Martin Hensgen is implementing paperless production in the Evertaste catering unit in Alzey, Germany. Through the project, employees can optimize their workflow and save not only paper, but a lot of energy.
Evertaste’s plant in Alzey resembles one of an anthill. People in uniforms unpack pallets brimming with countless boxes of canned tomato sauce, red cabbage, fresh meat and broccoli. Other employees are busy driving forklifts to transport pallets from delivery vans standing outside the ramp. The first question that any visitor has when stepping into Alzey is: With that amount of goods, how do order pickers and unpackers know when to bring what to which station, fridge or freezer?
Working with paper lists
The Director of Operations and Logistics, Martin Hensgen, explains: “Until recently, we were working with paper lists for the different meals that are produced each day. We printed these lists for each day and added them manually if necessary.” Hensgen is the one to ask as he is responsible for all the preparations that led up to the big process change that started two years ago. “Each replenishment was additionally printed out here,” he adds. “And we also worked with scanners.” The order pickers used them to generate labels for each order.
A digital blueprint for our employees
“Beginning this past summer, however, things began to change,” says Hensgen. “We were on the verge of implementing paperless production for the entire unpacking area. In the future, we will also introduce it in the storage area.” But how does “paperless” work? The paper lists and portable scanners will be replaced by a computer system on which employees can view data on two different screens.
“We are streamlining our processes, which has a positive effect on the environment, our effectiveness and our business as a whole.”
On the computer, each area supervisor can assign the individual orders to the stations. The program can be used, for instance, to unpack orders collectively. One example would be three different menus that all include broccoli but were on different pages of the printout. Now, with the digitized system, individuals can search through all of the data and have the broccoli for the three menus unpacked at the same time, saving a lot of time and effort. At the same time, the unpackers can get an overview of how much of their quota they have unpacked at any time of their day or how many orders they have executed at each unpacking station. Up to now, this information had not been available to them. Having an overview of all the data in one central location creates a sort of digital blueprint for our employees.
“Environmental protection is a topic close to my heart”
500km. That’s how many kilometers employees now drive less around the catering unit due to streamlining the processes. “That is better for the employees and for the machines we use”, says Hensgen. Besides the enhancements on the side of the workers and processes, Hensgen’s project also enables Evertaste to save 78,000 sheets of paper, and thus 20,315 liters of water as well as 1,166 kg of wood per year. Through the streamlining of the storage processes, it reduces the opening of the cold store and deep-freeze by 60 times every single day. “That minimizes the electricity that we need by 10,220kWh per year” he elaborates. One can see that these results make Hensgen very happy when he explains: “Environmental protection is a topic close to my heart.”
That passion becomes even more clear when he talks enthusiastically about his passion project at home: Hensgen builds a house that enables him to live self-sufficiently with a “smarthome control”, a photovoltaic system, a buffer storage and a hot water tank for the heating system. Hensgen emphasizes that, this way, Evertaste gets the best of both worlds: “We are streamlining our processes which has a positive effect on the environment, our effectiveness and our business as a whole.”
Looking ahead to a colorful future
As soon as a set of goods arrives in the unpacking area, the employees can look it up on the screen and see a picture that they can then compare to the delivery. Then, scanning a 3D code, which replaces having to scan four 2D barcodes, records the best-before date, batch number, original batch and date of receipt. That means that just one scan provides all of the necessary information. Hensgen estimates that the switch from 2D to 3D codes will save 110,000 labels per year.
Ensuring a smooth rollout
Hensgen and his team scheduled an optimization phase for the first week of the launch. The challenge was to presort the data and turn it into a clear and structured overview that helps everyone work more effectively. To start, running the program at only one of the three unpacking stations will ensure that they don’t have to interrupt the daily production. “That will give us the chance to quickly improve the program and implement any feedback before giving the green light to deploying it in the rest of the stations,” concludes Hensgen.