Lödige Industries delivers first automated catering storage and transportation system in mainland China

Chengdu, Scherfede, October 21st,  2021 – Lödige Industries has completed the design, delivery and commissioning of an automated catering facility that will optimise catering processes for Air China’s Southwest branch in Chengdu. Lödige delivered a solution for automated warehouse storage and AGV-led transportation, as well as cart and bin storage for the recently inaugurated 40,000 meals per day facility.

Goods for the new catering facility are received in a separate warehouse building which is equipped with a fully automated storage and retrieval system with three stacker cranes. The fully automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) loads goods through vertical stacking on 13 levels. Items are stored and retrieved without manual effort by personnel, improving accuracy and productivity, while minimising safety risks, accidents, and errors. When required, items are retrieved automatically and transported through a 130 m long tunnel that connects buildings using automated guided vehicles (AGV), directed by the warehouse management system (WMS), thus providing the facility with a high degree of both accuracy and flexibility. 

Once equipment or meals are ready, trays are loaded into empty trolleys or carts. Dry goods as well as non-food items such as cutlery are stored in bins. Both of these are then stored until needed in Lödige ‘SPACE TOWERS’, four high-capacity cart and bin storage towers in part with integrated chilling and automatic transport and loading and unloading facilities. This state-of-the-art solution is the first of its kind in mainland China. In comparison to manually operated systems, the new automated solution will save space, improve operational efficiency and reduce operating costs. Operators from Southwest Air Catering will utilise the system to buffer, store and convey carts and bins for its inflight catering services. The new system creates 306 full cart and 540 bin storage spaces on just 52.7 square meters of floor space and enables full control and automation of the warehouse.

It is common practice in catering terminals in China and elsewhere around the world to store carts on the floor occupying valuable space. Cart movements are often carried out completely manually resulting in a physically demanding and time-consuming processes. This also leads to low operational efficiency and provides no means of monitoring and control. Thanks to a customised and automated solution from Lödige Industries, Southwest Air Catering can eliminate all of these problems in the new catering terminal.

Installation of the Lödige Industries equipment began in August 2020 and is being completed according to schedule in November 2021. The facility was planned in close coordination with Air China. Joint development workshops were held in advance to identify the exact requirements for the catering terminal of the new Chinese aviation hub. For the planning, Lödige Industries was able to draw on extensive experience with comparable projects, in Germany, Switzerland and a leading-edge system delivered for Cathay Pacific Catering Services in Hong Kong. Having commenced operations in June 2021, the Chengdu Tianfu International Airport phase one has the capacity to handle up to 60 million passengers per year with three runways and two terminals, covering a total area of 710,000 square meters.  

The German company is also currently equipping Tianfu Airport with a fully automated cargo terminal. A ULD storage and handling system will ensure a smooth and efficient flow of international, domestic, and express cargo. Two elevating transfer vehicles serving the system are the first to be delivered by Lödige Industries to mainland China.

Nicholas Tripptree, Managing Director for Lödige Industries in Asia Pacific, emphasises that their extensive experience in equipping airports has been a major advantage for the implementation of the project: “Lödige Industries has already delivered advanced handling and logistics systems to major hubs in the region such as Hong Kong and Singapore, therefore we understand the demands of the industry well. The fact that we have now implemented such a system in mainland China, at Chengdu Tianfu International Airport, confirms our commitment to providing our customers here with state-of-the-art materials handling technology to support their efficiency.” He adds, “we are very pleased that we can help our customers in achieving their goals with quality solutions from Lödige Industries.  It has been a great experience working for such a prestigious client as Air China and we look forward to future cooperation with them as their business grows even further.”

Read more about our Flight Catering Solutions here

The first in mainland China, this storage tower holds more than 100 carts using just 13 sqm floor space.
The fully automated ASRS is integrated into the warehouse management system and connected to the catering kitchen by AGV transport.
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