As the COVID-19 pandemic raged across Europe and North America, WITRON technicians and the vital logistics systems they maintain continued to deliver essential groceries, sundries and other consumables without significant downtime. With equipment running 24/7 for an extended period throughout the supply chains on two continents, WITRON suffered only ONE technical breakdown, and thanks to committed cooperation, only four sick employees. “In the months of March, April, May, and through to mid-June, the panic related shopping habits of the consumers presented us with major logistical challenges. The highest volume sales weeks of the year, usually at Christmas and Easter, were clearly exceeded. All employees as well as the technology and the WITRON OnSite teams, e.g. at EDEKA in Hamm (Germany), were faced with extraordinary challenges. During this time, WITRON’s automation technology with its readiness and performance has made a significant contribution to meet the needs of our customers”, explains Peter Bayer from Edeka Handelsgesellschaft Rhein-Ruhr. These trends were consistent not only in Germany, but worldwide, as retailers were struggling with enormous order volumes.
When Christian Dietl, CEO of WITRON Services, reviews the numbers of June 2020, he is proud of his colleagues who are working in many logistics centers all over Europe and North America. “Together with our customers, we have kept the warehouses running; we have never ever experienced such a rush. And this was not only in one country, but in the US, Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, and in the Benelux countries - wherever we are on site with our service teams and wherever the logistics centers are running with our automation technology OPM”, said Mr. Dietl.
While the inner cities of Europe were emptying and the throughput in the stores was increasing, the logistics centers were running at full speed. The importance of automation was growing and so was the importance of the people in the warehouses. Truck drivers were no longer allowed to enter the distribution centers, and the staff in the logistics centers now had to handle the incoming goods. “New personnel was obviously out of reach. We had to restructure our teams to prevent infections. So we worked with smaller maintenance teams and really only carried out the most necessary life-sustaining measures on the machines”, explains Dietl. WITRON’s technicians developed efficient concepts to keep the system performance high at all times, while at the same time we had to cut down the planned maintenance intervals due to time constraints. “In addition, our cross-trained colleagues on site can change their roles very quickly - from a system operator to a maintenance technician and back again. We learned a lot about the load limits of the components and this is now being incorporated into our future concepts.”
The flexibility of WITRON’s technicians paid off through the heart of the pandemic’s heaviest months for Canadian customer Sobeys, “I have always said that we have the best team because there is only ONE team at the Terrebonne distribution center, consisting of Sobeys AND WITRON colleagues”, said Fabien Roy, Logistics Manager at Sobeys in Canada.
Covid-19 created significant stresses across virtually every supply chain in Europe and North America, but for Christian Dietl and his service and maintenance teams, the ability to overcome the hardships both human and mechanical was a testament to their teamwork and technology. “The disease is still there, it will occupy us for even longer - socially, economically, and technologically. It turned out that the WITRON crisis management works; the systems run reliably with high availability even under permanent high volume requirements, and the OnSite teams roll up their sleeves - supporting them around the clock with great commitment. Together with our customers, we will continue to successfully master the challenges.”https://www.witron.de/en