Project Case Study: Kroger Dairy Cooler Simulation
Meet Increasing Customer Demand by Identifying Production Efficiencies
The Kroger Company operates a large number of dairy production facilities across the United States. These facilities include pasteurization and filling equipment, storage coolers, and outbound shipping docks supplying a wide range of products including milk, juices, yogurts, dips, and cottage cheeses to their customers.
In order to meet growing customer demand, The Kroger Co. needed to identify inefficiencies and potential process improvements across its Dairies. They were looking for a single tool that could be standardized at all locations, even though each plant had a unique layout, equipment set, and product line.
The successful tool would be used by plant personnel after a limited training session, so the interface needed to be clear and user friendly. In addition, the tool had to be flexible enough to handle any existing or proposed dairy layout.
Product would need to be modeled from the filling stage through to storage, picking, palletizing, and loading for shipment to the customer. Accurate inventory counts, including the tracking of code dates and product locations on the cooler floor, would need to be maintained so that detailed results could be generated.
Visual8 developed the Kroger Dairy Cooler Simulator using SIMUL8 software to model the simulation. It allows users to build a representation of a cooler using components which represent different aspects of the system such as fillers, forklifts, palletizers, conveyors, and storage areas.
The tool can model production for one shift or several weeks and can import orders, inventory positions, and production schedules from Excel or database sources.
Numerous input sheets provide the ability to setup product parameters, shift schedules, inter-dairy orders, movement and processing times, and equipment MTBF and MTTR. This level of detail allows the simulator to be as accurate as possible.
Detailed results allow users to evaluate the impact of their changes in terms of order throughput, machine and staff utilization, inventory levels, overtime requirements, and performance against service level targets.
Once an accurate representation of the current state cooler is built, it is possible to study “what-if” scenarios regarding cooler operations quickly, easily, and in a risk-free environment.
Examples of possible “what-if” scenarios may include:
- What if a second forklift was added to the loading operation?
- What if the assigned storage locations of products in the cooler were reconfigured?
- What if the staffing schedule was adjusted to have more Pickers available earlier in the shift?
- How would cooler performance change with the introduction of a new product line?
After rolling the Dairy Cooler Simulator out at their pilot facility, Kroger team members were able to identify proposed process changes that would lead to a 15% throughput improvement, with no capital investment. Pilot studies of the proposed changes validated the expected improvement, and the Dairy Cooler Simulator is now being rolled out to additional facilities in the division.