2021 was not just a busy year for WITRON, but also an extremely successful one: The company’s 50th anniversary was celebrated “in accordance with the circumstances” due to the global pandemic. Nevertheless, we celebrated 120,000 square meters of additional production area for conveyor technology and switch cabinets with the opening of the 200-million-euro investment “Werk II Nord”. The company’s total footprint was more than doubled. In addition, the Group’s sales exceeded the one-billion-euro mark for the first time in the company’s history with 1.05 billion euros (1.2 billion USD). Furthermore, more than 600 additional employees will support the WITRON team. For the third year in a row, 100+ new apprentices were integrated into the work environment in 17 different vocations. Prospectively, another 1,800 jobs are to be created in Parkstein in the coming years. In the next years, the focus will also be on extensive international investments and a further increase in the number of employees. There are plans to significantly expand the US company headquarters in Chicago, both in terms of building structure and staff members.
Impressive order entry from new and regular customers
The basis for the exclusively organic growth and the well-filled order books is a striking order entry of new projects. Just as in the previous year, the revenue from newly signed orders exceeds the annual sales achieved in the same year. The reason for this extraordinary growth is the strong confidence of new and regular customers in WITRON’s automated end-to-end solutions.
Numerous installation contracts were signed with food, near-food, and non-food retailers from the core markets of Europe and North America. A major part of the orders refers to omni-channel distribution centers, which supply all distribution channels - stores, click & collect, online customers - with all dry, fresh, and frozen products - both cases and pieces. WITRON also started with the implementation of a pure e-food DC for a Swedish retailer.
Migros Neuendorf - a food / non-food distribution center for all distribution channels
Despite still difficult conditions due to the present Covid-19 pandemic, national and international ramp-ups were completed in time. These also included the commissioning of the Migros Verteilbetrieb AG logistics center in Neuendorf (Switzerland). The facility with a size of 490,000 square meters supplies stores of different sizes as well as e-commerce customers from an assortment of more than 100,000 different items - food, frozen goods, everyday goods, specialty store assortments, and even furniture. Almost 100 percent of the pick units are picked automatically.
From OPM to OCM / integration instead of fragmentation
Omni-channel logistics in food retailing has been facing a variety of challenges in recent years. Therefore, in an increasingly complex market environment, “integration instead of fragmentation” is the order of the day. To this point, WITRON solutions often show a high unique selling point. The basis is the WITRON OCM strategy (Omni Channel Machinery), which combines all horizontal and vertical players into an effective overall structure and eliminates uneconomic silo solutions. The OPM / COM technology - now in its fifth generation - in combination with highly dynamic piece picking solutions such as the All-in-One Order Fulfillment system (AIO) and innovative IT elements form a high-performance structure in terms of economy, ecology, and ergonomics.
Even cases that cannot be automated are now integrated into the overall OPM process via stationary and semi-automated goods-to-person workstations (GTP) in an intelligent and conveyor system-related way so that these “uglies” can be ergonomically picked or consolidated from storage pallets or storage trays onto order pallets/roll containers in a sequenced and store-friendly manner - regardless of the temperature zone.
FPM - paradigm change in fresh logistics
A great market potential has been generated especially in the fresh produce sector with the Flow Picking Machinery (FPM) - a fully automated solution that is preferably implemented in flow-through warehouses. This refers to highly dynamic systems that turn over completely once a day and supply many hundreds of stores just in time with ultra-fresh products. In March 2022, for example, the French food retailer, E.Leclerc Socamil, received the prestigious French logistics award “Rois de la Supply Chain” for its use of FPM at the Castelnaudary site, presented by “Supply Chain Magazine”. In the award laudatory speech, FPM was even titled a paradigm shift in automated fresh food logistics.
Consistent expansion of service and operator services
In the meantime, 1,561 COM machines, which stack more than 40 million cases daily onto pallets or roll containers, have already been implemented or sold in 87 projects. High system availability is guaranteed by WITRON’s OnSite teams who work directly at the customer’s site in combination with customized service and operator models. Currently, WITRON already employs 57 OnSite teams in 13 countries - the demand is still rising. In 2021, teams in Australia and Sweden were added for the first time, which means that more than 3,000 employees in the service environment ensure permanently high system availability and investment security nationally and internationally - over 90 percent of the staff members work directly at the customer’s site.
Corporate culture as a success factor
“The market has clearly shown that corporate culture plays a decisive role, especially in the project business and in long-term partnerships. Competence, experience, and commitment are undoubtedly the foundation for success”, according to WITRON’s founder and owner, Walter Winkler, “the decisive factor is our unique corporate culture. Constantly practiced values such as taking on responsibility, rolling up one’s sleeves, keeping promises, being credible, reliable, and predictable, and remaining down to earth are no buzzwords, but vital key differentiators that make a company unique and not interchangeable on the market”, emphasizes Walter Winkler.
“We realize projects in a system-relevant industry sector. Our solutions supply more than 100 million people daily with groceries and many important everyday necessities in stores or online. We are aware of this responsibility and challenge every day. And with the optimal opportunities offered by the additional resources of Werk II Nord, highly motivated employees, and a full order book, we are happy to meet this challenge. 2021 has been a successful year for the WITRON Group. And especially in a socially and politically difficult environment, we will continue to work hard for the success of our customers and employees”.