Vestfrost Solutions

40 km of transport by robot every day means healthier working conditions and fewer bottlenecks for Vestfrost Solutions

Noisy forklift traffic has ceased to be an issue for employees of the Esbjerg-based company Vestfrost Solutions, and they no longer have to push heavy trolleys manually between departments. Three mobile MiR robots now circulate discreetly around the domestic appliance factory, pulling and carrying 80 trolleys stocked with raw materials, components and refuse between 40 workstations. This has resulted in a significantly better flow at the facility, because items are now available before the production department runs dry. Robot technology has thus made a huge difference for a company that has been working flat out during the Coronavirus pandemic as a supplier of products such as freezers for storing vaccines.


Manufacturing domestic appliances in a country like Denmark, with its relatively high wages, and then selling them to professional customers all over the world is an art – and one that demands a finely tuned sense for optimisation. That is why automation is prioritised highly at Vestfrost Solutions, and the management makes targeted investments with a view to optimising the company’s processes with new technologies. Three mobile robots from MiR in Odense are now doing what they were built for at the Esbjerg-based company’s factory.

Automating our internal transport tasks has helped us significantly improve the flow in our production department. To start with, our warehouse manager got together with the production staff to determine which items need to be available, when and where. Our warehouse employees now pack the trolleys for the MiR robots in good time with all the various components and parts for the products we need to manufacture today and tomorrow, so the items are always available at the right time and in the right place. The staff simply press a button on a screen to order delivery of whatever it is they’ll soon need to use, and it arrives automatically by robot. The longest single journey our robots make is just shy of 500 metres, and that can add up to a whole lot of robot travel every day. So says Jens Gadgaard, project manager at Vestfrost Solutions.

Reusing trolleys and layout

In pre-robot times, internal transport at Vestfrost Solutions was much more of an ad hoc affair, with employees having to stop work on assembly and production tasks to walk over to the picking centre to collect parts and components.

Today, 80 trolleys are in almost constant circulation at the domestic appliance factory in Esbjerg, moving back and forth between 40 workstations. Some are pulled as trailers by robots fitted with a MiRHook, while others are attached by the robot manoeuvring in under the trolley and picking it up “on its back”. The majority of the trolleys are the same ones as the Vestfrost Solutions staff used previously for manual transport tasks. They have simply been fitted with QR codes that the MiR robots can scan. The layout at the factory is largely unchanged as well.

Warning lights and audio alerts have been set up to warn forklift operators of incoming robots: even though the MiR robots scan their surroundings and automatically stop and move around obstacles, other vehicles and people, a forklift could, in principle, run over a little, low robot hidden in the operator’s blind spots. The signals thus provide an extra layer of safety and security for the forklift operators.

Our competitive parameters are the quality and operational reliability of our products. We need to automate even further if we are to keep pace with our competitors on the global stage, and there is plenty of potential for automating many other parts of our production apparatus

Jens Gadgaard

Project manager at Vestfrost Solutions

Robots paid for themselves in two years

New technology has always changed the away we work, as well as our work assignments themselves. For Vestfrost Solutions, however, it was essential to reassure the staff that the intention was not to have the robots replace anyone; rather, they are to help the staff by taking care of the heavy, repetitive tasks, freeing up time for the more complex assignments. Jens Gadgaard therefore made a point of communicating clearly to his colleagues: the purpose of the project was for employees to be able to devote more time and energy to the tasks that actually add value to the products.

There can be no doubt that we previously wasted a lot of time having to drive 40 km a day back and forth across our factory. This is all in the past now, and it really makes a difference to the output and profitability of our production department. So the MiR robots will quickly pay for themselves. In fact, the payback time is around two years, affirms Jens Gadgaard.

Experience suggests that a successful robot integration has as much to do with people as with technology. It is essential to listen to questions, concerns and good suggestions from the people who are to work side-by-side with the robots.

One of the smart moves we made was to involve one of our highly experienced production specialists. He was pretty skeptical to start with, but he has now been bitten by the automation bug, and he continually comes up with ideas for improvements, which we’re happy to implement, adds Jens Gadgaard.

In this context, it is a major benefit that Vestfrost Solutions is able to reprogram the MiR robots itself. The actual installation of the robots took place in close consultation with Baytech.

A healthier and safer working environment that is more fun, too

Danish production of goods for export demands a high degree of automation if it is to be competitive on the global market. A side-benefit of using robots as auxiliaries is that the workplace has become even more attractive to old and young staff alike. This is important at a time marked by an ever-increasing shortage of labour in the industrial sector, as Vestfrost Solutions has experienced.

We have to fight hard to attract and retain the people we need. But the fact that we use robots makes a difference. People are interested in coming to work for us because the technology improves the working conditions and opens the door to some more exciting assignments, which really motivates the young staff, relates Jens Gadgaard.

Generally speaking, Jens is happy to see how the introduction of mobile robots has substantially changed the working environment at the factory:

When I joined the company three years ago, the internal traffic was extremely heavy, with a confusing mass of noisy trucks and employees manually pushing trolleys weighing up to 200 kg. Things are a lot calmer now, emphasizes the project manager.

Vital product quality for vaccine storage

Vestfrost Solutions manufactures a wide range of refrigerators and freezers for professionals in the pharmaceutical and food industries, as well as for the retail and restaurant sectors. During the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for reliable freezer capacity has meant a busy time for the Esbjerg-based company. In the production technology department at Vestfrost Solutions, Jens Gadgaard and his colleagues are already well under way with additional robot projects.

Our competitive parameters are the quality and operational reliability of our products. We need to automate even further if we are to keep pace with our competitors on the global stage, and there is plenty of potential for automating many other parts of our production apparatus. We’re working on a number of development projects focused on, for example, automating the quality assurance of our components and products. We’re also looking at warehouse machines that can pick a selection of parts directly from the shelves. There’s a lot of time to be saved here in a picking warehouse containing more than 10,000 parts for our 500 product variations, says Jens Gadgaard.

Robot fleet expanded to include pallet transport

Two more MiR robots are soon to be added to the robot fleet at Vestfrost Solutions.

We’re still using forklifts to transport pallets, but this is another area we’ll be automating with a mobile robot and it’ll mean bringing in a model with greater carrying capacity than the machines we use at the moment. We also need an extra MiR robot with a tow hook, because the robot we already have that is fitted with a MiRHook has a lot of trolleys to pull. We’ll be choosing MiR robots again, because once you’ve invested in one MiR robot, it would be too complicated to implement a new system, concludes Jens Gadgaard.

Vestfrost was founded in 1963, since when the company has manufactured more than 18 million domestic appliance products.