In times of ever faster processes, the area of intralogistics is also constantly confronted with increasing challenges. Whether it involves growing product ranges and order quantities or a desire to improve the order picking process, warehouse logistics specialists are continuously on the lookout for new ways of making processes even leaner and more efficient. Yet what can be done when the warehouse is filled to capacity? Cross picking offers an intelligent and inexpensive solution.
The batch picking principle established itself in modern storage systems some time ago as a way of being able to pick goods quickly. Yet despite this effective method, processes reach their limits in the warehouse as soon as too many orders are received. Until now, the affected companies only had one logical answer to redress the bottleneck – expanding their storage capacity by adding new units. Yet this is often not possible due to space issues within the warehouse. The frequently voiced concerns in relation to the cost–benefit relationship of a new storage solution are another argument against expansion. However, there are now countless studies and actual examples that emphatically validate the productive effects of the latter. According to these, automated storage systems have a number of advantages over conventional shelf storage systems:
- Faster and more accurate order picking
- Less space required while simultaneously increasing storage capacity
- Energy efficiency and ergonomics
- Goods protected from external influences and theft
- More efficient processes thanks to software-controlled management
Yet what can be done when the warehouse is filled to capacity despite having state-of-the-art storage units? Here, too, the recommendation of suppliers of logistics systems has generally been to expand, although many companies balk at the cost of additional units.
Improve order picking using the same infrastructure with cross picking
Kardex Remstar developed its cross picking solution to help companies overcome this problem. This represents an intelligent alternative to costly expansion, improving performance and productivity on the same space without having to replace the existing storage units. Furthermore, compared to other batch picking strategies, this method is capable of increasing productivity by up to 30 percent.
Creating the innovative cross picking station is incredibly easy. The concept involves arranging two rows of Kardex Remstar carousel storage units or lift systems opposite each other. An additional double station with areas for the bins used for batch orders is also set up between both picking zones along the entire length of the system; items are transported along an integrated conveyor belt. The bins are filled from both sides, with items being placed in the bins located on the same side as well as in the bins located on the station installed on the opposite side. This is made possible by the two opposing chutes fitted above each bin. Items placed in them will slide down to the station on the opposite side (or arrive from the opposite station), thereby doubling the picking performance for batch orders.
Pick-by-light displays on the center bin belt ensure maximum precision by telling the warehouse employee what to do with each item: They have the option of placing it in the bin being used for their picking order, putting it on the slide for the relevant order on the opposite station, or taking an item from the slide to use it for their particular order.
With the help of the chutes, the batch orders are simultaneously supplied with goods from the opposite storage units, which means that the batch bins no longer have to be pushed from one station to another until the order is completed. As a result, more goods can be picked on the same space within a shorter period of time while simultaneously minimizing the distance travelled by the batch bins. Once an order is completed, this is confirmed by the display on each side. The bins are taken away via the integrated conveyor belt while new, empty boxes are placed in position on the level above.
Cross picking in practice
Faymonville, a Belgian manufacturer of trailers for special transport and heavy haulage, decided to centralize its warehouse, which had previously been spread across three production locations in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Poland. At the same time, the entire intralogistics operation had to be reorganized and made more efficient. The new warehouse had to have space for 17,000 items and make them available to employees or customers within the shortest space of time as and when needed.
The solution involved integrating ten Shuttle XP 500 storage systems from Kardex Remstar along with the Power Pick Global warehouse management software, which controls the storage units as well as the entire process of storing and retrieving the items. The shuttle systems are positioned opposite each other in the warehouse, five on each side, with a batch picking station in between for 2×15 bins and a centrally located conveyor belt for taking away the full order bins. Empty boxes are placed into position via a belt positioned above this.
The pickers now work on the batch orders for the 15 boxes located on their own side as well as the 15 boxes on the opposite side, bringing about the desired acceleration of processes. Full bins are then automatically taken away while empty boxes are supplied at head height for the next orders.
The advantages of the solution are clear:
- No need to purchase new storage systems
- Higher order picking performance on the same space
- Productivity improved by up to 30 percent
- Picking precision of 99.9 percent
- Shorter distances save time