Spring is approaching, making it the busiest season in plant logistics. When dealing with plants, there are many challenges – from correct handling of sensitive organisms to short turnaround times, so that the goods arrive fresh at the traders.
Volmary, an internationally operating vegetable- and flower-growing company in Münster, Germany, grows herbs, vegetables and flowering plants for wholesale.
The company turned to Trapo AG for the automation of intralogistics processes, who installed a high-capacity picking system, tailored to the individual requirements of Volmary.
The requirement was for up to 3,000 trays to be picked per hour and 3,500 different flower seedlings to be traded in a database to be created.
The special challenge was that some of the flexible, earth-filled trays are deeply rooted and plant parts also hang over the tray rim and obscure the code.
Therefore, the conveyor belts employed had to be able to accommodate not only different sized and heavy trays, but also be dirt-resistant and easy to clean.
“Another special feature was the automated trolley which supplies all plants,” explains Jörg Thomas, Head of Sales at Trapo. “In order to avoid the risk of collision with the conveyor belt, we have installed a pneumatic lifting system.”
Volmary’s product database manages around 3,500 individual items, each with a barcode that identifies it. This barcode is already assigned at the time of sowing.
Thanks to the connection to the higher-level control system, the type-plate can be scanned, read out and the tray can be assigned to the respective sales order. If the plate is missing, the tray is automatically ejected.
If, for example, leaves or dirt obscure the code, a jet will reveal the plate.
An automated process chain then sets in motion: The higher-level control knows the contents of each individual tray and transmits to the picking system the information to which customer order a tray belongs.
On the conveyor, the latter is provided by printer with the customer name and logistical information on stacking trolley and shelf. The control system flexibly assigns the total of 44 lanes to the respective customer.
Via high-performance ejectors, the trays are transported on chutes, among which there are walkways. At the end of the chute, a braking mechanism prevents the back pressure from becoming too great, damaging plants.
“With the experience of three generations, we breed numerous plant varieties ourselves and are particularly responsive to the wishes of our customers,” says Raimund Schnecking, Product Consultant for Vegetables at Volmary.
“For example, we have expanded our assortment to include many organic varieties and vegetable rarities.
“Competence our customers rely on. Against this background, it was important for us to rely on a partner in intralogistics who ensures that the seedlings arrive safely and on time at the customer.”