Today’s complete modern warehouse uses new pallet racking methodologies such as push-back, drive-in or pallet flow in conjunction with vertical lift modules, and conveyor solutions, workstations seamlessly.
We call this integrated automated solutions. Companies have started listening to their customers and finding out that they are inherently impatient and want everything fast. Hence a race has started between big ecommerce companies such as Amazon and even Walmart to be able to deliver the products on the same day they were purchased. The very first step to achieve fast delivery must be through a very automated and efficient warehouse and picking system.
What does an integrated automated solution offer? It offers:
- Off the shelf materials such as racking and technologies
- Much lower initial investment
- Quick implementation time
Pallet Racking or Shelving Systems offer many advantages. They are scalable or can be expanded. They can be disassembled and reinstalled again. Pallet flow or even carton flow rack is good for supply production, assembly and distribution processes. Just as in FIFO methodology, channels are filled from the back of the rack and unloaded from front. This can eliminate any confusion between order picking and replenishment. Flow rack channels are easily integrated with Pick-to-Light technology.
Vertical Lift Modules are automated storage and retrieval systems. Trays are usually located in the front and the back sides of the systems. Trays are separated by a lift. An extractor mechanism is used to move a tray to the picking location. Simply it is an automated drawer cabinet. They are either stand-alone machines or as a starter/add-on solution. VLMs are available with options such as laser pointers to direct the picker to a certain picking location. Other options are lockable safety doors and stilt-tray functions for ergonomic picking.
New Ergonomic Workstations offer integration of light-controlled picking and a visualization of the warehouse process. This feature helps warehouse employee step-by-step through the process by visual instructions on a touch screen monitor. An Ergonomic Workstation consist of:
- Touch screen monitor
- Swivel-arm elements
- Work table with motorized height adjustment
Conveyor Systems comes in two types. One is gravity conveyors; with an incline to benefit from the force of gravity. Second is motorized conveyors. They are driven by an electric or a pneumatic system.
Example: An Ecommerce company specializing in arts & crafts has expansion challenges
This growing company is experiencing low performances in picking with an inefficient connection with shipping areas. High turn over items are naturally placed into a carton flow rack. Medium turn over items are placed in a bank of VLMs. Slow turn over items are stored in traditional shelving. Replenishment materials are placed in pallet racking.
After implementations of the integrated automated solution, this company has a more efficient layout and workflow and experienced a 34% reduction in warehouse personnel. The picking process is also optimized. There is a more efficient connection between the picking zones.
As you saw, an integrated automated solution offers a small initial investment, proven technology, reduced implementation time, scalable and flexible solutions for future growth and most important a happy warehouse manager.