Unique in Europe: Colruyt washes crates for fruit and vegetables itself thanks to brand new crate wash

Nine people washing 17,000 crates every hour, thus shortening the transport chain

Monday, November 15, 2021

Colruyt Lowest Prices recently installed a brand new crate washing installation that washes 17,000 crates of fruit and vegetables every hour. This installation, which was developed by the company's own teams in consultation with Euro Pool System (EPS), is unique in Europe and ensures a shorter transport chain: cost-saving, efficient, economical with water and therefore better for the environment. This is a next step in sustainable supply chain at Colruyt Lowest Prices: last year, the retailer was the first to switch to more environmentally friendly, green folding crates and next year its own water purification plant will be operational, which will also be used for this new crate wash.

In the summer of 2020, Colruyt Lowest Prices was the first Belgian retailer to switch from blue to green folding crates for the transport of fruit and vegetables to the stores. By collapsing the green crates after use, these take up 4 times less space on the way back: cost effective, efficient and better for the environment because instead of 700,000 pallets a year, only 200,000 now have to be sent back to the ‘retour centre’. The changeover to these green folding crates has now been completed, making Colruyt the first retailer in the Benelux to work entirely with green folding crates. Colruyt has a total of 8 million folding crates in rotation.                       

Efficient and better for the environment

In order to be able to continue washing these new crates itself, Colruyt Lowest Prices invested in a new crate washing installation at the Dassenveld return centre in Halle. The brand new installation is now fully operational: 17,000 crates are washed every hour, ready for use again. Crates usually return to EPS dirty, they are washed there and then go to the supplier, who fills the crates with products again. But not at Colruyt, where the crates are cleanly offered to the suppliers in the integrated EPS-depot on the same site.

Martine Pauwels, Director Supply Chain Colruyt Lowest Prices, adds: "We takes a link out of the chain, because we eliminates two transports by washing ourselves: to and from the pool holder. When a supplier delivers fruit or vegetables, we immediately give them clean, empty crates - ready for use. Saving these two trips is a great gain in terms of the environment and efficiency."

Tailor-made for Colruyt

The new crate washing machine was developed by a team of engineers from Colruyt Group and the supplier, in consultation with EPS. The machine is fully customised by Colruyt and perfectly attuned to the retailer's needs. Frederic Gansemans of EPS: "We look back with satisfaction on the realisation of this washing installation, in which we were able to support with our expertise about the washing process thanks to our long-standing cooperation with Colruyt."

The new crate washing machine has numerous advantages: less storage space is required and the increased efficiency results in lower costs. In addition, the new machine will be much more energy efficient: it uses a centrifuge system to dry the crates, which is more energy efficient than heat blowers.

Automation means that fewer workers are needed, 9 people per shift. Martine Pauwels explains: "Everyone will keep his or her job. Employees of the new machine will be trained, tasks will shift and some colleagues will be given a new job: this is how we ensure greater versatility on the shop floor."

Water treatment

To wash 17,000 crates each hour, the machine uses 12,000 litres of water, of which as much as possible is recycled. Moreover, Colruyt will soon be purifying all the water used by the crate washing machine with its own water purification plant. This installation will also purify the water from the entire site and two surrounding sites. The installation will be operational at the beginning of next year at the latest. 

You can download images via this link. 

If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Colruyt Group press department - [email protected] / 0473 92 45 10 (NL) - 0473 82 27 15 (FR)