CeMAT Insider

Logistics automation: Why it will save your operators travel time

Posted by CeMAT Team on 14-Jul-2016 10:34:38


“For those of you familiar with manual warehouses, the main issue is travel. Walking across the floor and manually picking goods. So how can we tackle travel?”

Pas Tomasiello, Director of Integrated Systems Group at Dematic asked during his presentation at the CeMAT Knowledge Theatre.When it comes to reducing travel time when picking, it’s clear to see how this will improve the overall productivity of your supply chain. The question, however, lies in choosing the right logistics automation solution.

Dematic developed a packing solution for Shimano, a household name and many people with outdoor passions have probably used their fishing gear. 

Their objective was to bring together different distribution centres and decrease order cycle time so that customers could receive deliveries the next day. 

Pas states that Dematic presented Shimano with two different solutions, and the results were quite surprising.

“One was to look at more traditional methods of person-to-goods. There are ways of reducing traveling times with the use of technology such as conveyors, storage methods, or any other methodology that reduces travel.”

Even though with this method it is still the case that an operator is doing order travel for you, there is a 20-30% improvement in productivity that can be gained just from utilising some form of person-to-goods automation.

The other solution presented the potential to increase productivity by 100%. This could be gained by addressing the issue of travel being fully automated through the use of technology.

This is referred to as goods-to-person and involves the operator doing very little travel other than picking.


Why goods-to-person?

As mentioned above, in a goods-to-person system the SKU travels to the operator rather than the other way around.

Technology solutions available in this areas should generally allow the tote to be scanned automatically, display the product image, allocate quantity and then confirm the order to move onto the next.

Using the goods-to-person method, operators at Shimano are able to pick just under 900 SKUs per hour/station. They are able to achieve this due to a multishuttle system that sits on aisle of racking.


Dual-purpose workstations

If you automate goods-to-person processes, dual-purpose workstations allow you to use the same station is used both for picking and replenishment.

These systems can drastically reduce the travel time of the operator by allowing them to run some for picking and others for replenishment depending on the workload. This optimises flexibility.

Another competitive advantages dual-purpose workstations is the reduction in training time. According to Pas, operators were able to start working within an hour at full productivity, where as in the case of voice picking technology it would take 3 hours to train staff.

According to Pas, the benefits of goods-to-person improve productivity by drastically reducing travel time, and being able to respond quickly to changes in customer demands.

“If you have a particular peak in any destination with the press of one button you can reallocate picking in the aisles to accommodate it.”

A customer of Dematic wanted to increase the amount of SKUs they offer their customers by 80%. Although the throughput wouldn’t increase, the business would require more storage space. In this case Pas stated that something like an extra aisle would suffice as you wouldn’t need to change the picking infrastructure.

It’s important to note that not every product is going to be suitable for a goods-to-person system as there are a lot of different variables that may effect the need for this solution. 

Pas use the following example:

“If something moves really quickly there would be no point packing them away only to be picked again. Here it would be better to pick straight from pallet.” 

On a final note, Pas recommends utilising a system that is can work alongside your business objectives.

“Scalability, modularity and flexibility are all important to optimising picking and packing.”

Topics: Supply Chain Management, Logistics Automation, Warehouse