Group had always been retail oriented whereas Storteboom had little experience in retail. However, after the takeover by 2 Sisters, the company wanted to become the best Dutch retail partner as regards chicken products and therefore a retail division was set up in a new factory in Zeewolde. An important division has been added since the takeover of Branderhorst Freshfood, which is specialised in convenience products based on chicken, turkey and game.” Because of his years of retail experience, 2 Sisters requested Oortwijn for this job. “I first made a tour of the factory and wrote down my findings. The factory looked structurally sound and the logistics ran smoothly from buffer cell to dispatch. I then drew up a design based on these findings with instructions as to how the factory should look. The most important challenge was to keep the simplicity of the processes as this often poses the greatest problem when a company expands.”
Optimal order picking
The results of Oortwijn’s efforts is a purpose-built factory where different chicken products are produced, packed, weighed, labelled and picked for various major retailers. The range of fresh chicken products is mainly packed with Topseal technology. In addition, a wide range of chicken products is produced and frozen according to the Individually Quick Frozen method. An advanced machine park, organised logistics and optimal picking guarantee fast and correct deliveries to retailers. The Reflex 3000 software and the Flex 3000 registration system enable the fundamental information flows to be registered and controlled.
Securing one of the largest retailers in the Netherlands as new customer earlier this year was reason for 2 Sisters Storteboom to invest in six Espera-Nederland ES 7000 weighing and pricing lines. These lines are controlled using the Reflex 3000 programme. It took just a few weeks to successfully complete the implementation. “We were given the assignment to supply our software and hardware in May of this year,” explains Roy Meenderink, Head of Sales at ReflexSystems. “The labelling and order picking method was then determined together with the customer and Espera.
The starting points of the implementation were also specified: quick and problem free order picking, best-before date guarantees for the customer and the order completeness check at dispatch. Our database was then set up to ensure an optimal control of the Espera weighing and pricing lines. Espera gave us the implemented machine settings to ensure that these settings were in line with the Reflex 3000 database. It was important that the data input would completely meet the requirements of the 2 Sisters Storteboom. Once the EDI messaging data and the order picking process was set up, the first order was processed on the Espera lines with no trouble whatsoever.”
The ES 7000 weighing and pricing lines are now controlled by the production tasks specified in Reflex 3000. The weighing information and the labelling data of the chicken products that have Topseal packaging are relinked automatically to this programme,” explains Mischa Schmitz, Sales Manager of Espera-Nederland. “Our ES 7000 lines are not only equipped with a top and bottom printer but also with an extra dispenser to attach prime labels and special offer labels. Once weighed and priced, the products are transported to a sorting belt where they are sorted according to the retailer’s specific branch numbers. An operator scans the products for a branch using a mobile scanner. This information is then communicated back to Reflex. Finally, an order is given an SSCC label and is loaded on the lorry for transport.” Alfons Oortwijn is enthusiastic about the success of the project. “I had absolutely no need to worry about our software or the weighing and pricing lines during the implementation. It was a successful collaboration between ReflexSystems and Espera-Nederland who communicated excellently with each other and with us about everything.”
The first collaboration between ReflexSystems and Storteboom goes back to 2003. “That was the year that B&B Slasoft, as our company was then called, supplied seven Storteboom factories with Reflex 3000 software and Flex 3000 hardware,” explains Roy Meenderink, Head of Sales at ReflexSystems. “Four years later, Storteboom had a factory built in Poland, which we also automated. In 2009, Storteboom took over the company Veenhuizen that had branches in Nijkerk, Staphorst and Meppel. These branches were automated by ReflexSystems immediately and connected to the central database. Two years later, Storteboom was taken over by the British 2 Sisters Food Group and the 2 Sisters branch in Cuijk was added to the Storteboom group. In 2011, this branch was also automated. The most recent successful automation project is the supply of both software and hardware to the Storteboom Brink branch in Zeewolde.”