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The Most Exciting Technology for Warehouses, Picking and Distribution

warehouse-technology.jpgToday we share insights about the best new technologies for warehouses, especially those including a small piece picking operation. What technology changes or enhancements are working for other companies now.

Pick To Light

Pick To Light has great advantages and is easy to train and easy to set up. Expense comes from the lights, installation and the software to control the orders and pick.  

Ship Hero

Ship Hero works on iOS devices.  Here is a video walking through the new software:

Voice - is another great option but many believe Pick To Light is better in case of flow situations. For a full case environment, Voice is considered better.

Voice technology uses speech recognition and speech synthesis to allow workers to communicate with the Warehouse Management System (WMS).  Warehouse operatives use a wireless, wearable computer with a headset and microphone to receive instructions by voice, and verbally confirm their actions back to the system. The wearable computer, or voice terminal, communicates with the Warehouse Management Software via a radio frequency (RF) local area network (LAN).

Waveless picking - This is a relatively recent concept that comes from some automation providers that believe traditional wave picking often does not optimize automation/sortation system performance. In these waveless systems, part of Warehouse Control Systems from a few select vendors, orders are more continually released, rather than in large waves, to more consistently feed the sortation system than wave processing often does. That benefit, however, may come at the price of some loss of efficiency from small batches of orders to pick at a location.

kiva robotsKiva robots - See photo to right. This Amazon owned company picks with robots.  Kiva robots offer an integrated inventory storage, quality control and order fulfillment system.

Multi-shuttle based pick modules - Multishuttle is a flexible automated storage and retrieval (AS/RS) staging solution. This new system is designed for applications that require dynamic, high-rate product sequencing to support order assembly, goods to the person picking, and pick face replenishment. The key attributes of a Multishuttle include high rate capacity, an ability to accommodate load sequencing requirements, and adaptability to existing building layouts.

Augmented reality picking -  if workers in order picking systems are equipped with a head-mounted display, Augmented Reality can improve the information visualization.

Ultrasound pick confirmation technology 

Snapshots of EVERY outbound order's contents 

Mobile Motion Capture of Ergonomics Data

User Modified Packaged WMS Products

LED lighting - intelligent LED lighting allows a warehouse director to treat light as a managed resource rather than just as an expense. The ability to control light levels in different areas, track occupancy & traffic patterns and minimize maintenance while saving ~90% on energy costs is now very achievable.

As you review the list, your choice has cons as well as pros. 

For instance, a Kiva System has the merit to be easily expandable, allowing it to grow with your Company, and it save human labor time by moving the goods to your pickers, instead of having your pickers moving to your inventory.  But it also has lots of demerits, as it is expensive to start with, is making poor utilization of building volume (it is a surface system that uses only the first 6ft of the warehouse height, nothing above, and it is moving small racks full of inventory that don't need to be moved except for one or two lines of products par rack) and it creates a lot of traffic on your floor.  Amazon has some warehouses with thousands of Kiva vehicles moving all together on the floor. 

Many technologies are available to suit your needs but to make a selection based on what others use can cause a serious mis-match.  Some technologies out there pretend to be based on the philosophy of the Toyota Production System but in fact are not.  Watch for those technologies that move inventory without adding any value to it. Those technologies are missing the point. 

Many of the technologies cost millions to put in place and need a serious assessment.  Unless you define your needs in detail, or have a specialist help you do it, any technology in the world can either kill your business (A big investment without a good ROI) or double your profits. 

Mobile Computer Carts with Power:

computer printer carts with powerAnother new technology with a quick ROI is mobile carts with a power pack such as NB SERIES Mid-Size MOBILE POWERED Computer Carts.

The Patented NB Series Mobile Powered Workstation by Newcastle Systems was developed to provide true mobility ANYWHERE in a facility.

NB Series workstations eliminate unnecessary foot travel and paperwork.  Instead of walking back and forth from a deskbound computer to printers and other devices used in tasks such as inventory management, process control, on-demand label printing, product testing, order picking, cross-docking, weighing, scanning, etc., all necessary equipment can be brought to where the work is taking place.  An operator can have real-time access to WMS, ERP, and automated data collection.

Learn more about how new technology has helped Amazon and many other companies improve productivity:

Mobile Workstation Case Studies

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Topics: News Order Picking