A modern, smoothly running intralogistics operation has a major bearing on the productivity of companies of any size in any sector. Even nowadays, however, companies often rely on the decades-old practice of storing goods on conventional shelving. Yet this very method can hamper intralogistics processes.
This can easily be tested with the help of the ten following signs with a view to reorganizing the intralogistics strategy. The more points that apply to your own warehouse structure and processes, the more obvious it would seem to be to examine whether the time has come to switch to an automated storage and retrieval system.
1. Goods constantly being put away and retrieved
The bigger the percentage of frequently requested goods (fast movers) in the warehouse, the longer the waiting time before the goods can be retrieved from the static shelving.
Solution: The use of dynamic storage solutions with high retrieval rates. These include automated small parts storage Systems or Vertical Buffer Modules. These units handle several hundred order lines per hour and can help to efficiently manage the storage and retrieval of large order volumes.
2. Long distances traveled in a vast warehouse
Employees cover several kilometers when making their way around the warehouse to get to the ordered items and the central picking station. These long distances use up a lot of energy and account for up to two thirds of the working time.
Solution: Units with compact dimensions that permit the highly dense storage of goods can be installed in small spaces. In addition, the ordered items are conveyed directly to the pickers at the workstation in line with the goods-to-person principle. In this way, systems such as storage lifts keep the distances traveled by employees to a Minimum.
3. Long search times
Once the picker has reached the shelf where the ordered item is located, further time is lost searching for the compartment or bin containing the goods. Then there is the extra time spent checking and removing the item(s). It is a process that can take several minutes per pick.
Solution: Modern storage units help pickers with pick-by-light or pick-by-view systems. These assistants allow the employees to immediately identify the ordered items without the risk of errors using optical signals from LED lights or laser pointers. Permanently installed barcode scanners also help to speed up the location of items and thus minimize search times.
4. Low order picking precision
There are several points along the entire retrieval process in the shelf storage system at which the picker is at risk of picking the incorrect goods – from finding their way to the right compartment and visually checking off the ordered items against the picking list to inspecting them and manually confirming their retrieval on the picking list.
Solution: All of the aforementioned risks are avoided with automated retrieval solutions managed by clever warehouse management software. These programs only bring the required items to the access opening, where the picker’s task is also aided by optical assistants (see Point 3). This results in the units achieving precision of virtually one hundred percent.
5. Weak throughput rates
When manually retrieving items from shelf storage systems, the picker often only picks one single item per tour of the warehouse, which wastes time and means the picker has to travel further. As a result, employees are sometimes only able to pick 50 items per hour.
Solution: Modern solutions such as a Vertical Buffer Module (see Point 1) make it possible to handle up to 250 double cycles (storage and retrieval) per picking station and hour. Productivity can also be significantly increased by using software to put orders together (so-called multi-order or batch picking). Installing an additional access opening on the storage unit can further minimize the employee’s waiting time and thus increase the picking rate even further.
6. Damaged items
Whether on a board or in a separate compartment, goods that are stored on shelves are susceptible to dirt and dust. Then there is the damage caused by incorrect storage or retrieval. All of these factors reduce the value and service life of the stored goods. In some cases they are even unusable for further sale or downstream processing.
Solution: Items are stored in an enclosed system in vertical storage lifts or carousel storage systems. This provides comprehensive protection against dirt and dust. Furthermore, the automated storage and retrieval process prevents the goods from being handled incorrectly, because they are only retrieved by the employees at the picking station. As a result, faulty goods caused by incorrect handling are kept to a minimum.
The length of time the items spend in storage can be managed in any number of ways by selecting storage strategies such as LIFO or FIFO. This prevents goods being damaged by remaining in storage too long.
7. Disappeared items
In large, open-plan shelf storage systems, items often get lost – mostly due to errors made when putting them away. Tracking down these disappeared items then becomes a major challenge for intralogistics specialists due to the sheer size of the storage space.
Solution: The warehouse management software on automated storage units is closely linked to the company’s WMS or ERP systems. As a result, the path of the goods around the warehouse can be precisely tracked, making it easy to establish the location of an item or its last recorded location. The software thus guarantees permanent monitoring of the inventory in real time, significantly reducing the risk of goods getting lost.
8. Losses Goods due to theft
Goods are insufficiently protected against theft in shelf storage systems, increasing the likelihood of them disappearing illegally.
Solution: In contrast to open-plan shelving, the enclosed system of storage lifts, etc. protects the goods from unauthorized access during storage. In addition, the units can be optionally equipped with personally secured access at the picking station by means of a code or chip card. All retrievals are logged, making it possible to prove at all times who requested the potentially disappeared items. Users without the necessary authorization are completely barred from retrieving items. The goods are thus doubly protected against theft.
9. Wasted storage space
Solution: Modern storage solutions are characterized by their compact design and highly dense storage methods. The amount of volume used to store goods within the units can be efficiently minimized by individually adapting the tray heights to correspond with the stored goods. Software can also be used to store the goods in a location that makes optimal use of the available space. As a result, hardly any space is wasted when compared to shelf storage systems.
In addition, the units can be individually adapted to the height of the building, which also makes better use of the available space. Compared to conventional shelf storage systems, this makes it possible to reduce the amount of space needed by up to 66 percent (horizontal carousels), 75 percent (vertical carousels), or even as much as 85 percent (vertical storage lifts).
10. A lack of ergonomics in the workplace
Pickers who work in warehouses with conventional shelf storage systems must constantly bend and stretch to retrieve goods, some of which are particularly heavy. Their arms are subjected to stress and their legs and feet suffer from having to cover considerable distances for long periods. Over time, this leads to the entire musculoskeletal system of the human body being overworked. The consequences of this are signs of wear or even injuries, resulting in a higher sickness rate among employees.
Solution: Units that convey the ordered goods to the employees at an ergonomically designed workstation in line with the goods-to-person principle. Instead of walking long distances, the pickers retrieve the items here at an ergonomically optimal height, which is located in the so-called golden zone at around hip height. There is no longer any need to bend or stretch and arms and legs are no longer overworked. As a result, the employees are healthier and can perform better.