For restaurant chains quality assurance is vital. For a highly specialised logistics company like HAVI Logistics GmbH who supplies all the European restaurants of probably the most well-known foodservice retailer in the world, several times a week with food and non-food items, it is an absolute must. As is end-to-end tracking and tracing of goods from arrival at the logistics company through to delivery to the restaurant branch. To this end, goods are digitally logged at HAVI Logistics and all relevant information is stored on a barcode label. The company wanted to use just one type of label throughout so they needed one that would remain securely adhered in all three of its storage areas. The company also wanted to be able to remove the barcode label without it leaving a residue because sometimes the labels are applied to returnable containers. With Neuss-based system integrator Rodata GmbH, HAVI Logistics finally found the right solution – and the right partner for the "special label".
HAVI Logistics GmbH, with its headquarters in Duisburg, is “The Global Leading Logistics Provider“ for the food service industry. With 44 distribution centres in 26 countries, 4,799 employees, a fleet of 567 lorries and a turnover of 3.3 billion Euros, the company is one of the biggest in its industry. HAVI Logistics offers franchisees of its major restaurant chain client a "fully integrated system" that enables them to acquire all food and non-food items centrally from one source. HAVI Logistics purchases food and nonfood items from branded goods suppliers, then sells them on to the individual restaurants and delivers them in their own lorries.
"We earn our income primarily through providing logistics services. In 2008 alone, we delivered 2.1 million tons of goods," explains Gerold Wichern, Senior Manager Transport Deutschland at the headquarters in Duisburg. And all these logistics services are subject to the highest customer requirements: consistently high quality of goods purchased, punctual delivery and compliance with statutory regulations regarding hygiene standards and food safety.
Staff in all the European distribution centres pick the orders for their customers in three temperature zones: dry storage, where packaging materials or promotional items, for example, are stored at between 5 and 25 degrees Celsius; cold storage, where freshly picked salad, for instance, is stored temporarily at a temperature of between 1 and 3 degrees Celsius; and finally frozen goods storage, where hamburgers and chicken nuggets are stored at temperatures as low as -23 degrees Celsius. Most of the labels HAVI Logistics applied to containers and pallets during the pilot phase were not able to withstand these temperature variations of up to 40 degrees Celsius. Some would remain securely adhered at temperatures above zero, but come unstuck as soon as the temperature fell to below zero and with others, it was vice-versa. "The few barcode labels that did not manifest this problem could not be removed without leaving a residue," claims Mr. Wichern. However, removal without residue was one of the requirements given the fact that some of the containers are re-used. The company was faced with a real problem, but, as it turned out, it was not insurmountable.
"For the company that used to supply us with special labels, this was not one of their core areas of business – and the quality of service they offered was also less than satisfactory," explains Mr. Wichern. So, in 2008, he and his team began searching for a new supplier and, finally, they found the right partner in Rodata GmbH. This manufacturerindependent system integrator, whose product portfolio covers the full range of mobile computer and automatic identification hardware, is a printer and labels specialist and offered an appropriate solution. In addition, the company offered a convincing price and delivery quality. With a label volume that runs into the millions - the printers at HAVI Logistics’ produce some 5 million A5-format labels every year - delivery quality is an absolutely vital criterion.
And Rodata ensures the logistics company always have a sufficient supply of label materials: every two months, rolls of labels are delivered by lorry to Duisburg and from there, the labels are dispatched to all the HAVI Logistics distribution centres, not just in the EU, but throughout Europe.
Statutory regulations, including the 2005 EU regulation regarding the complete traceability of foodstuffs and other regulations now in force, such as the Food Contact Materials directive prompted the company to switch to auto-ID and paperless order picking back in 2003 and 2004. Since 2005, staff in the warehouses have been equipped with mobile terminals and now every delivery to HAVI Logistics bears a barcode label. This means the order picking tasks are issued and processed wirelessly. Once an order is picked, the order data is prepared as a barcode and transferred directly to a printer where the corresponding label will be printed.
When looking for the right printer, HAVI Logistics found exactly what they were looking for from Intermec. And it was not just the high quality of its products that impressed Mr. Wichern’s project managers and colleagues. Its printhead replacement program was another significant reason why Intermec was chosen: since HAVI would also be sourcing its labels through them, Intermec offered free printhead replacement for every printer throughout its entire service life as part of the deal. There are now a total of 127 Intermec PX6i high-performance thermal transfer printers in use at various stations in 29 of HAVI Logistics’ 43 European distribution centres. This includes the frozen foods area where the printers are housed in special, heated cabinetsand receive their data wirelessly over a network that supports WPA2.
“The alternative would have been for us to install the printers in warmer areas, but then we would have needed more time for order picking, for a start, because of all the unnecessary walking to and fro and also the handheld terminals we use to manage the flow of goods within the warehouse would have been exposed to major fluctuations in temperature,” the logistics expert clarifies. With this special solution, barcode labels can now be printed on the spot, regardless of the temperature range. The Senior Manager seems delighted about the cooperation with Rodata: “We place on our suppliers the same high requirements that our customers place on us. Rodata proved themselves from the outset, but still had to allow us to systematically measure them against the competition. We did not manage to find any other company that impressed us as much in terms of price and performance, communication and support so we had no problem in making a long-term commitment,” explains Mr. Wichern. What was originally intended to be a one-year labels contract became a three-year contract for a total volume of 16.5 million labels, a figure which is likely to rise. “This means fixed, stable prices for the entire period and therefore increased planning reliability for HAVI Logistics,” adds Andreas Soltysiak, Sales Representative at Rodata. The Neussbased company is also responsible for supplying ribbons as well as new and replacement parts for the hardware.
Barcode identification will continue to be HAVI Logistics’ ID medium of choice in the future. And not just because the law requires it and the processes have become leaner. "For quality assurance, auto-ID technology is already of huge benefit," acknowledges Mr. Wichern. Traceability is easier and faulty batches can be blocked with the press of a button. "For us, a quality defect would be something like not enough sesame seeds on a burger bun, in other words, purely visual," explains the logistics expert.