Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG), headquartered in Kansas City, Kansas, is the largest cooperative food wholesaler in the United States. The company, with sales of more than $10 billion, is planning and building a leading-edge, highly automated full-range logistics center in Hernando, Mississippi, together with WITRON Logistik + Informatik GmbH from Germany. The facility will supply more than 3,100 grocery stores, owned and operated by independent retailers, after a ramp-up starting in August 2023. AWG is known in the US for its private brand offerings with its Best Choice, Always Save, Clearly by Best Choice & Best Choice Superior Selections brands.

“We are pleased to be working with WITRON on the most exciting project in AWG’s history”, said David Smith, CEO of AWG. “The new automated facility will be a critical component to significantly expand variety offerings and improve system-wide distribution and logistics performance. It will enable AWG and its over 1,100 cooperative member-retailers to continue to grow for many, many years to come”, said the AWG CEO. 

55,000 different items - 460,000 pick units / day

Almost 55,000 different items will be stored and picked with the OPM (Order Picking Machinery), AIO (All-in-One-Order Fulfillment), and CPS (Car Picking System) solutions.  WITRON’s technology will be used in all temperature zones - dry assortment, fresh products, and frozen items. 

The facility, with a size of 871,900 square feet, a total of 738,000 pallet, tote, and tray locations, 92 stacker cranes, as well as 11 kilometers / 6 miles of conveyor system is designed for a pick performance of more than 460,000 units / day. 

Automated WITRON technology in all temperature zones

The new facility will have 18 fully automated COM (Case Order Machine) units installed in temperature areas of +20 to -26 degrees Celsius / +68 to -14.8 Fahrenheit to stack cases onto pallets in a store-friendly manner. Large-volume items are also picked in various temperature zones with route optimization using pick-by-voice support from the semi-automated logistics module CPS. An intelligent WITRON WMS platform controls the internal and external supply chain processes “end-to-end”. A WITRON OnSite team will be responsible for service, maintenance, and system operation, and will keep all mechanical elements, components, and material flows operating around the clock, 365 days a year.

AIO solution makes piece picking more flexible

Due to a wide range of small-volume items, AWG decided to use WITRON’s AIO system for the dry assortment - a further development of the tote picking system DPS (Dynamic Picking System), which has been successfully used for many years in food retailing logistics. 

With AIO, both fast-movers and slow-movers can be stored and picked compactly in the same logistics module. Order consolidation is automated and system-controlled in AIO. The WITRON WMS permanently controls the classification of the items depending on the order structure.  Classification changes (e.g. promotion or seasonal items) are recognized by the AIO and automatically adapted in real-time. The use of the same infrastructure (inventories, manpower, mechanics, IT, master data, etc.) is reflected in maximum flexibility and high cost-efficiency for AWG.  

“Our industry is ever-changing, and it is our mission to provide our member-retailers all of the products, services, and tools they need to compete favorably in all markets served, all at the best possible cost”, said David Smith. “We are excited to be able to significantly expand what we stock and ship to  our member stores while becoming more efficient and cost effective in our operations”, says CEO David Smith. “And, not only will our employees benefit from ergonomic work processes, the environment will benefit from a reduced number of trailers on the road due to better use of volume and space on each trailer.”

WITRON as a reliable life-time partner

“WITRON is an established and strong partner who has the necessary know-how and worldwide references to successfully implement a project in this dimension. WITRON also lives a corporate culture that fits very well with the culture of AWG and its cooperative members”, explains David Smith. “WITRON impressed us with innovative ideas, technology, and the people and values behind the company and the project.”