Berry Superfos uses Jungheinrich AGVs to create a safer, more efficient workspace


Berry Superfos designs, develops and manufactures plastic packaging solutions. When you open your lunchtime soup pot, choose your favourite coffee capsule or pull the lid from your favourite selection tub of confectionery, chances are you'll be opening a plastic product created by Berry Superfos.

The challenge

Berry Superfos had been exploring options for a new automated guided vehicle (AGV) solution for its factory that would meet a demanding set of criteria:

  • The truck needed to be capable of lifting differently sized pallets and placing them directly onto a stretch wrapper conveyor.
  • The pallets are closed boarded, so needed to be counterbalanced to lift pallets the required 600mm.
  • Although weight was not an issue, speed was. The AGV needed to be fast enough to cope with an extremely demanding throughput.
  • It also needed to be nimble enough to reach some of the facility's tighter areas.
  • The solution needed to be safer than alternatives such as forklifts or scissor lifts.

The initial plan was to entirely remove forklifts from the shopfloor, but the company realised it would still need to ferry consumables (bags, cartons etc) between warehouse and shopfloor. Its new AGVs, therefore, would also need to be able to meet this demand.

After speaking with several suppliers, Berry Superfos settled on the only supplier to offer the ideal solution, a supplier with whom the company already had an historic working relationship: Jungheinrich.

"It was particularly evident that what Jungheinrich was offering was far more advanced than their competitors," Andrew explained. "They had a real understanding, and a team of dedicated people who lived and breathed this stuff.."

The solution

"We visited Jungheinrich's facility in Warrington, which has a simulated warehouse environment where we could see the AGVs moving around in person," said Neil Stout, Berry Superfos Operations Manager. "That sold it for us."

Jungheinrich's solution was the EKS 215a - an impressive ‘all-rounder' AGV that's compact and versatile. Berry Superfos procured four units, running a staff competition to name them.

Thor, Zebedee, Rover and Homer take a wide range of empty pallets (UK pallets, Euro pallets, closed pallets, heat treated, food standard etc) and lift them onto the wrapping conveyor. The AGVs cope with all the pallet variations. They also transfer goods between shopfloor and warehouse. "The AGV didn't do that as standard," explained Neil, "so we worked with Jungheinrich to write our own code to achieve that task."

Proud to be a part of change

Staff reaction to the AGV's was overwhelmingly positive. "As soon as they saw them moving around, they  saw the benefits. They realised there was no longer any need to jack pallets to height and there was less walking time. They were proud to be a part of implementing this new technology."

Increasing safety

With at least one forklift on the shopfloor at any time, Berry Superfos had installed barriers to separate workers and vehicles. Yet this meant that journeys of just a few metres could require workers to walk round the entire factory.

"Since the AGVs arrived all those barriers have been removed," explained Andrew. "We respect the fact that the AGV lanes get priority, but the reduction in ‘warehouse furniture' has improved efficiency because now people can get from A to B without having to walk miles."

Results and learnings

In addition to the efficiency improvements that come from automating processes, Berry Superfos found other advantages in using the AGVs.

"We're far leaner than we were before," said Neil. "We carry far fewer consumables on the shop floor because the AGVs have got a set route to each of the pallets. That has also created a safer shop floor because there's far less to trip over."

The process has resulted in a set of learnings and considerations Andrew and Neil were happy to share.

  • "Understand what you are trying to do, what you are trying to replace, and the pallet size and shape. For us, what started purely as a way of taking goods to a wrapper expanded to include consumables on the shop floor.
  • How do you tell an AGV to collect pallets from a space? How does it know when a space is empty? These were major considerations for us.
  • AGVs navigate using reflectors. If you change racking or move a wall, consider how that will affect the trucks.
  • Develop a plan for when fire alarms go off.
  • Ensure you integrate the AGVs with fast-moving doors.
  • Communicate change and bring in training early.
  • Use the influencers within your ranks to help support change - this is important because staff may have concerns
  • Preparation is important. We had to put in flat runways coated in resin because the AGVs run at high speed then slow down to pick up the pallet.
  • Work with people who have the solutions, knowledge and experience."

Working with Jungheinrich

Neil confessed. "It's been a massive learning curve, [the AGVs] are fantastic and the relationship with Jungheinrich has worked well. They have been fantastic too."

Add a Comment

No messages on this article yet

Editorial: +44 (0)1892 536363
Publisher: +44 (0)208 440 0372
Subscribe FREE to the weekly E-newsletter