Systems integrator Witron Logistik + Informatik GmbH of Parkstein in Bavaria has launched a new, semi-automatic solution for trade unit picking. The ETP (Ergonomic Tray Picking) concept is designed for a merchandise assortment of up to 4,000 different articles and is perfect for grocery retailers’ distribution centres, full-liners’ regional warehouses and fast-moving items storage, and discounters’ distribution centres. The solution can be used for projects in both the dry goods and fresh products sectors. In the past, conventional warehouse systems have often been used for these applications. The mechanization level of the new ETP solution stands out for its ideal combination of fully automatic replenishment and ergonomic order picking. Using man operated pick shuttles, trade units are picked from a tray mini load pickfront onto pallets or roll containers. An order picking output of up to 500 trade units per employee per hour is possible with ETP. ETP therefore solves a core problem of conventional order picking systems: employees traditionally have to lift and carry more than 15 tonnes per shift – in other words, two full truck loads. Logistics experts and operators are convinced that this situation will no longer be tenable in the medium and long term, and that there is an urgent need for action.
Semi-automatic order picking tailored to store layout
In regard to the merchandise flow: once the goods have been identified in Goods Receipt, the pallets are depalletized automatically, layer by layer. The trade units are then automatically transferred layer by layer to 900mm x 800mm trays. An optimum tray filling level is achieved by turning the trade units before tray loading and calculating the volume in advance. The trays are then stored in compact, single-depth, automated tray mini load warehouses by cranes. All articles in the total merchandise assortment are stored in each individual ETP aisle. Because of the high article variety ensured by this method, the individual ETP aisles are independent and every order can be completed in full in one picking aisle. Order picking is done manually with automatically controlled pick shuttles. Empty trays are removed from the picking front by cranes.
Each single order is picked in accordance with its individual requirements with the right merchandise categories and in accordance with the store layout of the Retail store. For this purpose, a computer system calculates the ideal stacking matrix per order. With the help of cranes, the items are staged statically and, if required, dynamically in the picking aisle. The stacking algorithm used corresponds exactly to the algorithm also used in mechanized OPM systems. Users thus benefit from seven years of practical OPM experience in this key function.
100% picking reliability is ensured because the operator moves to the right picking station with computer-controlled features. The key optical tool is a beamer mounted on the vehicle. This visualizes for the operator, by means of an equivalent illuminated field, where, and in what position, he should place the trade unit on the store pallet or the roll container. This considerably improves picking effectiveness and prevents all subsequent re-sorting of the trade units caused by sub-optimum grouping on the pallet. The operator is provided with an on-screen image of the article, its position on the load carrier, and the volume or quantity required. Parallel order picking onto two load carriers (e.g. roll containers) simultaneously is possible.
Two pick shuttles can normally be integrated per picking aisle. Both shuttles are linked to the aisle ends by the conveyor system, so that the operators can work independently of each other. The computer calculates the sequence of the picking items to minimize travel distance. After order picking is completed, the order load carrier is placed on a conveyor line and transported first to an automated wrapping station and then to the Goods Issue area. All customer orders are consolidated for tour-optimized delivery. The pick shuttle itself takes up a new, empty load carrier.
Pick shuttle with TÜV-certified ergonomics
The pioneering ergonomics of the ETP systems is achieved by the pick shuttle especially designed for this solution. The shuttle’s excellent ergonomic qualities have been certified by German technical inspection association, the TÜV. The shuttles are made by WITRON subsidiary FAS. The picking cabin and the order load carrier have independent height positioning. For every item removed, the picking cabin is placed automatically in front of the trade unit’s picking station by computerized controls in such a way that the operator is always positioned in relation to the trade unit in an ergonomically ideal way. At the same time, the order pallet or roll container is also positioned automatically, depending on the filling level of the load carrier, in such a way that the operator can only place the tray goods on to the load carrier by pushing. This ensures that the picking movement is always carried out in the optimum ergonomic posture – no lifting, no carrying, no bending. Every cabin is equipped with lighting, a display system and personal safety equipment.
In summary, ETP offers the user important benefits:
• High cost-efficiency due to low labour requirements, compact design and minimum energy consumption
• Pioneering workstations due to optimum ergonomics
• Very high picking output with up to 500 trade units per employee per hour with, at the same time, tightly packed load carriers
• Short training period for new operators
• High picking reliability due to unambiguous picking processes
• Store-friendly order picking aligned with store layout
• High flexibility with regard to assortment changes, load carriers used and manpower used
• Reduction in product damage
• Increased order accuracy
• Scalability because of modular design and flexible use of manpower
• Ideal even for small distribution centres
• Short order throughput times
• Stepwise shutdown of individual aisles possible in slack periods due to modular design
• High redundancy, as all picking aisles operate independently
• All articles stored in same aisle
ETP – the perfect retrofit solution
ETP is not just suitable for new logistics centres, but can be implemented with no special effort in existing buildings and systems, even during operation. ETP is also of interest as a solution for modernization projects. ETP requires a building height of six metres or over for installation. Because of its modular design, ETP is flexible in terms of both length and width. ETP is technically easy to integrate into an existing IT system. Because of its transparent operating processes and the visual tools, employees only require a short training period.
The market demand for this solution is already being reflected in the large number of analysis and planning orders placed by existing Witron customers all over the world. It is becoming evident that ETP is the systematic and logical further development of the previous generation of conventional order picking systems, as a cost-efficient and ergonomically sound solution for the future.
WITRON Engineering BV
Tel: +31 (0) 4 78/5 51 855