From study to construction phase: the building of a crate washing installation

Eight million crates going to and from the shop ten times a year? That means 80 million washes. Solution analyst Glenn Hamelryck helps with the logistical aspects of the construction of Colruyt Group’s new crate washing facility. “No matter how well you plan, there is always more to it than meets the eye!”

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Glenn, you started this project in 2018?

Indeed, under the guidance of my experienced colleague Joachim. The construction of our new crate washing installation was still in the study phase. We investigated whether we would still benefit from washing our crates ourselves. And if so, at what location? We mapped out the entire logistics chain — suppliers, volumes, delivery points, etc. — and decided to build a new facility at our current location. The construction of the new installation runs parallel to the changeover to a new type of folding crate, a project that my colleague Lineke is helping to steer in the right direction. It is quite a puzzle at the moment, since the changeover to the green folding crate takes place in phases and we keep some of the old installations running while we build the new one.

Glenn Hamelryck Glenn Hamelryck

Is there much to consider?

Our former facilities could wash about 62 million crates a year, the new one is designed for 80 million crates a year. In the study, we have tried our best to consider different scenarios. Bananas, for example, are still packed in cardboard, but who knows, maybe in the future we will choose a new type of folding crate? This may seem like a detail, but it would mean an additional volume to be washed of 1 million crates per year. We work very closely with our technical department, the prevention department and the core users of the installation. There is also a weekly consultation with our core team: solution analysts from various departments, project managers, the site coordinator … This is a multi-million dollar project where every action and every estimate affects the other links in the chain: purchasing, distribution, logistics, sales. So you really need to know what everyone is doing. Everything goes much smoother when you work well together: we know what is needed at the moment and we help each other.

What do you like most about your job?

It is a cool and especially challenging project. What I have learned: no matter how well you plan, there is always more to it than meets the eye. (laughs) Corona forced us to change our entire planning: the construction of the new plant was postponed by several months. It was quite a challenge to recalculate everything according to the new seasonal volumes and types of crates. In the coming months, I will continue to monitor the logistical aspects of the construction and the transition, and I will occasionally help out on the work floor to fine-tune automations, for example, in cooperation with our technicians.

Before working at Colruyt Group, I studied commercial engineering. Three years ago, I started here as a solution analyst in the Logistics Engineering department (part of Colruyt Group’s IT department). Coincidentally, I visited this place years ago, and even then I was fascinated by the installations and the activity in the distribution centre. Add to that my enthusiasm for concrete optimisations on the work floor, and you’ll understand: this fits like a glove! (laughs)