“It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.” According to leading warehouse automation supplier, KNAPP, it’s actually a bit of both. The group’s philosophy is that product innovation is paramount but this must be supported by intelligent project design, professional implementation and reliable customer support. This has certainly proved a recipe for success for KNAPP, as the group has over 1,200 active automated systems worldwide and averages more than one new start-up every week.
Optimisation requires innovation
Automated handling systems undoubtedly have the capacity to reduce logistics costs. Pushing these costs to the absolute minimum is where innovation comes in. Says Craig Rollason, Head of Sales and Marketing for KNAPP UK, “Only leading-edge handling systems that employ the very latest technology can optimise return on investment. This is why we at KNAPP invest so heavily in research and development at our headquarters in Graz, Austria. Each year, the KNAPP group invests over three million Euros in the development of software solutions alone.”
Reducing warehouse complexity
The focus of product innovation for KNAPP recently has been its ‘low-complexity warehouse’ concept, which aims to reduce the number of different technologies within distribution facilities in order to minimise costs. The bedrock of this philosophy is the shuttle storage concept, which was pioneered by KNAPP when it launched the OSR Shuttle™ back in 2002. The group has continuously developed the system since then, expanding its range and functionality. Combining shuttle-based automated storage with pick-to-light technology, the OSR Shuttle™ provides a powerful mix of very fast handling and ergonomic picking. Its success is ably demonstrated by its sales – more than 6000 shuttles are in operation worldwide to date.
The OSR Shuttle™ is highly efficient in operation – achieving no less than six times the rate of totes in/out than a traditional automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) – and yet it is its energy efficiency that probably has the greatest impact on lifetime costs. Explains Craig Rollason, “Through a combination of energy recuperation from the braking process, the use of sophisticated software to optimise power usage and intelligent design to minimise shuttle weight, OSR Shuttle™ uses less than 10% of the energy consumption of a traditional ASRS.”
When it comes to the order picking aspect of the OSR Shuttle™, ergonomics come into play. KNAPP’s most recent innovations in picking environments were unveiled for the first time at the CeMAT exhibition in Hanover in May, when the group launched its new Pick-it-Easy range of workstations. The range features pick stations designed for specific applications including Pick-it-Easy Shop for e-commerce, Pick-it-Easy Tray for groceries and Pick-it-Easy Pack for hanging garments and flat-pack fashions.
Now featured in all OSR Shuttle™ systems, the Pick-it-Easy workstations have been designed using full-scale models in order to optimise each individual order-picking task within each application. They feature pick-to-light and put-to-light technology, with a touch screen at the centre of the workstation allowing the operator to keep his or her head straight and avoid neck strain. TÜV- and CE-certified, the Pick-it-Easy stations allow error-free preparation of up to 1000 orders per man-hour.
While product innovation has been key to the growth of the KNAPP group over the past few years, so has the group’s commitment to ongoing customer support of the highest quality. “Making customer support a high priority right from the start of a project is key for us,” says Craig Rollason. “The way the system will operate in the long term affects the whole process of designing and installing it.” KNAPP’s aim of developing long-term relationships with its clients and a partnership approach to changes in their business environments has paid dividends. In the UK, for example, KNAPP now has no less than five sites with a resident KNAPP customer support team.
KNAPP UK Ltd
Tel: 01844 202149