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Full automation and sustainability: new “RE D 39” distribution center sets European logistics standards

The most advanced logistics center of the REWE Group to date has been completed. On Friday, June 21, 2024, three years after construction works began, the supermarket chain celebrated the center’s opening alongside political figures, neighbors and partners. The retailer’s investment in this building amounts to approximately €250 million.

In its initial development stage, the new logistics center provides 49,500 square meters of space for 20,000 items from the dry goods range. On peak days, up to 286,000 packages per day can leave the distribution center via 53 outbound dock doors. One of the reasons for this outstanding efficiency is that 50 percent of the storage and picking processes in RE D 39 are fully automated.

"With this high-tech storage facility in Magdeburg, we are not only securing the supply of goods to our stores in the north and east of Germany, but we are also entering a new dimension in terms of automation and performance. Our journey began with the opening of our first semi-automated distribution center in Neu-Isenburg in 2014, followed by a second semi-automated center in Henstedt-Ulzburg in 2022. Since then, we have gained extensive experience in automating of warehouse processes. Now, with 50 percent of all process fully automated, the RE D 39 marks the next evolutionary step in central logistics positioning Magdeburg as one of the most modern logistics hubs - not only within the REWE Group but throughout Europe," says Peter Maly, who sits on the REWE Group Management Board and is, among other things, responsible for logistics and supply chain management. 

REWE is working closely with technology partner Swisslog to achieve full automation. "We are delighted about the opening of REWE Group's new distribution center in our Magdeburg Rothensee industrial and logistics hub and wish the new facility every success," says Mayor Simone Borris who welcomes the establishment of the new center in Magdeburg. “The city administration was very happy to support the project. The high-tech food warehouse will also contribute to raising the profile of Magdeburg as a business location. Situated at the intersection of important European traffic flows, the German Federal Railway network and the Elbe, Mittelland-Canal and Elbe-Havel-Canal shipping routes, Magdeburg offers decisive advantages for logistics companies."

"Modern food retailing with store opening hours of up to 17 hours places enormous demands on logistics. The opening of our new distribution center represents a major milestone in the implementation of our logistics strategy. It equips us to respond effectively to future increases in sales, quantities and product ranges. RE D 39 allows us to further optimize the distribution of goods in the REWE full-range segment by significantly increasing flexibility with improved delivery frequencies and bundling deliveries. Simultaneously, we maintain competitive logistics costs," explains Lars Siebel, Managing Director for Logistics at REWE. "Thanks to the ideal geographic location for supplying the REWE regions North and East, as well as the modern infrastructure in Magdeburg, we are poised to manage and optimize our supply chains even more effectively than before."

From Magdeburg to 1,900 stores

In the future, the new distribution center will supply nine regional warehouses in the REWE regions East and North, as well as 1,900 stores with foodstuffs. Beyond REWE, the customers of the new logistics center also include “nahkauf” local convenience stores and other retail partners within the REWE Group. When operating at full capacity, around 270 employees will work at the center. The innovative automation of the order picking process ensures highly ergonomic workstations: Only 50 percent of the handled products - predominantly light and small goods - are manually packed due to their specific characteristics. The remaining 50 percent undergo fully automated handling using automated case picking, significantly reducing the ergonomic burden on employees. AI-supported algorithms play a crucial role in the automation and robotics technology.

Special focus on sustainability

From the very beginning, alongside state-of-the-art technologies, a key focus was placed on sustainability and energy efficiency in planning the new distribution center. "By supplying from Magdeburg instead of Neu-Isenburg, we save 4 million kilometers of transport routes every year," says Andy Bertmann, Head of Central Logistics Management at REWE Markt GmbH. "The location of the new facility thus has a decisive positive impact on the climate targets of REWE Group.” The new building has also been certified with "Gold" status by the German Sustainable Building Council (Deutsche Gesellschaft für nachhaltiges Bauen e.V., DGNB). To limit soil sealing, RE D 39 was planned as a multi-storey building – a somewhat unusual approach for a logistics facility. The facility’s sustainability concept also includes the use of regional building materials, waste heat utilization through heat pumps, presence-controlled LED lighting, photovoltaic systems, green roofs and electric charging stations for cars and bicycles.

Field larks, biotopes and a bomb find: the construction history

After initial plans had been drafted in 2016, the "RE D 39" project development officially commenced in 2017, with negotiations initiated with the city of Magdeburg. Before construction began, a six-hectare alternative habitat was secured in in the Sülze valley in 2020, to accommodate a pair of field larks. A biotope situated between the construction sites received specific protection to ensure harmonious coexistence with the existing flora and fauna. Excavation work started in July 2020, followed by building construction in January 2021. In September 2021, construction had to be temporarily halted when a bomb was discovered. The roof was completed in October 2021, although no topping-out ceremony could be held due to the pandemic. Following the final inspection and formal acceptance of the building in August 2022, and the gradual ramp-up in February 2024, Simone Borris (Mayor of the city of Magdeburg), Peter Maly (REWE Group Management Board), Lars Siebel (Managing Director Logistics & Supply Chain Management REWE), Jens Christian Schmale (CEO Swisslog), and Andy Bermann (Head of Central Logistics Management), officially opened “RE D 39” on June 21, 2024, in a joint ceremony. 

 

Article courtesy of Rewe (Original article)

About REWE

With a turnover of €30.6 billion (in 2023), more than 170,000 employees nationwide and 3,800 stores, REWE Markt GmbH stands as one of the leading German food retailers. The REWE and nahkauf stores operate as subsidiaries or are independently run byretailers. The cooperative REWE Group ranks among the top retail and tourism groups in Germany and Europe. In 2023, the company achieved a total external turnover of more than €92 billion. Founded in 1927, REWE Group has a presence in 21 European countries, employing approximately 390,000 people.