New Rewe Group distribution centre deploys robotics from Swisslog

Last week, Rewe Group launched a new distribution centre in Magdeburg Rothensee with automation technology from Kuka subsidiary Swisslog. Up to now, the retail group has mainly relied on Witron for the automation of distribution centres, whose automation technology largely operates without robotics. In general, robotics have long struggled with the challenging handling of the sometimes very unstable cases in grocery retail.

In Magdeburg, the AI-based software and warehouse technology including robotics from Swiss logistics automation specialist Swisslog now enables 50 per cent of the flow of goods to be handled fully automatically. The new logistics centre will supply goods to nine regional warehouses in Rewe’s Eastern and Northern regions as well as 1,900 grocery stores – including those of Rewe’s Nahkauf banner operation and stores outside Rewe Group.


Rewe Group employs around 270 people at the Magdeburg logistics centre: These include employees from Rewe as well as from Swisslog and other service providers. 50 per cent of the goods are picked fully automatically with the help of Automated Case Picking using Swisslog’s software-controlled warehouse and robot technology.

Shipping containers are built with robotics

To do this, each pallet is first completely depalletised, all retail units are stored individually and delivered again in the correct order for the automatic, robotics-assisted construction of mixed pallets and roll containers for the stores. The other half of the goods – predominantly small and lightweight retail units – have to be packed manually due to their characteristics.

The Cologne-based retail company has invested an impressive 250 million Euros in the new distribution centre, which was completed around three years after construction began. The new logistics centre will enable Rewe Group to react more flexibly to possible future sales and volume growth. The logistics centre has a height of 32 metres and offers space for over 42,700 pallets on an area of 49,500 square metres. The centre picks 20,000 different items from the dry goods range. On peak days, up to 286,000 packages per day can leave the distribution centre via 53 outgoing gates.

A new dimension in automation

In 2014, Rewe Group opened its first semi-automated central warehouse equipped with Witron technology in Neu-Isenburg, Hesse, and in 2022 the second – also with Witron – in Henstedt-Ulzburg, Schleswig-Holstein. “Since then, we have gained a lot of experience with the automation of warehouse processes. With 50 per cent full automation, the new distribution centre in Magdeburg is now the next evolutionary step in central logistics,” says Peter Maly, Rewe Group Board Member for Logistics and Supply Chain Management.

“By supplying from Magdeburg instead of Neu-Isenburg, Rewe Group saves four million kilometres of transport every year,” explains Andy Bertmann, Head of Central Logistics Management at Rewe Markt GmbH. The sustainability concept of the new logistics centre also includes the use of waste heat with heat pumps, the use of regional building materials, presence-controlled LED lighting, photovoltaic systems, green roofs and e-charging stations for cars and bicycles.

Rewe Dortmund and dm also rely on Swisslog

Rewe Dortmund, a wholesaler that operates largely independently of the Cologne-based Rewe Group, also realised its semi-automated high-rack pallet warehouse with Swisslog technology and software a few years ago. The centrepiece of the fresh produce centre in Dortmund, which is operated at a temperature of six and twelve degrees, is a four-aisle high-bay warehouse for dairy products, fruit and vegetables. In Rewe Dortmund’s fresh produce hub, four Swisslog rack handling units and two semi-automated flow storage blocks ensure the inflow and outflow of goods.

Dutch supermarket operator Albert Heijn also set up an automated distribution warehouse for its online shop using technology from Swiss specialist Swisslog (The Retail Optimiser reported). At dm Drogeriemarkt’s distribution centre in Wustermarkt, Swisslog-controlled robots pick goods fully automatically (The Retail Optimiser reported).

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Annette Böhm

Annette Böhm has been specialising in the development and the management of marketing campaigns targeting retailers and consumer goods companies for more than 20 years. The focus of her expertise is on lead generation campaigns and client nurturing. She is an expert in social media and e-mail-marketing and has a high level of experience with the most relevant CRM and marketing automation tools.

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