When it comes to the amount of fruit and vegetables handled in Germany, Bornheim (in North Rhine-Westphalia) is way ahead of the game. Germany's largest fresh produce cluster is home to large headquarters and distribution centres, the logistics sector is flourishing and the proximity to the Dutch and Belgian borders promotes internationality.
Its central location between Cologne and Bonn makes it one of the fastest growing cities in the region and the third largest in the Rhein-Sieg district. So where better for a company to apply new, innovative concepts for the fruit and vegetable industry than in Bornheim? The Euro Pool System depot in Bornheim washes 60 million crates a year. Managing director Dr. Kurt Jäger took FreshPlaza.de on a tour through the facility.
Dr. Kurt Jäger.
"Five years ago, we implemented our smart return logistics to make our crate return even more efficient," explains Jäger. "Previously, the crates had to be sorted by type or size; today, only a specified height has to be reached. The crates are then counted electronically in the depot and the customers can then check the amount by means of a check sum. This makes the process much easier for the customers. The new system saves space at the customer's premises and reduces administrative work. We have worked long and hard on optimizing the process."
View of the depot -with washing installation- in Bornheim.
Crates before the washing process.
The crates are delivered to the depot completely unsorted and palletized, automatically counted, opened, washed, sorted, dried and stacked, after which they are ready for another cycle. Data on the process can be called up and checked via an online portal.
Arrival of the crates at the depot. The pallets are scanned, in order to determine the quantity and type of crates.
The logistics of delivery and return are also to be made as efficient as possible: "Customers can order crates online and the orders are then assigned to the transport companies. Delivery will take place within the next 48 hours."
Where possible, direct exchanges are rewarded: "We want to involve our customers in the logistics to avoid empty runs. For example, when producers deliver goods to the retailer, they can take used crates from the retailer's central warehouse, deliver them to the depot and from there, take clean crates back with them. Producers with a fleet of vehicles will thus act as forwarders."
The crates pass through a washing tunnel in 45 seconds, where they are cleaned with 60°C hot water. This makes them food safe.
After the washing process, the crates are checked again, and then folded and sorted according to type.
"Compared to other European countries, Germany lags behind in the automation of picking processes for fruit and vegetables. However, the lack of personnel and demographic change are now prompting many companies to take a forward-looking approach. Be it in the automation or the design of the workstations. Here, for example, ergonomic workstations with weight limits are playing an increasingly important role". After interest had been low for a long time -despite the availability of several concepts- more is happening now.
After drying by centrifuge, the stacks are palletised and are then ready for the next order.
What will 2020 bring for Euro Pool System?
Since 1992, Euro Pool System has been a logistics service provider for reusable packaging, with 43 depots with washing facilities and service centres throughout Europe, moving around 1.2 billion crates a year. With this kind of handling and the associated logistics, special value must be placed on the sustainability and efficiency of the processes - especially with the big goal of reducing the CO2 footprint by 20% by 2025.
The company wants to continue to optimize its network as a reliable partner for its customers: "We want to show our customers how they can improve their sustainability in cooperation with us." Jäger concludes: "Our motto for these issues is 'Follow Your Customer'. Within the scope of the cooperation and in close coordination with the customers, we will continue to guarantee the availability of clean, high-quality multi-path routes."
For more information:
Mario Winter - HR Manager Region Central
Euro Pool System International (Deutschland) GmbH
Rosental 853332 Bornheim - Deutschland
T +49(0)2222 911 313
M +49(0)172 2661820