OLATHE, KAN.– Automation is at the core of Smithfield Foods’ new distribution center in Olathe. The company announced the opening of the facility, which covers nearly 20 million cubic feet with more than 62,000 pallet positions.

Novi, Mich.-based Lineage Logistics LLC, a provider of temperature-controlled warehousing, storge and logistics solutions, designed and built the facility which houses 18 automated cranes that move inventory into, out of and within the distribution center. The building also features one of the largest temperature-controlled layer-picking systems in the world, according to Lineage. Layer-pickers disassemble and reassemble pallets of goods, a process previously performed manually, but the robotics and software at the Olathe facility fully automate more than 97% of the product movement through the facility, Lineage said.

“Our new facility in Olathe represents the pinnacle of supply chain technology,” said Sudarsan Thattai, chief information officer and chief transformation officer of Lineage. “It combines innovations in robotics, numerical simulation, thermodynamics, algorithms, computer vision and software to enable reliable and efficient access to food. Olathe is the foundation of our automated future.”

The facility also features Lineage’s blast cell technology that reduces freeze time and energy use by approximately one-half relative to traditional blast cells, aligning with Smithfield’s commitment to sustainability.

In addition to state-of-the-art software inside the building, the facility features Lineage Link, a customer experience platform that provides Smithfield with the ability to see inventory levels and receive timely alerts. This enables Smithfield to place orders and schedule shipments to ensure product reaches consumers when it is needed, Lineage said.

To ensure dependable functionality, Lineage sponsored academic research in mathematics to determine how to schedule and dispatch components in the facility, increasing throughput capability, the company said. Computer vision systems automatically identify the contents of each pallet, decreasing the building footprint. Lineage implemented refinements to the robotic layout in simulation, stress-testing it against high growth, food holidays and even March 2020 panic-buying.

“As a major food company feeding a growing global population sustainably, we’re continually working to implement enhancements across our value chain, including our distribution network, to support our customers and reduce our environmental footprint,” said Shane Smith, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield. “We’re pleased to partner with an innovation-driven company like Lineage to further optimize our operations and better serve our customers.”