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Mars implements new robotics system at French site

The French subsidiary of chocolate maker Mars has unveiled new automated handling and robotics systems at its site in Boigny-sur-Bionne.

Investment in the facility, which is run by XPO Logistics, has given the company capacity to accommodate up to ten million packages a year, with Mars saying it can speed up package preparation and distribution.

XPO says it utilises advanced automation at more than 25 sites across Europe, a third of which are located in France, and the supply chain company worked alongside automated handling systems provider Alstef to bring the technology to life for Mars.

The result is 1,600 sq m of space at the temperature-controlled Boigny site, which manages the storage of Mars’ pet care, chocolate, and food lines.

Richard Cawston, managing director of supply chain at XPO Logistics Europe, commented: "In light of the growth of our customer Mars, our challenge was to completely transform the logistics solution by tailoring the latest technical advances in software, robotics and pneumatic equipment, all without disrupting activity.

“With this new solution, we can realise efficiencies in distribution while lowering operating costs for Mars.”

The Boigny site has been equipped with a robot that can prepare 50,000 to 60,000 packages per day. It has been integrated throughout the package preparation process, from the arrival of goods in plastic film wrap to the preparation of new pallet loads ready for shipment.

Furthermore, an automated storage and retrieval system places the pallets in racks at high speed, but Mars and XPO say the system's major innovation lies in the preparation stage. The robot's articulated arm can reportedly pick up five stacks of packages at one time to assemble pallets with multiple product codes.

Among the goods stored and prepared at the French facility are Whiskas and Sheba pet food, M&M's, Twix and Snickers chocolate products, and Uncle Ben’s food ranges.

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