Today’s Pressure to Deliver Orders Fast is Very Challenging
But it is the way it is and we need to design warehouses to use space, people, the most efficient means of storage and retrieval to allow the fastest picking times ever. What are the best Shelving, Racking and Automated Storage Systems to allow distribution centers to pick and fulfill orders. Retailers and 3PL’s are already investing in Automated Storage and retrieval systems and more recently, goods to person technologies, and automated robotic fulfillment systems in order to keep up with demand and stay profitable.
Let’s take a closer look at the challenges faced in order fulfillment and some of the proven technologies to discuss how some industries have benefited from automating their warehouse while others have figured out ways to full-fill orders quickly with more traditional equipment like Pallet Rack and Boltless Shelving. Always fun is peering into the future to try and offer you a glimpse of what the future might hold from a 2021 perspective, and let’s present insights on how combining todays technologies can benefit retailers by improving speed of delivery and overcoming today’s toughest operational challenges.
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As we watch order fulfillments today, on average, what used to take an hour can now to take up to three, which is a challenge when customers wanted faster, they wanted quicker, they wanted more accurate more than ever. Todays challenges include multiple order fulfillment channels, a lot of different items in the same facility, just plain not as many brick and mortar locations and accelerated inventory returns and order returns. Inventory managements is more complex than ever.
In many cases one of the bigger challenges, is adding staff or labor to handle online fulfillment and picking tasks. We focus on some solutions to help with improving the inventory management and flow, operational efficiency, and optimizing handling and picking processes.
Inbound and outbound Solutions Specific to Transportation of Materials.
some common applications are receiving area, Crosstalk in going from, you know, receiving it, just storing it temporarily and then dispersing it to a variety of locations, a real big challenge is returns handling and then replenishment as a receiving to a picking area or moving material from bulk storage to picking or processing. One of the things we certainly want to remember as we move forward is optimizing processes, really how to get the most out of the process, out of the facility, out of the labor force that you already have.
When you are considering about high density storage, there are some considerations when it comes to what’s the right fit for your application?
Do you need a single or double deep racking? Do you need flexibility for your load height and weight? Do you need to add a case picking on the front end where the pallet is delivered to a cell that then it gets ready for for picking.
This technology offers a variety of benefits.
One, optimizing your process really allows for some process optimization. As well as efficiency’s with everything in one area delivering what you want when you want it. A large focus on cubic space optimization. So not having available space above traditional racking to able to utilize all the way up to 100 feet and optimizing that space can have some significant energy savings. Not only are is the moving is the crane of the high density storage energy efficient, but you can do a life out application as well. You can follow very strict FIFO rules when it comes to first in, first out pallet or even case level, can eliminate damage. I mean, damage can be a huge issue with large scale, with a lot of pallet movement through facilities and then addition with the transportation solutions, you know, repurpose that labor that’s moving pallets around to do other value added roles within your facility.
Applications that would be a case or a totes.
From a material storage standpoint, the first one we’re going to focus on is our shuttle system. Our shuttle system. A couple of things to think about. Some key considerations are volume. Do you have a lot of volume or a lot of skewes or a mixture of sizes? The volume is a key consideration as well as footprint.
Are you trying to fit a lot of a lot of storage in a relatively small footprint versus scatter amongst an entire facility that you may have now?
some common applications for shuttle storage. As I mentioned, a facility with limited height. Absolutely, to be a very high daily volume, if you need a lot, moved quickly and consistently. Multiple shifts or multiple picking teams. So if you’ve got a team of individuals walking through a facility 24 hours a day, shuttle storage could be the right technology. And if you’re creating rainbow pallets, it’s one of the applicant. One of the best applications for a shuttle is a lot of cases are totes in to a palletizing. So that’s making some sort of a rainbow or full for pilot outbound to your customer or distribution centers. So you’re thinking about a shuttle system. Also, some considerations to think about when it comes to when you’re looking at your facility with a single double or even maybe a triple dip scenario. Iraqi be appropriate for you. Do you need three case load size? Do you have consistent loads? Do you have random loads? Do you have a variety? Do you have a lot of different loads?
Do you need flexibility in the inbound and outbound? Do you need your process flow to come in from the right and go out from the bottom to be straight through a lot of how do you need the layout of flow for your facility? talk about high volume. Shuttles heat up to twenty four hundred per hour, an extremely high volume in and out. Certainly some some benefits with this, not only is it it can be an integrated storage and picking solution combined as one solution, but cubic space optimization can have precise sequencing when it comes to production in palletizing or picking out, can eliminate errors and damage and repurpose that that picking team to do a more value added role within your facility.
case and or tote storage.
Unlike the shuttle, it is a stack of crane technology. So the applications are similar, but a little bit different. So you still have that three size capability, maybe have a variety of sizes, or you have a mixture of cases and totes.It certainly might have a need to move one to or even four items at the same time to really help with your picking flows or with next day deliveries getting four out of the time versus one with a traditional automation or what a what? Picking individuals can do individually, maybe have high throughput. So some things to think about with a stack or crane case or total storage. Single or double racking, mentioned that multiple times. Really, how can we get the most density in your footprint? Do you have flexible, low types where you need a system to move a variety of different things? Do you need to add case picking to the front of your system? So any of our solutions have the ability to offer stationary picking areas where the operator stands still, all of the materials are delivered to them to provide optimization efficiency really drive some next day delivery within your organization.
solutions that particularly focus on fast delivery models. The solutions are going to show you are based on overhead gantry robot solutions. We’re going to do some creep picking goods the person’s picking. And finally, we’re going to talk about some layer picking.
l this product Multipack, it’s a it’s solution that focuses on where customers have reusable plastic crates or coats or baskets, depending on what industry you’re in. You might call them something different. But essentially, we’re creating mixed stocks that go on dollies or pallets or their floor level stacks are going to the trailers. Most of the time they’re going to a retail shop. So think like bakeries or dairies, sometimes meat processing facilities, beverage. And the photo you see on the right there is is produced a lot of produce, often depending on the country especially, is handled in plastic crates at the DC level, but then also retailed like that into the stores.
Just to put some framework around this for what what might be a suitable application , starting around, say, five thousand crates a day would be a small kind of an application that but that might be able to have a suitable business case for for a solution like this. And then all the way up to really sky’s the limit. But one hundred thousand create today would be a very big operation. So those are sort of the constraints that we work with some equipment considerations here now that the end effector that we’re using is designed specifically for each customer’s crate. So it’s not it’s not like it’s not a solution that requires that you use a special tote that we provide you. Most cases we can handle the the crate or the basket or the total that the is working with the grid. You’ll see here the grid is quite flexible. We can go about three hundred feet long with one of these frames and about forty five feet wide and anything smaller than that. A few different ways you can process orders to consider depending on if this is a standalone distribution center or if it’s hooked up to a production facility, for example. But one way to do it is to use this as your bulk storage. There’s no other outside storage and racking as as what have you. We can take everything in from production stored on the floor and then use that inventory to then pick orders.
Or if this is a standalone distribution center where you’re receiving truckloads all day long, it can even be used to to waive, take or opportunity pick is is one term we use where as soon as we have inventory to fulfill an order that’s got a location, we can pick it and move it straight to the system. Really not meant to be long term storage. This the system’s been specifically set up as well, and this photo is a good reference. That is, it’s how modular and scalable it can be. So in this photo here, you’re looking at an eight robot, two modules. So depending on the type of velocity you’ve got going to the facility, I mentioned five thousand cases a day at a sort of the low end. That might be two robots on one frame. So it scales up quite nicely for the future as well. If something happens in the facility, you want to double the the throughput, you can easily add modules and not impact the current operation. So we see some of the big benefits of this multipack solution as again, sometimes it depends on on what you’re comparing it to. But the cubic space utilization can be extremely good. Previous photos showed how close stacks can be together on the floor, only enough room for a tool to slide over top of it. So about four inches around each stack.
So very, very dense, grid aking, can be very precise. So we can pick each order in sequence for how you want it out on the dock doors. And that’s how you want to it. We guarantee no picking errors. The system is very gentle on the product, so should reduce damage. And even though we stacked very, very close and tight on the floor, if there is an issue like a spill or something and you need to enter the cell, it’s easy with the interface, the machine interface to be able to clear a pathway to the spill and get in there and clean it up directly on the floor. There’s no rocking. The toilets are stacked directly on the floor, on top of each other. OK, now, using that same technology a little bit different way is a good the person type system using the same overhead robots with the same kind of tool that that that can go over top of a comb and pick a crate. The solution that we’re talking about here now, we call 3D shuttle and imagine every crate in the grid. There could be a difference to you. So every stock on the floor could have a different SKU on it. So this is our solution, the overhead gantry solution from core for e commerce, an item picking or low volume case picking. One of the one of the unique aspects of the system is our ability to access any toad in the grid, even though when you look on the photo there, you see a very dense grid and you see potentially a crate on the bottom of that stack that you want.
We don’t have to dig for that skew. The picking head comes with the shuttle on the back of it where it can slide over top of the entire column, pick up wherever in that column you want that crate separate that crate from the rest of the stack, put it on the shuttle. And that shuttle takes it to a station where an operator can then interact with and pick out whatever case or item they want out of that crate and return it to the grid. So that whole process of finding of traveling and picking a crate and delivering it to a station, depending a little bit the the the conveyor system that goes along with this, something like 15 seconds, 20 seconds, that crate will be at an operator station operator station for somebody to pick. Same idea, there’s no racking we’re flexible with the size we can help you design a tool for your operation, but the whole idea is you put you put the product, even if it’s casebooks, you put it in into a returnable or reusable plastic crate. But unlike the multipack solution that that goes to stores, typically these crates are captive in the system. OK, but you’re not limited to a certain crate size that we call you.
You can buy something on the market that’s suitable for your operation. And most, most often we can we can handle that crate and even offer some suggestions, depending on the application, what you want to put into it, case sizes, item sizes and things like that, we can work with you to design it or pick it up. That’s freely available on market. OK, so let’s start with the person solution and finally, we have layer picking, layer picking is typically typically going to customers that are our manufacturers or three peoples that are shipping the output of of of that facility to their customers. D.C., like a Wal-Mart, D.C., for example. A lot of the a lot of the layer picks, pallets that leave our system eventually end up at a Wal-Mart DC that then goes to another through another picking operation before it gets to the store in terms of volume. There’s a lot of facilities doing some sort of layer picking out there. But same idea to give you a sense of the critical mass of volume to go through a facility where you can have a reasonable business case is something like a thousand layers a day picked. Multiple shifts, ideally, being able to pick refinding, especially in this layer of the of the supply chain where where where these are manufactured, you see shipping to other disease, usually we’re finding 24 or 48 hour lead times, which sometimes means there often means you can spread the the picking over multiple hours a day, which helps which will only help with the RBI.
That being said, we do have some examples of customers and we’ve got one in the beer distribution industry. One of the big benefits that they saw and one of the big drivers for the project is they were currently working with a 48 hour older lead time before when they had to have a pick and out the door. They had two days to pick it. They were looking to service their customers a little bit better. And with our system, they immediately went to twenty four hours. And since then they they’ve picked the time in the middle of the day as an order cutoff for next day delivery. OK, some considerations with the equipment here is the end effector is is can be clamped only. So the picture you see here is just regular corrugated steel cases. These are full of haircare products or shampoo, conditioner, things like that. Fairly solid boxes, if you can clamp them. We’ve got a clamp only feature. If there is a lot of product with shrinkwrap or open trays, for example, which is what we found in the beer industry is a lot of open trays with cans in them. We have a vacuum and a vacuum module that fits inside the clamp so we can use both technologies together to pick up a very wide variety of products.
In fact, there’s very few products on the market, especially North America, that we’ve found that is not suitable for layer picking, at least technically they’re picking. Similar sort of limitations on the frame sizes, the multipack gantry robot, which can go a little bit wider, up to about fifty five feet wide. Really, it’s meant to fit inside a column day and about three hundred feet long. Most of the customers will use this solution in this kind of technology for putting inventory panels on the floor and then picking from those inventory parts to customer order pallet that one completed goes through a rapper and a labeler and then can go to the dock that’s suitable for something like up to 500 Skewes after 500 Stew’s. So someone a distributor like like maybe food service or something like that, that’s got three people with a lot more skills and that there is another way to operate the system where you kind of reverse that logic, where instead of inventory pallets on the floor in this photo that you’re looking at, consider that those could be order pallets and then you bring in inventory pallets one by one as you need them to fill orders. The robot will pick them off the conveyor in the middle of the system and then distribute those layers around the grid to the order pallet. And then when the order pallet is complete, the robot can pick it up in a single lift using a special system pallet that we provide to take it to another feed system that then can be wrapped in labels.
So flexible ways to to to do the order picking in the sense same sort of benefits as before. Especially I want to call attention to the errors and damage. Again, the robot won’t make mistakes on on picking and picking instructions, but damage especially, I find a lot of the facilities I go to and see how its product is being manually handled. A lot of damage, surprisingly amount of damage in a lot of the facilities I go to. The robot is very gentle on the product, even though it does squeeze. It’s got a it’s got a variable torque feature on the on the clamps where you can set up by SKU. So if you’ve got a case of beer and then a case of toilet paper, the amount of force we use on those two different products can vary quite a bit. So. So you’re not crushing the toilet paper, for example, and then dropping the layers of beer also by using the vacuum. It’s even more gentle on the product that way where you can use clamp. Only the one of the best features of this layer system that we’ve got here is the ability to pick multiple layers at a time. And in some cases like this example gear with the haircare product, we’re picking an entire unit load at a time and that’s how we do replenishment.
In this case. However, if a line item for a customer order requires three or four layers, we can often do that in a single pack. So you can really accelerate the amount of throughput going to the systems with with that feature, depending on the package size that you have. OK, so that’s our that’s our Larry picking solution, and this more or less concludes our presentation. We want to leave you with the impression that these solutions that we’re offering the market, we really try to focus on solution to put a premium on 24/7 operations, minimizing lead time and solutions that are modular and scalable. We think that’s especially where especially well for for the North American marketplace. But I suppose ultimately what what what we want to be able to offer our customers is the ability for our customers to be able to offer their customers better customer service. So so by whether that’s faster delivery time, less errors or ultimately a more economical solution for their customers, that’s what we try to enable with with with our company and our solutions. OK, so that concludes the presentation here, the contacts, again, if you scan those those QR codes, it will take you to a landing page on both websites there where you can immediately find some more information. But we’re happy to take any questions this time, right?
How would these system solutions help me get orders out the door accurately? How do you respond to that?
. So one of the things that people think about is warehousing effectiveness depends on kind of the accuracy of physical inventory to the warehouse with respect to the inventory that you have. Right. So as far as speed to find it, speed to get it, speed to process, speed to to have it at the dock.
So the automation would help with all of those stops to where your your your individual to find exactly what they want and have it delivered to a spot in a matter of seconds, which may have taken hours earlier by a variety of manual processes.
How technically qualified to the operators of the machinery that we saw today, how technically qualified do they have to be to operate it?
. What would we find anyways, since it is most times, if not all the time, our customers end up where they’ve got a manual picking system today, though, they’ll pick some of those. Those operators into to the automation operators, so they don’t as an operator, they don’t have to be very technically savvy. We usually say something like a high school education and someone who’s willing to learn HMRC would be suitable. Now, that’s not to say you don’t need some some better expertise. And that when it comes to some of the maintenance activities, you also need someone with mechanical or electrical background there. But as an operator, not nothing, nothing terribly special.
So for operations, fairly simple then. Yes. Can add.
the HMO or the user interface that manages the automation usually are very user friendly, easy screens to manage, relatively simple and hands off for most most operators. So it isn’t and everything that gets installed is with a level of training so your operators can feel confident and competent to manage that equipment.
What packaging type or weight limitations are there for the legal system that you talked about a moment ago?
. We’ve been making this product. We’re not finding a lot of products that we’re not able to handle it. It was specifically made for that reason. So in terms of a layer weight, when it’s a layer pick only type machine versus a system that’s been designed to handle an entire pallet load, we say five hundred sixty kilograms would be a layer maximum. So that’s I mean, that’s over a thousand pounds. That’s like twelve hundred pounds for a layer only. We’re not really finding anything that’s come up against that limitation in terms of when we have to do a pallet list. When I talked about the reversing the logic on these lockpick systems and having customer Powles built on the floor and then lifted and taken to and out feet, and in that case we do have to lift an entire power load at a time. So we’ve got a capacity at one time there. So twenty point two hundred pounds. Thousand kilos.
are these systems adaptable in different environments like a cold, frozen, chilled, hot environment, or are they able to work in a lot of different environments and temperature ranges?
That’s another great question and it depends on the technology, but generally the material movement solutions that we that we talked about, the tubes and the rail guided are adaptable in ambient temperatures, refrigerated and frozen. Some of them can go outdoors or indoors or really very flexible on the environment from a storage standpoint, really looking at not all indoors, but still very flexible from temperature ranges.
Yeah, for some of the larger picture we’ll go into to basically any environment, including down to a freezer, the de’monte take the basket picking technology will go as low as as freezing the cooler.
We know that expense to automate is a huge long term investment for someone for a company to be able to put in some of this automation. So what else should be considered when evaluating the return on that investment?
Another very good question and applies to all companies, so some some some key things to think about when you’re when you really try to figure out is automation right? For my organization, space utilization of time. Labor reduction or repurposing, and there may be some softer things that might be a little harder to quantify, like order, accuracy or damage to orders that you have at the moment, product integrity, and then give a little bit deeper into that, some sort of facility benefits such as energy consumption or or, you know, that optimization of space or doing multiple tasks in the same facility. And then also your labor forces and other key things you have growing or reducing amount of talent available in your area. Do you have a maintenance team to continue with a lot of manual processes or do you need or what automation help with with all of those things?
A solution that has been around for a minute is AGV’s.
Let’s thinking a little bit about AGV’s and where they’ve come over over the years.
You can really put an AVG anywhere where a manual operation is currently being completed.
Some of those applications include loading or unloading a trailer which would help with receiving or cross stocking box stacking, which could be warehouse, could be production, could be raw materials, a lot of variety of applications when it comes to multiple stacking on the floor could utilize for pallet rack, carts, multiple stacks, very high lift, for virtually any application moving material in AGV could certainly be a an option. Now, there are some considerations when you think about in AGV. Do they have flexible load types? Do you have flexible types? Does the vehicle. Work with flexible types, sort of battery scenario do you need in your facility and what sort of lift height do you need with lifts up to almost 38 feet? And now there are some key considerations to think about when you’re thinking about an AGV. What’s the travel distance if you have a lot of distance? Then how fast do you need to move material so those two key considerations would really help you to determine could an AGV be the right solution for your application. But with that, there’s a lot of benefits that come with AGV’s is probably one of the most.
So an AGV doesn’t take days off, doesn’t have holidays or vacations, it’s going to always pick in place without damage or error to product or to facilities. And then it’s also very scalable or, a future proof technology in the sense that it’s very scalable. As your business grows, additional vehicles can be added to the fleet.
Depending upon the throughputs and the speeds, a rail mounted solution could be the right technology where the real mountains solution offers sorting and transportation.
With a Rail Mounted System you can do very heavy loads, you can do light loads, you can do a large volume of skews or very small orders and integrate it easily with existing material movement technologies. Some things to consider about a rail system are:
Do you have the floor space available to mount a fixed object on the floor, Unlike the AGV, where there isn’t necessarily an infrastructure needed?
What’s the footprint for moving material? That’s where you need to go from material to material, and then again, what are the throughput requirements?
Some basic benefits with rail are similar to AGV’s, which do have load flexibility. The rail mounted can help with a long distance of transport with very rapid high speed as well.
The future of your growth and in areas the automation being a benefit is if you’re creating green pallets to ship out to your customers distribution centers, if you’re doing a mixed case fulfillment or you have a goods to person picking process.
starting with high density storage, so high density storage traditionally is for heavy loads, generally on pallets, doesn’t have to be a pallet, but we’re talking more pallet load, bulk storage, raw material, finished goods, some sort of load in that profile. And those applications could be new, to be an existing facility where this automation typically makes sense. When you want to take advantage of height, that’s your traditional manual options are limited to have a large volume of storage. If you have a large forklift moving your pallet, you’re working process or you rock raw material, multi shift, 24/7 shift, 365 shifts, multiple shift, multiple days and also adaptability into virtually any climate all the way down and including refrigerated or even frozen environments.