Pre-engineered labeling systems similar to the above arrangement are available on mobile base frames so that they can serve multiple locations in the DC.
Automated Pick Carts
We generally don’t think of a pick cart as a piece of automation but, when equipped with GPS tracking, and voice commands or pick-to-light devices to direct and confirm actions, all driven by a robust order fulfillment software package, the result is computer directed (automated) task management.
Picking carts of all types have been in use in DCs for as long as there has been DCs. However, time has not stood still for the ever popular pick cart. MHA providers like Intelligrated (www.intelligrated.com) have greatly improved on the idea and they will be demonstrating their Real Time Solutions® GoKart™ mobile picking system at the Internet Retailers Conference and Expo (IRCE) June 5-8 in Chicago.
A few years ago GNC used in-house expertise to develop their own “automated” piece picking carts. According to GNC’s director of distribution Kevin Klocko, the company looked at pick-to-light and voice technology along with other approaches to semi-automate their piece picking process for its three US distribution centers, but in the end, went with a unique pick cart system it developed in-house that enables very high levels of throughput and accuracy. For more details, pictures, and video, see – “GNC Uses In-House Developed Pick Cart to Turbocharge Piece Picking”.
Automated Weigh-In-Motion, Cubing and Manifesting
There are many MHA providers that offer pre engineered weigh-in-motion shipping manifest systems that can process up to 50 parcels per minute, depending upon carton size. These systems can have unattended conveyor lines with automated cubing, weighing, rate shopping, routing, labeling, manifesting, and shipping sortation. The systems are scalable to meet the needs of a wide range of operations, large and small, and run on proven industry leading technology.
With this level of automation, once the system knows the cube and weight of each item on a customer’s order, the data then can be sent to a real-time host system or to a WMS to automate the calculations and determine the most economical shipping case size based on DIM weight pricing. An added benefit will be realized in fewer back-charged bills from carriers.
Other popular examples of where selective automation equipment can be adopted include: A-frame picking machines, Horizontal Carousels, and Vertical Lift Modules.
Of course the cost of deploying an automated or semi-automated standalone system depends on many factors. However, industry reports indicate that these types of investments pay for themselves in months by reducing labor and eliminating inaccuracies inherent in manual processes. Designed and applied properly they can become building blocks leading to a more fully automated and integrated operation.