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Pre-requisites to be considered before carton shuttle’

Do we need to consider some prerequisites while implementing an automated system like a carton shuttle?

In Goods to person systems like carton shuttle shelving, orders are store, picked, and retrieved in a hodgepodge before delivering to the customer. This system has contributed to increasing the overall throughput of picking, allowing the businesses to meet their customer demands through improved order accuracy. However, to successfully deploy these systems, a few critical calculations such as process throughput, space capacity, product profile, operating plan, etc along with the technical requirement such as mentioned below need to be done carefully.

An Analysis before implementation

A thorough analysis and inspection of the warehouse, understanding the current throughput and operation is required to be done before even proposing the carton shuttle solution. It also requires a detailed report on the existing process with the average time of order fulfillment and concluding how the implementation of carton shuttles can improve the productivity and hence remove process bottlenecks like delayed order or improper inventory control.

How to compare & calculate carton shuttles productivity?

The throughput calculation considers the current SKU pace, average units fulfilled per order, and provides the expected process accuracy to be achieved by deploying these automatic systems. Interestingly, these systems are capable of picking orders of say 300 picks per hour whereas the traditional manual order picking may bid for utmost 100 picks per hour per operator. Also, these systems provide the flexibility to increase the throughput by adding more of such systems into the fulfillment center which then conflicts with the operating space available. So, space capacity is another such scrutiny that needs to be addressed before implementing the system. To get higher throughputs, increasing the height of the aisles to the maximum permissible height,i.e, 100 feet can harm the overall accuracy of the order fulfillment.

Number of SKUs –

Especially industries like E-commerce, retail, spare parts division, fulfillment centers where there are large no. of SKUs are there & product profile contributes plays a major role in determining which products need to be handled by these systems. Because these systems have technological limits on the dimensions of products and their weight, hence they need to be considered while designing automated goods to person systems.

Aisle depth:

To increase the scalability in the future, aisle length of this system can be expanded to a staggering 100 meters, depending on the volume and required throughputs, however, a deep study has to be done on the load flexibility of the single- or multi-deep storage of containers, trays, and cartons of various sizes.

A few more points to consider before installation are:

We shouldn’t ignore the mundane yet important technical requirements such as

  • Installing tracks,
  • Limit switches,
  • Network interfaces and,
  • Integration with industry’s resource management software (WCS or even WMS) with utmost focus on safety examinations.
  • Laying tracks with aligned electrical Busbar and a steady power necessity of 230 VAC, 50Hz and single-phase constitutes the primary installation desideratum after setting up the aisles, and, besides, it also necessitates the positioning of barcode labels. These barcode tapes are used by carton shuttles for distance measurements, and if the placement of these barcodes is not coordinated, they may result in poor distance measurements and in turn, affects the positioning correction by the system.
  • Along with track installation, the system also needs safety forethoughts such as placement of limit switches and external caging with automated door locking mechanism, usually, a magnetic coil-based door locks for aisles containing shuttles.
  • Software Solution – while considering the integration of WMS solutions with carton shuttles demand installation of network APs across the critical network drop locations with access to the shuttle’s server. Finally, the installation prerequisites narrow down to one last step of configuring the shuttle’s network devices and tuning the drive parameters.

An advance and scalable carton shuttle system enable accelerated picking, order sequencing and order fulfillment, driving the storage efficiency through the ceiling. With Addverb, being the first largest manufactures of carton shuttle in India, we bring a diverse and wide industry exposure in implementing a carton shuttle system. To know more reach us at automate@addverb.in

What are the types of ASRS Systems & their Applications?

Automated storage and Retrieval Systems enable businesses involved in order fulfilment and warehousing operations to automate their material and inventory handling functions. But there is never a one size fits all. The ASRS solutions available in the market can handle different types, volumes and velocities of inventory at variable speeds to ensure varying throughput demand for efficient material handling.

It can be broadly divided on the following basis:

  • Load based
  • Bot based
  • Carousel based
  • Miscellaneous

Load based Automated storage and retrieval system

Unit-Load ASRS

Unit load ASRS explanation

Unit-Load AS/RS are larger systems that typically store pallet loads. The system can take loads as large as 2500 Kgs and place them on pallets or within a container of that size, to handle odd shaped goods. In a crane-based unit load ASRS, it features one or more narrow aisles of storage rack structures specially designed for pallet racking. The structure can reach up to the height of 30 meters which is more than enough for a typical warehouse. The storage and retrieval machine (SRM) travels between the racking in two dimensions, instructed by software which dictates where and how items are placed in a particular location. Usually, the system contains one SRM per aisle. But in a high throughput system, multiple SRMs can be dedicated to single aisle and in case it is a slower system, one SRM can be allocated to multiple aisles.

Mini-load ASRS

Mini load ASRS explaination

Miniload ASRS are smaller systems that store items in totes, trays or cartons which typically weighs less than 50kgs. Similar to unit loader, miniload ASRS are generally composed of two aisles of narrow racking structure, between which an SRM moves in two dimensions. One of the main benefits of mini-load ASRS is its modularity. The height of the system can range from 8-12 meters, depending upon the requirement and space available.

Micro-load stocker ASRS

Micro-load ASRS are self-contained structures which store products densely into bins, stored and retrieved by an extractor and deliver the item to the operator at a pick face. The pick face of a micro-load stocker often uses a conveyor to bring a queue of items. There are different systems of micro-load stockers available in the market and each model performs the storage and retrieval operation in a distinct way. Micro-load stockers are typically integrated with other ASRS system, which serves to the buffer and stage items which reduce the need for conveyors in the warehouse and eventually increase the available floor space. It is especially suited for industries where picking and kitting operation requires fast throughput.

Bot-based Automated storage and retrieval system

Shuttle based ASRS

Bot based ASRS_Addverb

Shuttle based ASRS technology is suitable for both FIFO and LIFO configurations and deep-lane or shallow-lane storage structures. There are many kinds of shuttle based systems available in the market depending upon the shape, load, size etc and the nature of inventory. In this system, SRM is a shuttle or small robot. When an item is requested, it moves from the workstation to the racking where the items are stored. It retrieves the item and travels back to the workstation. In other systems, manual labor plus conveyors are used to move items from racking to the workstations.

For warehouses with low ceilings or other space restrictions for example cold storage, this type of ASRS solutions is the most suitable choice.

Floor Robots ASRS

Floor Robot Warehouse

Why go to the storage area when the storage area can come to you. Floor robots are self-mobile ASRS solution, store inventory on a portable storage shelving structure. This structure is retrieved and transported an area where the operator needs it and are moved across the facility by using AMRs. The structure returns to its allocated space once the operator selects the required item. The solution is suitable for slow to medium moving inventory. The solution is scalable as the operation can be easily expandable by increasing the number of AMRs into the system. The standard weight capacity for this solution is 500kgs per shelving system.

Carousel based Automated storage and retrieval system

Vertical Carousel

vertical carousal_Blog

The vertical carousel comprised of a series of carriers attached to a chain, which travels in a vertical loop around a track like a Ferris wheel. This solution is suitable for slow to medium moving inventory. On the command of the operator, the items are safely and quickly delivered to the ergonomically positioned workstation. Manufacturers introduce new additions to the solution, but the main concept of the technology remains the same.

The solution can be made scalable with the addition of light or voice-based picking technology that enables picking of multiple orders simultaneously. It typically offers the capacity of 750kg per carrier, the vertical carousel is a cost-effective and reliable solution.

Horizontal Carousel

Horizontal Carousel_Blog

Horizontal carousel is a highly dense storage structure where the bins are mounted on an oval track which rotates horizontally to perform storage and retrieval function. The solution is designed to store slow and medium moving inventory and can handle items and cases weighing up to 100kg. The structure is often installed in groups called pods to generate maximum speed and achieve maximum throughput. The solution can be made scalable with the addition of light or voice-based picking technology that enables picking of multiple orders simultaneously. This structure is also equipped with an automated door system which creates an enclosed solution. Overall, the system allows excellent space utilization and high storage density.

Miscellaneous

 

Vertical lift module ASRS

Vertical Lift Module_Blog

Although designed primarily for storing and retrieving slow to medium-moving products, VLMs (Vertical Lift Modules) are important components on the system side of supply chain flow. It is one of the best solutions for the facilities where the ceiling height goes up to 100 feet and have heavy items that require lifting assistance for the operator to handle them safely.

VLM consists of two columns of trays, parallelly facing each other and a mechanical extractor between them like the elevator. The mechanical extractor travels up and down between the columns automatically retrieving and storing the items from these trays stored on the columns. In warehouses, inventory is stored in these columns and by entering the tray number on the built-in control pad, the extractor triggers and retrieves the items from the columns by intelligently detecting the location of that item. This operation is applicable for extraction as well as replenishment of material inside the vertical storage module.

Hence, ASRSs can be relatively small but they are one of the most important subsets of equipment within a larger warehouse environment. ASRS systems can provide great value in all sectors but have special significance in Food & Beverages, Consumer Goods, Pharma, Dairy, Cold Store, and Metals. These systems can serve as the primary means of storing and retrieving product in the system. Depending on the system, AS/RSs can handle loads consisting of small parts or large, or multi-ton units.

 

 

 

 

Factors to be considered before going for Automation

Planning is everything in automation for the solution to last long, sustain the rigour of operations, and achieve the required throughput along with ensuring highest safety standards. Identifying the need for an automation planning or drawbacks of the existing systems is the first step towards automation journey, however, to get the right automation solution, one should be clear about the objectives to be achieved through automation. Because one objective can be achieved through multiple solutions and there is a plethora of technologies available today, so choosing which one to opt for is a daunting task & requires both business understanding as well as process understanding backed by data analysis.

So before going for an automation solution, we at Addverb thought one must check some critical parameters and listed down the below points for your reference;

  1. Being crystal clear about the ‘Automation Objectives’ – As mentioned above, it is the cornerstone for the entire automation journey hence considerable deliberations need to be done with all the stakeholders involved within and outside the team. This includes arriving at the time-bound results and bringing everyone onto the same page.
  2. Maturity of the technology that is being proposed — So, once the objectives are finalized, now it’s time to look for the means through which these objectives can be achieved. Do a thorough market research about the different solutions that are there in the market and weigh the pros and cons of each of them. Either an in house automation expert or a consultant or an end to end automation solution provider like Addverb can be of help.
  3. Process dependencies – What are the systems to which the output of this automation will be going to and what are the input feeding systems to it and any special details to be considered. This step requires to look at a broad picture of the impact of automation on warehouse activities and will help in figuring out areas which need to be upgraded before going for an automation.
  4. Criticality of the solution – What are the performance expectations in terms of TAT, capacities creation, productivity etc at each step of the entire system and develop critical methods to test the same.
  5. Existing infrastructure – How flexible are existing systems, processes, and their capability to integrate and support this automation, sometimes a semi-automated solution might yield better results compared to a fully automated system. Hence compatibility/integration with the existing systems is of paramount importance. — Should not see an automation system as a stand-alone entity
  6. Automation Planning – Knowing where your facility is on the automation path and determining where you would eventually like to be is essential and it will help in determining where and when to start/upgrade automation.
  7. Budgets & ROI expectations – The most thought of & very critically evaluated parameter, not just while considering automation internally among the board members but at every phase of the work from evaluating the automation partner, evaluating the automation technology, while executing the product and even maintaining the automation project after successful execution. Comparison of existing total operational costs with the estimated cost of an automated solution and the benefits that are expecting out of automation & over what duration will help in better decision making. At the beginning, there might not be concrete data & a lot of parameters might change over the time, hence being extremely conservative about it will be a good option.
  8. Readiness of your staff/Human resources readiness – Success of any change to the status quo and how quickly people will imbibe it depends on the readiness of the people for the change and their willingness to embrace it. In case of automation, it is not only the technical skill set that plays important role but also the mental preparedness to accept automation. So, organization wide awareness needs to be ensured & and to handle the automation systems, a careful assessment of current employees’ skills need to be done; in case of shortage plans to upskill or new recruitment has to be made.
  9. Scale up strategy: It is essential to be clear about expanding the automation strategy to other facilities over the long-term or upgrading the current system to its next version. A rough strategy for a minimum of 5 years down the line must be crafted.

So, when the word automation is said, its natural to think of ROI, and cost cutting, but there are some soft aspects which might not be factored into these calculations, but play a critical role in deciding the success of automation & due consideration for them needs to be given.

Covid-19: Hitting The Economic Reset

“Helicopter Money”, was coined by Milton Friedman in 1969 to explain the effect of monetary policy on inflation. Today, we are practically seeing helicopter money in front of our eyes as US Fed has pumped in trillions of dollars to combat the economic crisis caused due to the covid-19 pandemic. Other countries also seem to follow the suit. While printing currency and distributing to the people seems like an obvious and quick fix solution to tackle the crisis, the way this pandemic has emanated doesn’t guarantee any certainty. Though the virus is not very lethal, the recovery time is anywhere between 12-28 days depending on the severity of the case. This has led to the overwhelming of healthcare facilities even in some of the most developed countries with the best healthcare systems. Gradually, almost all the countries implemented a complete lockdown to flatten the curve and subsequently break the transmission chain of the virus. India also implemented a lockdown on 25th March 2020 which got extended till 3rd May 2020 and a decision to lift the lockdown is yet to be taken by the central government.

Though many expected a fiscal stimulus from the government, to bolster the staggering economy, the government has kept a close watch and has still not disclosed its post-lockdown revival strategy. Though throwing money from the helicopters could be an option, like in other countries, but it might not help the economy in the long run, especially given Covid-19 is here to stay for a time more than we expected. I firmly believe that printing money is not going to solve a problem that has stemmed from a virus that is forcing people to stay indoors. This is a good opportunity for India to put an innovative plan in place and reboot the economy for benefit of all with the following steps:

1) A Wage for Living

This lockdown has for the first time brought the plight of the migrant labor in the living room of India. With heart wrenching videos and photographs of people walking back to their homes with their kids and many unfortunate incidences of people passing away due to resulting exertions have shown the mirror to the Indian society. These migrant labors who have built the metro cities of India, have not been able to find a room for themselves in the same cities. The minimum wage in India starts from around 5000-6000 rupees a month and varies from state to state, it is high time that the government lives by the definition of the living wage which implies a wage which can help a family to pursue education for their kids, healthcare and insurance apart from the basic necessities of food, water and shelter. It will really take care of the people at the bottom of the pyramid and inject much required liquidity if the minimum wage ceiling is raised to rupees 21,000 per month as mentioned by the 7th Pay Commission. Doing this will also ensure that money flows through legally through industries and will reduce the instances of leakages. It is time we respect the hands that have built this nation, in the short term this might be a little painful as industries are reeling under losses, but it will have a positive ripple effect going ahead.

2) Invoke Gandhian Ideas

Gandhi Ji always advocated the idea of villages being self-sufficient. The Covid-19 pandemic, will stoke the flames of de-globalization and also till a vaccine or some sure shot medicine is found (could be herd immunity as well) the global markets are not going to function as they used to in pre-covid times. We have already seen US canceling immigration applications for the next two months. Also, with the outbreak happening in different parts of the globe, it will be wise to create alternatives and re-look at the global and spread out supply chains. Thankfully, India can self-sustain by producing and consuming the in-house goods due to its size and population. Based on the news and cases, it is safe to assume that rural India has been untouched by the Covid-19 pandemic till now. This is the time we start making village clusters self-sufficient by decentralizing small and medium size industries in the hinterland of India. The migrant labors have gone back to their native places and those who are stuck would like to go back to their native places. Equipped with this labor, high end technology and cheap capital made available by banks, the village clusters can house industries which can become the new engines of economy to take the country forward in a world post covid. India of today is vastly different from India of 30-40 years back as today road infrastructure, railway, internet and electricity has penetrated in many parts of the country. These industries will help in import substitution, push Make-In-India and can also be integrated with ‘Skill India’ to develop highly skilled workforce. With such industrial clusters the pressure on supply chain will also reduce and in times of lockdown or an outbreak, we will be able to self-sustain and will be able to generate high quality jobs in Rural India.

3) Robotics Push

We have always heard from different corners about the infrastructure push that is required in India. Though we need not advocate to remove the focus from infrastructure, but we need to be more forward looking if we are to revive the economy from the impact of Covid-19. Whenever we open our economy and let the factories and warehouses run, it cannot continue in its old form as people will have to maintain adequate social distancing. This will constraint the capacity utilization and will bring it down by 30-40%, coupled with other measures like sanitization etc. will impact the margins of the companies. We have also seen that it makes tremendous sense to reduce the number of touches and contact for products in the light of Covid-19. This is where Robotics and Automation can play a big role by helping industries operate their manufacturing facilities and warehouses at 100% capacity and fulfilling the demand without affecting the margins and productivity. Also, Robots can help in contact less deliveries in hospitals, helping the medical staff from unwanted exposures. May it be for surveillance or sending critical material through last mile delivery, or aiding material movement in hotels, airports or railway stations, Robots will aid humankind in this war against the virus and India should grab this opportunity with both hands. Incentivizing such investments in Robotics by including them in Priority Sector Lending or by providing tax benefits and exemption will help in quick adoption and not only make our supply chain exceptionally reliable and resilient to such shocks but also will generate high quality employment. Just like the Department of Atomic Energy, a separate department for Robotics should be made and kept directly under the Prime Minister Of India.

4) Utilize the Land Bank

With Dharavi becoming a hotspot for the outbreak in Mumbai, it has created a compelling case for decongesting our metro cities and providing affordable houses to the labors. The Public Sector Undertakings are sitting on huge stockpiles of land, with a renewed vigor, these land parcels should be quickly utilized for building affordable houses for Below Poverty Line families and provide them a good standard of living with all basic amenities. This can be done by the government itself or can be done in partnership with private firms. A clear and transparent process will ensure unnecessary delays in the form of injunctions and court cases are avoided. This will boost the infrastructure related sectors in the country. Also, since the traffic and other interruptions are low, the ongoing infrastructure projects like metro, railways, highways should be pushed hard by maintaining the social distancing and safe work norms. It will help us complete these critical projects earlier and save us critical opportunity costs and interest costs on capital.

5) Short Term Financial Balm

While the government has asked the industries to not lay off people, it is becoming increasingly difficult for industries to manage the payroll cost. While it is important to help the industries, it is also imperative to not let unscrupulous managements get away with bad decisions under the garb of Covid. More than 6.5 Lakh people have dug into their PF savings to compensate for the income loss due to Covid-19 lockdown. It would be wise to revisit the PF benefit provided by the government to industries announced on 26th March by covering the employer and employee contribution for all industries irrespective of size of the industry for all employees having taxable income up to 10 Lakhs for next three months. The ESIC contributions for next three months can also be borne by the government. This will help the organizations in reducing their payroll costs. Industries can be provided help in the form of deferment of taxes, electricity dues, lease and rentals for three months. Duration can be changed for specific industries depending on the impact from Covid-19. These incentives should be linked with the caveat to not reduce the employment during the pandemic. Industries can also discuss with employees and focus on taking pay-cuts rather than doing layoffs. Highly leveraged companies will still face liquidity problems and some companies will still fall short of their runway, short term interest free credit line can be granted to such companies through banks to cover their payroll and some fixed cost, provided they do not do mass lay-offs.

Covid-19 has brought the glaring gaps in our healthcare system to the forefront. Needless to say, we must improve the basic healthcare facilities at our government hospitals across the country. This should not be looked at in the terms of economic profit or loss as our Prime Minister has said, “Jaan hai toh Jahaan hai”. We have come out of earlier crises and I am sure we will overcome this crisis as well in time. The economy will restart with a button and a simple push. It will for sure take a lot of effort and perseverance to bring it back on its feet. But one thing I am sure, sooner or later all will be well, and the human spirit will overcome this challenge as well.

The rise of automation in 3PL industry

How you sell matters, what is your process matters but how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more. Selling is the most exciting part of a business. But what happens when a customer places an order? It has to reach the right person, at the right place and at the right time. And here come the 3rd party logistics providers in the picture to ease the above task. With the changing supply chain dynamics, the 3PL suppliers have geared up to become the catalyst in the chain to ensure accurate and timely order fulfilment.

To become the real catalyst in the process the industry has set to make moves towards advancing their operations through technical innovations such as automation and advanced software solutions. With the emerging ecommerce sector, 3 PL industry has to undergo several operational shifts in order to meet the ever-surging demand. It is changing the shape of e-commerce product distribution by providing a range of flexible storage and distribution services to its customers.

 

An amalgamation of 3PL and automation

1) Pick-Pack-Ship:

A 3PL company is more than simply a partner in the value chain for a company. It organizes the whole process of order fulfilment and owns it end to it till the last-mile delivery. Vast item selections, omnichannel order fulfilment, same-day shipping options, and advanced order tracking have all become necessities to compete for business. And this is where automation becomes an inevitable choice for 3PL providers. Solutions such as automated picking technologies and automated storage & retrieval system act as a catalyst in the operation.

2) Brains in Motion:

3PL partners use intelligent software to process the entire order fulfilment in cohesion and coordination. Automation fulfils this requirement of 3PLs and boosts the efficiency at every stage, be it picking, kitting or assembly operation.

3) Store-in-the-Hump:

3PL companies facilitate inventory management and handling peak season demands. AI-powered solutions in 3rd party logistics inventory management allow for systematic storage and retrieval of warehouse material, streamlined inventory management, and facilitation of order fulfillment.

4) Space No bar:

With many 3PLs serving different customers, space optimization is essential when housing so many SKU varieties in a single warehouse. Automation in 3PL can augment warehouse height utilization, unlocking higher storage capacity thus delivering more value for the same floor space.

5) Returns are welcomed:

Returns handling accounts for almost 30% of the purchase price in an ecommerce business. The modular features of a robust software solution ensure effortless handling of returns via proper data integration across all systems thus enhancing supply chain & inventory management, with positive ripples spreading to deliver enhanced customer experience and satisfaction.

In recent years, the 3PL industry has expanded at an unprecedented rate with an increase in revenue of 21.6 percent between 2017-2019. This unrelenting growth is attributed to the aspirations of retailers to stay competitive and meet increasing consumer expectations for on-time and accurate deliveries. They are tapping 3PL providers to augment their order fulfilment capabilities. The global 3PL market is projected to reach over $1,100 Billion by 2024 as a wide range of industries turn to these providers to handle various levels of warehousing, order picking, packing, transportation, and shipping operations.

Some of the 3PL players still deter to adopt automation into their system. Unpredictability in ROI is one of the top reasons for keeping this contention. Also, there are uncertainties around the investment option in a rigid automation solution for a customer today that might not even be in the warehouse tomorrow. The new-age automation is breaking all these fallacies and emerging out as the unanimous choice for all the 3rd party logistics providers. Automated warehouses and distribution solutions have become flexible and scalable enough to deal with the dynamics of business in today’s era and ensure smooth material handling to achieve unmatched efficiency in the warehouse.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality, to change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” and technology in building these new models every day for every industry!