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Order picking plays a key role in today’s logistics and supply chain operations. At the same time, order picking is very labour-intensive and can represent considerable cost in any distribution system. As part of its commitment to helping customers responsibly drive down costs, Toyota Material Handling has developed a ground-breaking automated order picking solution. Built around top-quality BT warehouse trucks equipped with advanced automation technology integrated with voice communication and warehouse management systems, BT Automated Order Picking revolutionises the order picking process with productivity gains of up to 40% while substantially reducing costs and supporting workplace safety.

The BT Automated Order Picking solution coordinates pickers and automated warehouse trucks so that every time an operator picks an item, there is always a truck ready to receive it. The people in the process are only required to transfer each item from its pick position on to the load carrier. This increases picking productivity and accuracy and delivers health and safety benefits as well.

Driving down costs through automation

In the warehouse, cost and efficiency have to be measured at every step. The challenge is to increase productivity, accuracy and safety while decreasing costs.

As a leading material handling equipment and solutions provider, Toyota has carefully studied the order picking process to understand how it typically works and how it can be improved. In conventional order picking, the human picker / operator spends a large percentage of his or her time searching for goods and travelling to and from the picking site, despatch and pallet storage areas. Far less time is spent on activities where the human picker actually adds value – getting the order and picking the goods.

In addition, order picking poses an extra challenge for operators because they must navigate a busy warehouse environment as well as focus on accurate picking. The intelligent use of automation to optimise the picking process is one way Toyota is driving down costs and offering answers to today’s order picking challenges.

How it works

In the warehouse, cost and efficiency have to be measured at every step. The challenge is to increase productivity, accuracy and safety while decreasing costs. As a leading material handling equipment and solutions provider, Toyota has carefully studied the order picking process to understand how it typically works and how it can be improved. In conventional order picking, the human picker / operator spends a large percentage of his or her time searching for goods and travelling to and from the picking site, despatch and pallet storage areas. Far less time is spent on activities where the human picker actually adds value – getting the order and picking the goods. In addition, order picking poses an extra challenge for operators because they must navigate a busy warehouse environment as well as focus on accurate picking. The intelligent use of automation to optimise the picking process is one way Toyota is driving down costs and offering answers to today’s order picking challenges.

The BT Automated Order Picking concept is simple. The order picking truck is guided by an advanced navigation system while human picker receives instructions via a pick-to-voice system. Both are linked to the site’s warehouse management system (WMS).

Each picking cycle starts with the truck navigating automatically to the first picking position, where the human picker loads the right goods on to the truck. As soon as the items are placed on the pallet, the truck automatically moves to the next picking position, effectively escorting the operator as it does so. When the pallet or roll cage is full, a new truck arrives as the first truck travels automatically to despatch, allowing the operator to keep on picking.

Automatic order picking also has health and safety benefits, since operators no longer have to step on and off the truck with each picking stop or navigate the truck through a busy warehouse. At all times, the human picker can focus on order picking rather than truck operation. And the truck’s advanced safety system stops it instantly when objects – other trucks, racking, personnel – are detected in its path.

Responsible innovation

The benefits from Toyota’s BT Automated Order Picking solution are numerous, ranging from reduced labour and damages costs to fewer picking errors. Operators also benefit from less stress and reduced physical demands. And, the trucks use less energy and last longer as all driving is smoothly controlled.

The BT Automated Order Picking solution is highly flexible and easily integrated with existing warehouse management systems. The automation technology is based on laser guidance and is well-established and proven. The automated truck unit is flexible and can easily work alongside conventional manual picking methods as part of a complete logistics solution.

Commenting on BT Automated Order Picking, Same Coles, Toyota Material Handling UK Commerial Director says: “Toyota is committed to working with our customers to deliver responsible answers to the material handling challenges of today and tomorrow. Automating the order picking process is one way to achieve real benefits. The main contribution that the human picker makes in order picking is identifying and picking the right goods. Simply accompanying the truck over longer distances is not the best use of valuable human talent, and we have technology that can easily take care of that part of the process.”

Coles continues: “The BT Automated Order Picking solution has dramatic implications for the industry with huge potential for cost reduction. The results that we are achieving in this type of application are driving our current development work, which is using similar technology and forward-thinking to create economically attractive automation in other parts of the handling process. We see this as a natural part of our commitment to delivering responsible solutions that drive down costs, support workplace safety and reduce unnecessary resource consumption within logistics operations.”

Toyota Material Handling UK

www.toyota-forklifts.co.uk

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