When hungry fast food customers in 39 countries around the world order a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish, Fish McFeast Fisk, or Rye Fish McFeast, they’re digging into breaded fish from the Danish seafood producer A. Espersen. Ensuring success day in, day out, demands high levels of efficiency across the company.
Bottlenecks mean that employees end up standing around and waiting which is costly and unsustainable. A. Espersen used to face recurring issues when the production line ran out of empty pallets because it was impossible to replenish these in time.
But now the production issues of the world’s leading producer of frozen fish products have been resolved thanks to a driverless forklift truck, also known as a Global AGV. As McDonald’s preferred fish supplier in over 39 countries, it is vitally important to be able to deliver high-quality products on time.
‘Automation is the future, and is how we can increase our efficiency and produce profitably in Denmark. No one has lost their job because of our new driverless forklift truck. Quite the opposite, in fact. We have liberated our employees from monotonous, repeated manual labour and optimised our manufacturing processes and production flows,’ says Stig Nielsen, Production Manager at A. Espersen.
BILA, Denmark’s largest and oldest automation company, installed, fine-tuned and serviced the AGV in partnership with A. Espersen to ensure it streamlines with the other processes in the plant. Input from staff at the fish processing plant has also been invaluable, and employees will also be taken into consideration when the next AGV is brought in.
‘I’ve involved my employees in the automation process right from the get-go, since their word carries weight when new manufacturing processes are introduced. In the end, they’re the ones who will have to work alongside the Global AGV. When automating production processes, it’s important to take account of “real life” details. Otherwise, I don’t think it would have been a success,’ says Nielsen.
Employees have named this first AGV ‘Ole’, and as a new ‘colleague’, Ole attends to routine duties for 16 hours a day at three different workstations in the plant. One of Ole’s duties is to collect and deliver empty pallets to a Palomat pallet magazine on the production line. Furthermore, the AGV also transports raw produce to the production line and finished products to the stretch wrapper. And last but not least, the driverless forklift truck is able to drive around autonomously and stops to recharge whenever it needs to.
There is a shortage of qualified forklift truck drivers and service staff. This is why the AGV is the right option for combatting these increasing manpower shortages, which is another reason why A. Espersen decided to level up automation in its Danish plant. Stig Nielsen is enthusiastic about the possibility of having more AGVs in the future.
‘There will always be more we can automate, and BILA is a strong and reliable partner for this. I’m one of those people who is ready to fully commit to something once I can see its purpose, and I can already say that I can see opportunities for optimisation with more Global AGVs in our production process,’ says Nielsen.
Beyond its facilities in Denmark, the Danish fish production group has plants in four other locations around the globe so it can stay close to both suppliers and customers: the plants can be found in Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Vietnam, and on top of this, A. Espersen also has offices in the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Malaysia and China.