LCBO Conveyor System moves major warehouse into the future
Project: Mechanization of LCBO Ottawa Warehouse
Location: Ottawa, Canada
The LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) is the world’s largest buyer and retailer of alcoholic beverages. Products are sold through 600+ retail stores and other outlets, offering 24,000 products from more than 80 countries to consumers and licensed establishments across the province. All of their product comes through five large regional warehouses.
The LCBO’s warehouse facility in Ottawa, which is comprised of one four-story building joined by a mutual wall to a receiving warehouse, was still using out-of-date manual systems, which affected their ability to operate at peak efficiency. In 2011, they decided to implement limited mechanization in their warehouse, and opened up a competitive bidding process for design, manufacturing and installation.
Almac was awarded the contract because they came in at the best price, but also because they presented a comprehensive package with detailed technical specifications that allowed stakeholders to get a real sense of the scope of the project.
Almac worked closely with LCBO stakeholders throughout the process, starting with pre-design discussions.
“The process was very in-depth,” says Les Hanslik, Maintenance Manager for the LCBO’s Ottawa retail service centre. “There were a lot of discussions, especially in the design phase. Their location and availability was a really big bonus; they came to see us in Ottawa or we would drive down to Aurora to see them. It was a real exchange of ideas, things got modified on the fly – it was very smooth and easy.”
LCBO stakeholders appreciated that they were dealing with a Canadian company located relatively close by – and not with an inaccessible off-shore manufacturer. They could easily drive down to witness the progress on their conveyor system and talk to the people who were designing and building it.
Inbound pallets from suppliers were moved to the main floor from the receiving warehouse and then transferred two at a time via an automated pallet lift from the main floor to the first and third floors.
Once inbound pallets were delivered to their predetermined floors, the system would automatically pick up one or two outbound mixed load pallets for deliver back to the main floor. These outbound pallets would then be off loaded from the system to be placed in trucks for store delivery.
“It was a very technically challenging project,” says Hanslik. “Not a run-of-the-mill conveyor install. All of the components had to be synced, including the pallet elevator, which was an off-the-shelf item manufactured by a third party.”
One other special feature of the system was providing a floor level left to allow motorized “pallet jacks” to deliver loads at floor level. The pallet jacks would smoothly transfer the load onto a floor level conveyor, and then the system would automatically raise the load to the system working height of 750mm.
LCBO stakeholders were pleased with the result – but also with the process. They appreciated the level of collaboration, and the fact that Almac made the process easy and stress-free.
“They took all of our concerns into consideration,” says Hanslik. “They went out of their way to ensure we were happy with the result. I really believe we received top value for our dollar.”
They also liked the fact that owner Stewart McLaren had a personal hand in the project. He attended meetings, took part in inspections, visited the site during installation and was generally very involved every step of the way
“I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Almac for any technically challenging project”, says Hanslik.