Automated Picking Can Increase Productivity and Space

Automated Picking Can Increase Productivity and Space

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Blog, Associated University, Thought Leader, Supply Chain

A cost effective solution for your order fulfillment operation.


A cost effective solution for your order fulfillment operation.

Distribution centers are driven to high rates of throughput and accuracy, be it through “lean” improvement initiatives, automation or a combination of both.

One-Day Delivery is a promise that many manufacturers make, and then struggle to keep at a profit; while most manufacturing organizations need it in order to keep their stretch supply chains functioning.

Whenever there is a physical product to handle, a few critical activities must be performed efficiently and quickly:

1. The product needs be labeled and recognized easily.

2. The picker, be it a human or a robot, receives a list with many SKUs to pick and place in variable quantities and in different locations at high rate of speed.

3. The space that is required to store thousands of SKUs, in volumes that vary depending on the consumption pattern, is in itself expensive and a cause for loss of productivity and accuracy as pickers need to move about.

Today, speed, payloads and frequency of picking operations have reached performance levels that are hardly sustained by an average person.

In a recent study it was determined that, on average, $400K was wasted per year due to mispick rates of about 1%.

When looking at this research, it is easy to see the advantages employing an Automated Picking System such as a Vertical Lift Module (VLM), a Vertical Carousel (VC), or a Horizontal Carousel (HC) can bring to the table. For example:

– Productivity is increased x2.5 when compared to a manual operation because the travel time is greatly reduced. See Illustration #1.

– Ergonomics is also greatly improved as picking only happens at the correct height and appropriate visual aids ensure the operator is accurate and safe. Better working conditions, better safety and more accurate picking in turn will boost even further productivity.

– Maximizing Space is a primary driver to choose an automated picking system. On average these systems can recover 85% of floor space. The VLM is ideal for heights above 10-12ft, while the VC and HC are best suited for 8-10ft high machines. The HC has the added capability of expanding horizontally, and is thus a good choice for pharmacies, libraries and other low ceiling applications.

Overall, if you are looking at improving speed, accuracy, customer service and the general performance of your material handling and warehouse operations, an automated picking system can help you achieve your goals in these areas.