The Holy Grail of balance between picking efficiency and order accuracy is gaining importance as companies begin to grasp the full cost implications of handling returns. Automated warehousing specialist, KNAPP UK, has a range of solutions that enable fast, right-first-time order picking.
The concept of the ‘error-free warehouse’ is the driving force behind a considerable amount of innovation at KNAPP’s headquarters in Graz, Austria. “A key platform for improving picking efficiency and accuracy is ergonomics,” explains Craig Rollason, Head of Sales & Marketing for KNAPP UK. “Research clearly shows that ergonomic design is incredibly important in improving pick rates. Good ergonomics not only increase productivity through reduced fatigue levels and higher morale, but also mean that employees are less likely to be absent through illness. Even quite simple changes – such as placing anti-fatigue mats on hard floors – can prevent picking staff from suffering unnecessary stresses and strains,” continues Craig Rollason, “and we have experimented in a number of recent installations with the integration of user-friendly materials such as warm-to-touch wood and cushioned fascias, with considerable success.”
New ergonomic workstations
As part of its KiDesign programme to elevate the profile of ergodynamics and multi-functionality in goods-to-person solutions, KNAPP has developed a series of brand-new ‘Pick-it-Easy’ workstations, which will be unveiled for the first time at CeMAT. “We recognise that ergonomics is not a case of one-size-fits-all,” says Craig Rollason, “and that different applications have different requirements. KNAPP is launching a series of different workstations – that meet the order picking needs for many applications including pharmaceuticals, food products, component parts and garments.” The Pick-it-Easy stations have been developed to optimise each individual task, using full-scale models. They feature pick-to-light and put-to-light technology, with pick positions displayed via container lighting. A touch screen at the centre of the workstation allows the operator to keep his or her head straight and avoid neck strain, with every process identified at a single glance. Locating a mirror above the source container allows for quick and efficient checking – especially useful for zero count inventory checking. Noise is also controlled and the stations have been TÜV- and CE-certified. Combined with an intelligent control system, the Pick-it-Easy stations allow error-free preparation of up to 1,000 orders per man-hour.
OSR Shuttle™ solution
Many of KNAPP’s automated warehouse solutions improve pick rate through the use of its OSR Shuttle™ technology. This innovative system combines shuttle-based storage with pick-to-light stations. “This solution is perfect for applications with high pick rates and small orders,” explains Craig Rollason. “The OSR Shuttle™ achieves a staggering six times the rate of totes in/out than a traditional ASRS, and yet uses less than 10% of the energy consumption. On both counts, that’s a big saving.” KNAPP is also finding significant market demand for the OSR ShuttleTM solution in the handling of returns. “Many of our e-commerce and multi-channel retail customers are benefiting from the efficiency savings that this solution can deliver,” states Craig Rollason. “For example, we’ve supplied our largest OSR Shuttle™ system to date to Hermes Fulfilment in Germany. The system will process up to 15,000 returned items per hour at peak times.”
Order checking systems
KNAPP has also been developing solutions to check picking accuracy and thereby minimize returns. Traditionally, a small proportion of picked orders are routinely checked at integrated check stations, often by check-weighing. Now KNAPP has developed advanced check stations that can be used to check every order. “All the items in the order are automatically checked by rapid, 360-degree barcode reading,” says Craig Rollason. In the rare instance that an item’s barcode cannot be read, it is rejected to an operator who will check the barcode with a manual scanner. This solution means that the wrong goods or the wrong quantity simply cannot be shipped. The check stations also record the batch numbers of the goods dispatched. Even if the goods have been picked using technology that does not read barcodes – such as A-frames or pick-to-light systems – the e-tailer will have a record of the lot or batch number of the goods that have been shipped. “These final check stations can have extremely short payback times,” concludes Craig Rollason, “given the low customer loyalty typical in e-commerce and the importance of order accuracy in retaining new customers.”
The future of picking
KiSoft VISION – KNAPP’s vision-directed picking system – is now undergoing final testing before release to the market. “This solution is set to revolutionise order picking,” says Craig Rollason, “because it achieves accuracy levels higher than voice systems.” The KiSoft VISION system guides pickers to each required pick location by superimposing arrow symbols in the picker’s field of vision. An integrated camera reads barcodes, lot numbers and serial numbers to confirm the pick without any further human intervention.
KNAPP UK Ltd
Tel: 01844 202149