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OPM - 20 years of success

The revolution in food retail logistics

Walter Winkler

Walter Winkler’s masterpiece

We promised a paradigm shift and we succeeded.

Walter Winkler

The idea for the OPM system and the COM struck Walter Winkler while drinking coffee. He took the cake server, slid it under the slice of cake, lifted the slice, and placed it on his plate. The COM machine was born and the OPM system became reality.

Today, it runs 24/7 in distribution centers across the globe - Walter Winkler’s revolutionary idea was a paradigm shift - transforming food retail logistics from mostly conventional warehouses into a production world for store pallets. Together with the employees of WITRON, he has kept his promise.


Insight into the history of the OPM system.

The customer’s OPM

The OPM is a game changer.

John Bayliss, Walmart Canada

Almost every WITRON customer would like to have the Order Picking Machinery system (OPM). The solution has revolutionized food retail logistics all over the world - often imitated, but never equaled. It makes food retail successful in the long term - regardless of the distribution channel.

We would like to thank all customers who are joining us on the OPM journey.

Customers from all over the world

OPM is the fully automated, store-friendly case picking solution for food retailers. Meanwhile, the solution is implemented in the fifth generation. The OPM is currently proving its efficiency in almost 100 projects in 13 countries. With OPM, it is possible to pick more than 95 percent of the product scope of a full-range retailer (dry, fresh, and frozen) fully automatically and store-friendly onto pallets or roll containers according to individual store layouts, largely without the need for personnel. The heart of the system is the COM (Case Order Machine) picking machine. With a system performance of more than 500 picks per hour, it is possible to pick cases onto load carriers in an ergonomic, product-gentle, and store-friendly manner.


Customers all over the world trust OPM technology.

For many years, Thomas Kerkenhoff was responsible for logistics at EDEKA Rhein-Ruhr Stiftung, with its network including the two highly automated distribution centers in Hamm and Oberhausen - and he is a man of clear words:

In order to operate a facility successfully and economically in the long-term, you need an exceptionally good team not just on the part of your logistics partner, but also on site that is constantly working on the enhancement of the mechanical components and the software. However, this only works if you also have a partner who has already implemented a large number of systems in the industry worldwide, and thus has extensive experience, expertise, and references. If I invest money, then the system must be able to map my business model also in 25 years’ time - but at the same time it must also be able to flexibly adapt to new basic conditions and business processes. That is what I expect as a customer.

Thomas Kerkenhoff in conversation with the WITRON logistics podcast.

How many OPM systems are currently picking worldwide?


People and machine as a team

Lone wolves don’t have a chance.

Nenad Todorovic

WITRON owes the success of the OPM system primarily to the high availability of the system, which runs 24/7. This success is not only based on the technology, but also on the WITRON OnSite teams at the customers’ logistics centers.

The sensor technology provides the data to extract information for efficient operation from the data in the control room.

Data-based decisions: The heart of every logistics centre is the control room. OnSite employees analyse data and gain information about the system in order to operate it optimally.

The WITRON OnSite teams work on the continuous optimisation of the systems.

It doesn't work without a spanner - despite sophisticated data analysis.

The OnSite teams ensure the perfect interaction between physics and IT in the logistics centre at all times.

A good user experience and user interfaces create additional process stability for the customer.

The logistics center is a great place to be if you like technology and people.

Margaret Wilson, WITRON Services (USA)

For WITRON, service means that the customers can focus on their core business thanks to our technicians. WITRON’s successful OnSite team model was born at SPAR in Wels in 1998. The highly dynamic processes in an automated logistics center demanded new answers from WITRON at that time. Back then, six technicians took care of the system, today there are 120 staff members working in multiple shifts. WITRON employs 4,000+ people in its over 60 OnSite teams worldwide.

What fascinates you about OPM? Joachim Schmuck from the OnSite team at Spar in Wels explains.


Well arranged?

We are faster in the store, have no gaps in the shelves, and don’t have to run back and forth as much when filling the shelves.

Frank Witter, Store Manager

An inconspicuous screenshot, but one that makes all the difference in the store: The maximum capacity of the pallet or roll container must be utilized. This is exactly what OPM’s stacking algorithm does, calculating the optimal allocation of goods on the load carrier - for lower costs, and, most importantly, less transportation on the road.

If a pallet or roll container is well stacked, it can be unpacked more efficiently and ergonomically in the grocery retailer’s store, shelves can be refilled more quickly, more goods can be provided, and the customer can be offered a better shopping experience.

In addition, there is less food waste due to the reduction of damaged goods during transportation or unpacking. Thanks to new packaging technologies in the OPM system, the store manager and the staff members also have to dispose off less wrapping.


Jeff Reasor from the USA is convinced by the OPM.

There is no competitor solution on the market that can handle more than 10,000 different items fully automatically as efficiently as the WITRON system.

Thomas Kerkenhoff, EDEKA Rhein-Ruhr Stiftung

Multiple channels

Helmut Prieschenk, WITRON: “Our systems grow with the customer. The challenge in a project is that we receive figures at the beginning of the project design phase that can change again during the implementation phase. And when markets change, the situation is often completely different.” For example, we had to quickly integrate efficient e-commerce processes for customers in the logistics centers that were originally designed purely for store delivery. The number of items changes, the volume varies, the order lines adapt, and more distribution channels are added. “We always have the goal in mind, see logistics from the end customer’s perspective in the store or at home, and analyze developments”, explains Prieschenk, who has the advantage that WITRON supplies markets worldwide with its solutions and recognizes developments on other continents faster than others.

The realizers

The OPM keeps running.

Thomas Höfer, Project Manager WITRON

What applied to the “VW Beetle”, also applies to WITRON’s OPM system. The system is available almost 24/7 and one project follows the next. As a project manager, Thomas Höfer implements OPM logistics centers all over the world. How has his work changed with the technology?

How has the OPM system changed the work of a project manager? Thomas Höfer from WITRON explains.


WITRON is a logistics service provider, not in the classic sense, but the company designs distribution centers and complete value-added supply chains and strives for end-to-end optimization. The logistics center with the OPM system orchestrates the material flow, so with new technology comes new tasks for the company and the designers. Many operators in the market want to keep optimizing the machines, but the much greater efficiency gains are achieved between transportation, the logistics center, and the end customer. “We can make goods available in the warehouse very quickly, but that is of no use to the customer if the trailer is not yet at the dock door. That makes no sense economically and ecologically. Intelligent processes will save money, increase flexibility, and help us drive our processes in a more sustainable way.”

Domain knowledge in design

In the past, we were very close to the hardware, developing control systems ourselves in the early days. We are slightly drifting away from hardware, but we must not lose contact to and understanding of the matter. IT is not an end-in-itself. We always have to ask ourselves why and for what purpose we are developing the applications, and what the interaction with physics looks like. Many IT and AI hypes dominate the public discussions. We say: It takes knowledge of the mechanics, the controls, and the processes. IT development or even machine learning will not work without domain knowledge.

How many overseas containers does an OPM project need?


The designers

The next step: Intelligent networks

Daniel Kick, Planning Department WITRON

20 years of OPM is a success story. The OPM operates highly efficiently in the dry, fresh, and frozen food sectors. But there are new tasks for the developers at WITRON. The OPM story continues. The requirements for intra-logistics have changed and the OPM system has mastered the market changes - pure store distribution centers have become omni-channel centers.

Is a new generation of OPMs coming and what will they be capable of? Daniel Kick from WITRON explains the challenges of tomorrow.


The OPM system is the heart of many of our customers’ logistics centers. The next step for WITRON is the supply chain. “We have solved automated piece and case picking, optimized flow-through logistics centers, implemented ugly items into the automated process, and are now continuing to think one step further - beyond consolidation”, explains Daniel Kick.

WITRON’s answer is the integration of all horizontal and vertical players of an omni-channel network: suppliers, logistics center, transportation. This also includes the various distribution channels: store, home delivery, click & collect, drives. The aim is to create a platform, an efficient end-to-end retail logistics network where all hubs permanently communicate with and optimize each other. Domain knowledge end-to-end is what they call it at WITRON.

Axfood’s dream

One of the first to use the new WITRON OCM (Omni Channel Machinery) concept is Nicholas Pettersson, Managing Director Logistics at Axfood in Sweden. “We always thought that we would never find a company that would realize our dream of an omni-channel warehouse”, says Pettersson.

Nicholas Pettersson, Axfood (SWE): "WITRON is realising our dream of an omnichannel warehouse."

He and his team were looking for a combination of store picking and online picking - all in one warehouse. Pettersson traveled around the world, looked at many warehouse solutions, and is now building his new warehouse near Stockholm together with WITRON. “The scale achieved there has never been seen before.” The highly automated logistics center supplies both Axfood stores and online customers with more than 22,000 different items. The temperature zones range from +25 degrees Celsius to -26 degrees Celsius. The system is designed for a daily pick capacity of approx. 1.6 million pick units. The highlight of Axfood’s new omni-channel warehouse: The online business accesses the same inventory as the store business. Processes that would have to be handled in two separate sections with conventional warehouse logistics and then consolidated extensively, are covered by the system in just one integrated warehouse logistics system. The result: significant efficiency, performance, and quality increases of the picking and packing processes as well as considerable investment savings.

Thank you!

It is the people who make the difference

Walter Winkler


Without the many engaged WITRON employees, the OPM would not have been a success.

Best Practices

We have selected five OPM projects for you as examples. Let us inspire you.

WITRON's first OPM in Australia.

The OPM in the MIGROS omnichannel distribution centre.

The OPM in the full-range distribution centre at E.LECLERC.

The OPM in MEIJER's Warehouse of the Future in the USA

The OPM in the fruit and vegetable sector.