Is it time to optimise the service concept for micro-fulfilment centres?

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Our recent blogs have explored how process automation contributes to a solid business case for food e-com and how Vanderlande works closely with retailers to overcome the operational challenges that can impact on profitability. Having discussed the importance of end-to-end solutions, we now want to touch on the vital role that an effective service and maintenance model can play in the successful implementation of a micro-fulfilment center (MFC) operation.


Toine Cleophas

Commercial Solution Manager

Dedicated service concept

In a fast-moving and highly competitive sector such as food e-com, speed is of the essence. Being able to deliver on time – and in full – is the key to ensuring that you stay in control and ahead of the competition.

This means that your MFC operation needs to run without a hitch, with little or no downtime. To help our customers achieve this target, we have been working on a new dedicated service concept for MFCs, in which a combination of remote support, on-site activities and service enablers work in harmony to keep systems running in the most cost-effective way.

A new approach is required – largely because of the size and scope of the MFC model and network – and it’s all about data, performance monitoring and predictive maintenance. Large teams of on-site technicians wouldn’t be cost-effective in an MFC – the business case just wouldn’t stack up! So we’re moving away from this “traditional” service model to a new MFC service concept.

Support whenever required

A dedicated control room monitors multiple MFCs, to remotely perform process optimisation and predictive maintenance analysis across the network and instigate expert local support when needed. By using this model we will be able to: monitor the performance of systems around the clock; use data-driven insights to accurately predict component wear; and detect and deal with potential incidents before they happen.

With various tools such as video screening, we’ll be able to work closely with our customers to monitor system use, enable support and suggest process improvements remotely. And when predictive maintenance analysis (or parts replacement) requires a site visit, a dedicated MFC service engineer, covering a specific part of the MFC network, can be quickly despatched.

100% performance goal

Certified training and standard operating procedures are two service enablers that are key to the success of this new MFC service concept. Many of the operational issues can be dealt with by our customers, such as replacing a malfunctioning ADAPTO shuttle. Having the knowledge and support – either from our dedicated service desk or control room via video screening – to quickly respond to any incidents or flow interruptions is the best and most cost-effective way to enable the highest system availability.

Securing 100% performance from our systems is always the target. We believe that supporting our customers with this dedicated service concept is the commercially viable proposition for an MFC network, offering operational monitoring and giving access to a wealth of knowledge within the global Vanderlande network , without the need for a permanent team of service technicians on each site.

And while on the subject of expenditure, maybe we’ll also see a shift away from the current model – in which you have a big CapEx investment upfront and then ongoing OpEx costs – towards a more complete service package spread over the life cycle of the system. It’s definitely “food for thought” and something we’ll no doubt be discussing in a future blog…

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