A warehouse or a DC with manual handling can be an efficient part of business process or it can be a real challenge. It all depends on many issues, in particular – right handling method choice and accordance with the goods features. The special attention should be paid on the picking process. In logistic hubs, this issue is most critical. For estimating the requirements for a picking method, the distribution center or
licenced warehoouse owner should conduct a deep technological analysis involving a system integrator, for no ultimate solution in picking exists so far. There are only those, which are most suitable for a particular warehouse or DC. Here below are the main picking methods defined and discribed.
Goods to person
When it comes to efficient picking and lack of time for shelf search, the automated goods to person driven system comes for help. The goods position optimization is no longer a challenge or even a thing to worry about, because there is no permanent position of shelves and all of them are reachable during almost same time. In addition, the operator saves time, staying on the same place during the picking process instead of floating from shelf to shelf searching for the needed items. This solution is also very useful when the assortment is wide and variable.
Among the disadvantages are high price of the installation and inability to extend the solution in means of capacity when the assortment grows. The last challenge anyway can be solved by adding conventional shelving near the picking location.
The example of goods to person type racks are vertical and horizontal carousels, crane based ASRS rack and vertical lift racks.
Person to goods
For person to goods method to work properly it is important to have direct and quick access to every cell in the racking system. The racks, which are used in this respect, are mostly open conventional shelf racks (except individual cases). It is also important to secure optimal goods types layout according to their throughput so the needed item could be picked in the fastest and simpliest manner. Hence the mostly picked items should be placed on the middle level for a quick access.
Main advantages of the person to goods method, obviosly, are low price and ability to extend. However, for efficient goods handling the additional labor can be required compared to goods to person warehouse, hence the labor cost may grow. Also to secure efficient function and avoid high inacuracy rate DC owners often apply to automation, like pick-to-light, pick-by-voice or pick-by-vision systems.
For reaching maximum warehouse capacity they use mobile shelving or mutitier shelving storage systems.
Warehouses with robot-assisted picking require fundamental capital investments in to a highly productive and efficient warehouse, where there's no room for process errors, referred to human factor. So far, for a long time the robot-assisted warehouses have been used for a small range of goods handling in big quantities with similar item weight. Today, with help of a smart warehouse system and IoT, warehouse management with wide range of goods with robot assistance keeps opening new opportunities. These can be Shuttle modules, carrying goods in trays inside the rack or the floor robots, carrying special racks with goods through marked traces.
Considering the world trends in warehouse solutions development for DC's, the future tends to make solutions more flexible and adaptive according to rapid changes on the market and new challenges for DC's operators. The bigger gap between fast and slow goods is also forecasted and the warehousing zones division will take place more often. For complicated tasks of wide range of goods handling there can also be use of combined solutions regarding the picking method. Hence, the near future is to bring us more innovative and versatile solutions for efficient warehouses and DC's.