Radio communication, voice and light guidance and automation, or how to improve picking efficiency

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Radio communication, voice and light guidance and automation, or how to improve picking efficiency

Speed, accuracy – these are just some of the advantages of efficient picking. Various tools are required to cope with this task.

Equinox recommends the use of an RF terminal, i.e. a manual order picking system with the use of radio communication scanners. The picker can see on the screen of the scanner what goods or products should be completed. One system of this kind can be used in several picking points. During picking, barcodes of goods and places are scanned in order to confirm the information. This ensures the accuracy of results and information. Another important feature of the system is its flexibility.

The radio scanner picking system can be easily set up to work in one or other picking area, regardless of the number of stations in them.

Voice picking

Systems based on radio communication are only one of the “helpers” in picking. Voice picking has been very popular in recent years. This is an example of manual order picking, based on computer terminals equipped with synthesizers and voice recognition systems. They can give commands and receive confirmations through oral communication with the order-picking operator.

In practice, each operator has a terminal with headphones and a microphone. This means that his hands are free when working, which in principle results in a significant increase in the number of operations. The solution is suitable e.g. for work in cold stores because the use of gloves makes it difficult to operate other types of terminals (e.g. limiting the possibility of using buttons). Messages to the picker are transmitted by voice via headphones.

In order to confirm the completion of orders, the picker says the required passwords to the microphone (the password may be e.g. the address of the picking place). On the radio communication scanner screen, the picker can see additional information. Wrist terminals with integrated laser multidirectional scanner are typically used.

Light indicates product

Pick-to-light or pick-by-light systems are also available, consisting of lighting and digital devices indicating to the operator from which position and in what quantity the product has to be retrieved. They are connected to the WMS. Picking can also be more efficient with a put-to-light solution. Its function is the opposite of the pick-to-light system because the system indicates to the operator where and in what quantity the goods should be positioned. Both systems often complement each other.

Put-to-light can be used on fixed stations on pallets or mobile devices, on which more than one order is completed. Each of them has then a specific colour assigned.

The advantage of this type of equipment is, among other things, minimization of unnecessary operator movement. A numerical display with buttons is located at the front of each row of flow-shelf racks. The WMS sends a signal to the display (it signals the operator the row from which the goods should be collected) and indicates on the screen how many units of the reference should be retrieved. When the operator has finished retrieving the appropriate units, he must press the confirmation button (to inform WMS) and the light goes out. At the start of the preparation of a new order, the positions from which the product has to be retrieved are highlighted automatically.

Use of conveyors for picking

The picking can also be streamlined with handheld and wearable computers, ring scanners (wired and wireless) and headsets. In addition to this, there is also the appropriate software. Another tool used in picking is a conveyor.

Gravity racks are installed in goods storage areas to ensure the stability of goods streams. A conveyor system is mounted between the separate zones, designed for fast transport of goods. One or more people can work in these areas, depending on the characteristics of the goods or the efficiency of the process,” inform Equinox specialists, adding that the collected orders go to specific packaging (e.g. boxes).

Packaging with collected goods is automatically allocated for dispatch. The employee collecting the goods does this according to the pick-list and places the packaging on the conveyor system (CS). The CS reads the barcode of the packaging and determines the next picking zone. The packaging is sent to the designated picking area. The process is repeated until the order is completed. The packaging is then transported to the control/packaging area. The controller checks the completion of the packaging according to the list and marks the results. A dispatch label is printed, affixed to the boxes and a conveyor line delivers the box to the loading/dispatch zone. A forklift truck removes packages from the conveyor belt line and places them on pallets or directly assigns them according to routes.

Picking speed increased by up to 30%

The MCPC (multi-client picking cart) is a simple device supporting picking multiple orders at the same time. The operator can pick up to 8 (16) orders at the same time. The solution consists of a cart and a put-to-light system. The cart is equipped with a touch screen and a scanner. The scanner screen contains picking instructions and shows details of the operation to be performed. The use of the system allows for increasing the picking rate by 20-30%. It is most suitable for collecting small-sized goods.

The carts are also an indispensable tool for picking, of course with the appropriate specialist equipment. E.g. System Crown QuickPick Remote.

Up to 90% of the order picking processes take place outside the forklift truck. The picker has to take thousands of steps, hundreds of picks, and constantly get on and off the forklift truck. All these activities are time-consuming and affect the operator’s efficiency,” said Łukasz Kobus, Crown Product Director at WDX, in industry publications.

QuickPick Remote is a technology that automates tasks. Traditional picking solutions require operators to constantly return to the operator’s compartment in order to move the truck. With QuickPick Remote, they can do this while picking orders, without having to make unnecessary movements. The suspension (FlexRide) is adjustable according to the weight of the body and there is a safety switch for the entrance belt in fixed platforms (prevents driving when the operator’s foot is outside the truck). Inductive switches in the platform reduce the penetration of contaminants (reliability).

Photo: Bartosz Wawryszuk

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