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Pre-requisites to be done before implementing an ASRS system

A well organised and automated warehouse enables the company to manage demand and order fulfilment needs efficiently. With the evolving technologies, Automated storage and Retrieval Systems allow warehouses to maintain a required level of inventory of products ranging between large and heavy to exponentially small material to store. Rise of ecommerce sector into the ecosystem has increased the demand for ASRS more than any thing as it has increased the order fulfilment requirements per day and now the manual operation cannot keep up with the today’s demand needs.

Today the organisations are eager to pick a system that addresses their sweet spot. To determine that sweet spot, the objectives to go for ASRS come into the discussion; and that covers the enhanced storage capacity and the picking throughputs that ASRS infuses into a warehouse. It further goes onto defining the inventory that needs to be handled in the warehouse, redundancy in the current operation and other constraints. Once this discussion ends, it counts the cherries coming with the cake. ASRS can introduce several benefits into the warehouse such as controlled access to your valuable inventory, increased accuracy of operation, increased workers’ productivity and the most important their safety.

Now, when ASRS has become the norm, let’s consider the checklist below before starting the process.

Data is the king and Analysis is the queen:

Successful implementation of ASRS requires extensive physical data of all your inventory. The order data includes both historical and required projections. The complete information of the inventory levels, SKU velocity classification is also taken into due consideration before going for an ergonomic design. Specifically, the data must be modelled to predict the required size and throughput capabilities of the system in the future. The optimal tools for efficient operations are dictated by product mix, order rate, minimum order quantities and type of fulfilment process, all of which differ by facility.

System configuration:

It must be decided what type configuration the system will have. First, there are the electrical and software setup of the system to functionally run and keep up with the high demand of the manufacturing process. Second, the physical input and output points of the system must be setup to be in a central location for all storage and retrieval requests.

Operational clarity:

Material to be handled in full pallets, mixed pallets, cases or cartons, kitting operations etc, all have different attributes in their storage and retrieval operations. It is imperative to determine how the new ASRS will impact the entire fulfilment process, including upstream manufacturing processes and downstream shipping operations.

Usage of other materials:

It is important to pre-determine the use of carrier boards, slip sheets, totes, and pallets. Also, it should be noted whether they are captive in the system or will they be induced at some other point in the process.

Facility evaluation:

If your ASRS requires a new building or a building modification, one must have the knowledge of and experience with various regulations influencing the project. This is especially true when considering modifications that are needed to incorporate a new storage system within an existing facility.

Customization:

If your solution is customised, then it should include a combination of products that are most appropriate for your application. All the options must be properly weighed of whether to opt for unit load ASRS crane or Unit load shuttle system. It must be evaluated AGVs will be considered for movement or it will be done in combination of manual and conveyors. Picking operation and technologies selection also has an eminent role in the process.

Software:

A fool-proof existing software or altogether new software integration is required into the system. It will include Software integration with warehouse management (WMS), warehouse control (WCS), warehouse execution (WES) and any enterprise resource management (ERP) systems.

What to skip?

It is important to call out the vulnerabilities of the system that might pop up while implementing ASRS. Light-duty storage systems are particularly unfortified which fails to deliver well-engineered equipment and software. Such system requires a high level of maintenance and experience an entangled web of mechanical, electrical and software problems.

The impact of the same can be shattering to small and medium sized businesses. Interrupted ASRS service extends from bearing the toll of measurable losses such as lost production, shipping revenue, increased costs of repair etc, to intangible losses such as diminished workforce confidence in the company’s operation.

Hence it is advisable to knock it out from the field on time.

Get set Go!                                                                            

If the above check-list is up to the mark and you have dealt with all the vulnerabilities that might crumble down the operation, you can go-ahead with the implementation of ASRS into your system. Hence the basic rule for setting the pre-requisition for businesses looking at using technology and automation, is to identify the functions that need tech intervention, the efficiencies and results it can provide and the level of disruption the transition process is likely to create. Once these three variables are accounted for, a business should not hesitate to embrace technology and automation.

 

 

Does Your Forklifts Take The Road Less Taken ? Try Smart move

Today forklifts are the most common sight in a warehouse. They are heavy vehicles with a pronged device for moving goods from the unloading areas to shelves and taking them for the dispatch area. They carry bulk weights and facilitate easy movement of the inventory. These are very costly equipment, so they have to be utilized to the best of their capacity in order to realize an effective ROI on them.

In fact, the trickle-down effect of forklift efficiency flows down to the bottom line not only by reducing warehouse operating costs but also by improving safety & maximizing warehouse space utilization. However, the reality is otherwise, an Industry survey shows that 94% of material handling businesses do not have an accurate record of their forklift fleet!!

With IoT finding its way into warehouse management systems, smart forklifts can act as change agents to realize better efficiency through forklift management. So, now let us discuss how smart forklifts Improve Efficiency?

1.Tracking Forklift Movement: When a warehouse is operating heavy machinery like Forklifts for material handling, it’s important to know how the forklifts are moving, and where they are moving, because each movement of a forklift has the insight to be looked into & work upon.!
Is the forklift carrying optimal weight per kilometer of its travel?
How many kilometers per day it is traveling with null weight (Empty movement) & how to reduce it?
Which forklift driver is consistently performing well? Which forklift driver is below the expectation? and the list goes on.
Smart forklifts equipped with indoor RTLS systems enable 100% visibility of forklifts and forklift drivers. We can track every movement of forklift including speed and direction.

2.Safety: The man-machine interface is one of the key parameters to evaluate the safety of operations. This interface should be minimum to ensure smooth and safe operations. In this context, it’s inarguable that forklift movements have to be continuously monitored for safety of the drivers, forklifts & inventory.
With the ever-rising complex structures of the warehouses & volume of operations, the safety managers should take decisions about safety routes & loads on the basis of the most reliable data. Smart forklifts can give recommendations on less congested routes by analyzing the data on forklift density over a path in real-time. It also provides the speed profile of forklift operators on a monthly basis, which helps the safety managers to plan training sessions & safety guidelines at blind spots.

3.Warehouse Space Utilization through Analytics: With changing customer requirements and the production of a multitude of new items every day, warehouse slotting cannot afford to be static anymore. The Bin selection logic should be such that the right items are placed at the right places and the design of optimal paths should facilitate optimal forklift movement.
With smart forklifts, the software plots historical forklift movement on the warehouse layout. It gives insights on routing patterns and also identifies locations – that are hidden but eating on the productive time of the warehouse. The heat map analysis gives insights into any changes of A class, B class & C class items and subsequently their storage pattern. It suggests optimal routes on a real-time basis, which improves performance as well as safety.

4. Improve Drivers’ Productivity: By making forklift operators aware of their driving pattern, indicating strengths, weaknesses, peak & low-performance hours, it’s possible to give individual feedback and training sessions.

The Smart Move solution from Addverb comes as a power pack with all the above features. It is also capable of providing insights at a deeper level like the impact of driver’s fatigue level on the productivity, easy integration with any WMS, preventive maintenance module, Forklift Battery Management system and many more, all of which helps in improving the performance of the drivers, easy supervising for managers, and ultimately to realize the best operational efficiency in safe environment.

Carton shuttle – the carrier of cartons

Waiting for a cheeseburger at the next-door McDonalds outlet or for online ordered next party dress; waiting is the single biggest source of frustration. It only increases more when as a business you are making your customers wait. The rise of the e-Commerce industry not only challenged the status quo of warehouse operations but also gave birth to many new products. Shrinking lead times, on-time order fulfilments, squeezing operational costs, and ensuring the highest customer satisfaction levels is not an easy job unless every single point of the supply chain is tuned into the same rhythm. Storing large pallets in the warehouse saves space, but to fulfill individual orders like in e-commerce, breaking the pallet & again palletizing is an intense activity, it consumes not only time but labor. Hence direct storing of the cartons after depalletizing a pallet is a great operational move for high-velocity items, especially in consumer industries like FMCG, Ecommerce, Retail, and fashion.

So, after breaking the pallets the individual cartons have to be stored efficiently and have to be retrieved quickly for order packing. Hence quick throughputs for the material handling are important, to achieve the same was invented the carton shuttle system as a mini-form of the Pallet Shuttle.

What is carton shuttle & how it works?
Carton shuttle is used to store and retrieve carton loads in dense shelve racking. It’s a fast-moving vehicle that facilitates quick movement of cartons within the racking system or to the outer points like to the next picking zone. Carton shuttle interacts with the vertical lift, which with double side conveyor belts moves up and down between the racks with carton loads to be stored/ retrieved. The entire throughput of the system depends on the number levels of the shelving structure, speed of the vertical lift, depth of each row & also and the no. of rows throughout the storing lane. However, with a speed of 3m/sec, it moves cartons very quickly.

The entire system consists of a rack structure, vertical lift, carton shuttle per each aisle, controls and WMS/WCS software to give instructions. Cartons from the depalletized area will be routed to carton shuttle shelving through the conveyor network. After taking these cartons, the vertical lift will move up to a designated aisle as per the instructions given by WMS/WCS transfer them on the buffer conveyor of the rack, from where the carton shuttle will shuttle them to the exact locations & drops them. Retrieval of the cartons also happens in a similar fashion, and the retrieved cartons will be moved to the picking zone, where picking will happen. The half-filled or empty cartons will be transferred to the next picking station or to the shelving area again. The entire carton shuttle system calls for impeccable and instantaneous communication across all the units involved.

Carton Shuttle Benefits:
High Throughputs: Though the throughput of the entire system depends on the feeding capacity of the vertical lift, fast movement of the shuttle ensures quick turnaround cycles.
Safety: Carton shuttle system is equipped with safety sensors, bumper, and automatic braking system to avoid any collision & accident.
Ease of Operation: The entire picking operations of the shuttle system are quite easy and require little human intervention.
Minimum Maintenance: Owing to the way the structure has been built, chances of damage to the metallic racks are minimum. Also, the shuttles require minimum maintenance.
Scalability: The Carton shuttle shelving system is easily customizable with the addition of multiple levels and shuttles according to the requirement. More shuttles can be easily employed as per production requirements.
High Storage Space: Through Pallet Shuttle, aisles can be eliminated in warehouses as forklifts are not required for end-to-end loading and unloading. In dense racking, you can store 4.2 cartons /SqMtr.
Applications:
Carton shuttle will give more benefits like:
Single unit orders: In distribution centers where the average size of most orders is one. This is best applicable for industries like Fashion, Ecommerce, consumer electronics
Store level picking: In B-B-C business models, where the picking happens for individual small orders but at a store level.
Spare parts picking: In manufacturing assembly operations, where the most common items with high throughputs can be stored.

Demystifying the warehouse code: Warehouse Software

Once I make up my mind, I’m full of indecision”-Oscar Levant

A user of WMS/WCS in any warehouse goes through the initial phase of indecision about the implementation of the system. Every warehouse automation solution is supported by the backbone Called, the software. The invisible but the predominant part in Jigsaw. But the fact that warehouse software is masked over by the complexity of the hardware, makes it even more elusive.

Warehouse Automation
WMS (Warehouse Management System), WCS (Warehouse Control system) and WES (Warehouse Executive System) are all three distinct but at times overlapping warehouse software in the functionality. Exploring the specific functionalities of each solution in-depth and pinpointing where the systems intersect will allow businesses to determine which functions best meet their needs, and in turn, which system or combination of systems will be best-fit.

Warehouse Management System

A WMS is a specifically designed business application/ warehouse software that controls the flow of inventory into, within and out of a company’s distribution center (DC). The span of control is from the management of the flow of inventory, labor tasks and orders from receipt to shipping. It has come a long way from just providing information on a storage location. It is now build-up with an arsenal of functionality capable of catering to various applications.
There is a different type of WMS available in the market. Some of them are standalone and can be deployed on native hardware. While there are cloud-based WMS also, which provides better flexibility and security to the businesses.

Warehouse Control System

A WCS is a real-time, integrated control solution that manages the flow of items, cartons and pallets as it travels on many types of automated equipment, such as conveyors, sorters, ASRS, pick to light, carrousels, print and apply, merges and de-casing lines. The WCS provides a single point of control to efficiently direct and manage these automated solutions. Once inside the warehouse, the WCS checks on the velocity of the movement of goods and their location at any point of time.

Warehouse Execution system

WES can be termed as a hybrid of WCS and WMS, in terms of functionality. Commonly WES comprises nearly all functions of WCS and some functions of WMS. The idea with WES is to optimize based on what is happening with order priorities as well as synchronize all the different materials handling systems.

The Overlap

Tasks in the warehouses can be broadly classified in WMS, WCS or WES. Some of these tasks overlap with each other as depicted below.Warehouse Automation

What is right for you?

The answer to this question is that “It depends the answer to this question is subjective but can be made objective by asking relevant questions. Understanding the way inventory moves throughout a facility is key in determining which solution is the best fit. 1. What is the level of automation in the facility?
2. What is the movement pattern of inventory inside the warehouse?
3. Is this a 3PL with multiple customers with a single sign-on requirement?
4. How many end-users are served by the facility?
5. How important is inventory management in your operation?
6. What is the pace of inventory movement in the warehouse?
When evaluating the best fit, it is essential to properly forecast future expansion requirements. As the solutions can be expensive to implement and maintain, the correct understanding and complete thought through requirements would help you in getting the most appropriate solution at the fair price.