Jarkko Hakkarainen

Cimcorp Iberia’s general manager, Jarkko Hakkarainen

Spanish grocery retailer Alimerka has hired Finnish tech firm Cimcorpo to automate its fresh produce distribution.

A new robotic system at the supermarket's Lugo de Llanera distribution centre, just north of Oviedo, will serve all 173 of its stores across Northwest Spain, as well as another dozen or so customers of the group's fresh produce distribution subsidiary, Codefrut.

According to Cimcorp, automation will ensure availability across Alimerka's fruit and vegetable product range, as well as security of supply to its retail stores.

“We’ve seen what Cimcorp has done for other grocery retailers, and that the team understands the challenges with fresh produce. We cannot have any delays due to disruption. Over 150,000 families a day rely on food being available in our stores,” said Alimerka’s CEO, Alejandro Fernández González.

Family-owned Alimerka is a leading grocer in its home region of Asturias, as well as in the neighbouring regions of Galicia and Castille and León.

Kai Tuomisaari, Cimcorp’s vice president of sales, said: “When dealing with food, and especially with perishable products, accuracy and reliability are essential. Everything has to be done quickly, as these products do not store well.

“The less time they spend in the distribution centre, the sooner they are in stores and available to customers.”

More than 120 tonnes of fresh produce pass through the Lugo de Llanera distribution centre every day, six days a week, being handled in plastic crates to prevent bruising and maintain quality from the field to the shelf.

“With this automation, we want to ensure that there are no unscheduled stoppages,” González said.

“Imagine if the automation didn’t work for one day: the stores would not receive fruit and vegetables, the produce in the logistics centre would no longer be as fresh, and there wouldn't be space for the 120 tonnes coming in the next day.

“We have to have a reliable solution so that the hard work, time and money invested in fresh produce doesn’t go to waste. This is why we have invested in fresh food automation from Cimcorp.”

To secure a longer lifecycle for the automation and avoid any unscheduled stoppages, Alimerka is also investing in preventive maintenance and 24/7 help desk support from Cimcorp.

“Automation comes with a price tag,” González noted, “but when you invest in high-quality automation, it ages well. Nevertheless, all automation has wearable parts that need to be replaced from time to time.

“Who better to maintain and repair the solution than the people who designed and installed it in the first place? Alimerka wants to get the most out of this investment, so we want to take care of it in order that it will last several decades.”

Cimcorp Iberia’s general manager, Jarkko Hakkarainen, said the Alimerka deal would strengthen the company’s profile in Spain, where it already has a solid customer base.

“It also proves Cimcorp's growth strategy – that the decision to expand our presence into some of our key markets has paid off and that our comprehensive service network through our parent company, Murata Machinery, is valued by both existing and new customers,” he added.