Industry statistics show up to 50% of a distribution center’s labor resources are devoted to picking. The key to optimizing your warehouse operations and labor requirements is to reduce non-value-tasks such as reading, data entry and wasted walking and fork truck travel. The latest generation of picking technologies are only as good as the real-time warehouse execution and control systems (WES-WCS) directing them. With an abundance of choices, it is critical to evaluate processes matched to the warehouse’s operational needs, define the solution, and then select the right blend of software and technologies matched to your business needs and goals that will generate a compelling ROI.
Here a short overview of order picking technologies to consider.
I. A Warehouse Pick by Voice System Cuts Labor & Improves Productivity
A pick-by-voice solution directs the operator's movements using voice commands combined with product barcode scan validation to direct a more efficient picking process in a fast, consistent manner, that combines pick & pack validation into the first operator touch, eliminating secondary inspection and packing labor. Pick by voice is a lean and simple solution requiring only 15 minutes of operator training. With an intelligent WCS-WES managing the voice picking application pick path is automatically optimized, while the voice application ensures accuracy by directing operators to scan validate the location and item barcode with a voice message.
Higher employee satisfaction equates to better employee retention. Operators significantly prefer working in distribution centers with voice picking technology when compared to operations with paper-based or RF terminal picking processes.
The best voice picking system takes the worker decisions out by enforcing uniform best practice work procedures throughout both the pick and pack process! The latest voice picking software solutions are completely speaker independent, support multiple languages and require minimal training and management mentoring time.
Multi-modal Voice Picking
To obtain the highest productivity, voice picking should only be deployed in what is called a multimodal picking technology that is a hands-free, eyes-focused picking technology. The operation combines voice commands with hands-free camera-based barcode scan validation and a wearable wrist mount display to show the item number and quantity to pick with an image of the product.
Wearable computers with message displays and touch screen buttons to handle task changes and exception conditions add efficiency to the warehouse workers. Higher accuracy and quality are built into the process by showing the item and quantity to pick, resulting in an easy to learn system. Zebra Technologies offers a line of rugged mobile computers that fully support multimodal picking.
Numina Group's Victory Voice™ Suite offers the latest neural network voice recognizer for true "multimodal" order picking, yielding 99.9% picking accuracy and reducing pick and pack labor requirements by 50% or more in existing operations. It’s order release module includes order Cartonization that combines pick and pack into a single step by directing picking into the right size shipping carton. Not only does this reduce packing labor but lowers packaging and parcel shipping costs by reducing the size and quantity of cartons used to fulfill orders!
Victory Voice offers a suite of software application modules that removes labor across each component of warehouse pick, pack, and ship operations. Several clients have increased picking rates to 180 - 300 lines per hour in high velocity, properly SKU-slotted pick zones.
Voice picking is increasingly being combined with the latest generation robotic goods-to-person (G2P) picking and storage systems and AMR-based batch cart picking to obtain the highest picking productivity across all warehouse picking zones.
II. Goods-to-Person (G2P) Order Fulfillment Automation
Goods-to-person order fulfillment defines a broad array of systems used to automate the storage and retrieval of a product. With this order picking method, warehouse automation technology moves, stores, and delivers products to the picker, eliminating walking and movement and increasing picking productivity to produce 250 to 350 picks per person.
Less walking along with ergonomic presentation of the goods achieves the industry's highest picking productivity rates. In simple terms, products are automatically brought directly to the picker in order pick sequence, who then picks what is needed to fulfill customer orders.
An investment in a robotic goods-to-person system can increase picking speeds to offset labor costs and enable better utilization of facility space. Goods-to-person functionality can rapidly expand to meet these needs, making warehouse robotics more cost-effective.
III. Which G2P system is best suited for your operation?
Choosing the right blend of picking technologies is a complex decision with hundreds of warehouse robotic technologies to choose from. The first question is whether your order profile is a good fit for a G2P system? Then analyze the pros and cons of the various G2P systems, especially the increased performance and cost effectiveness of the latest generation of robotic goods to person technologies to assess which is the best solution for your mix of products, picking, and storage needs.
To ensure your business receives the full benefit of the G2P system, partner with an independent systems integrator to evaluate your operation and ensure that a G2P system is right for your operation. It takes a knowledgeable partner and a design-first approach to analyze your mix of SKU sizes and velocity movement and determine which G2P Solution is best suited for your specific operations.
IV. Batch Picking with a Batch Cart, AMR, or Fork-Truck
Time is money and wasted travel time is one of the largest drains on warehouse profitability. You can reduce this costly problem by deploying an intelligent batch picking process, guided by technology, to select and execute order release and assignment based on the shortest travel path for a batch picking cart, mobile robot, or fork truck. The process is controlled and directed by a WES-WCS transport path travel execution module that directs the batch cart, fork truck, or autonomous mobile robot (AMR) pick path to each pick location in sequence order.
If the warehouse is using AMRs, pickers are simultaneously directed in each aisle pick zone to meet the AMR and perform voice directed picks to carton, as well as sweep single line order items to a tote using a speed pick process.
Batch order selection includes like-SKU order pick logic that reduces picker visits to the same location to increase line quantity picking during a storage bin visit and allows batch cart picking across a dozen or more orders simultaneously, resulting in over a 100% picking productivity gain compared to a discrete order picking process.
An independent systems integrator can define and design your warehouse future roadmap.
The Numina Group is an independent software development and warehouse automation system integrator who partners with your team to design and implement warehouse automation. They review, compare and select the right blend of picking, packing, and shipping technologies to create the warehouse automation solution that optimizes the entire order fulfillment operation