ICA project design has devised a flexible automated SKU (stock keeping unit) order collating and palletising system, which can be directly linked to production or utilised in distribution warehouses for order assembly and dispatch of products. Up until now, this task has predominantly been carried out manually.
The system is individually tailored for any company with limited, or hundreds, of SKUs, and is applicable across the industry spectrum including third party warehousing, food manufacturing industry, retail distribution, pharmaceuticals, packaged meat and poultry supply, virtually any packaged goods requiring distribution.
The system integrates any combination of ICA technology including robots, gantries, layer picking, layer transfer and disassembly, cassette loading, sortation and palletising. Sub systems normally include case and pallet conveyor system, bar code and/or RFID scanning and ASRS warehouse in some instances.
Enormous benefits may be achieved, where the order assembly system is directly linked to production. The product is only handled once, thereby eliminating the requirement of bulk palletising of products after production, and in some instances, totally eliminates the need to store in warehouse and picking sequence, thereby generally lowering SKU inventory.
The ICA Project Design team was mindful that Australia does not have the population density of North America and Europe; hence efforts have been concentrated on developing solutions for the Australasian market.
Essentially, the ICA solution suits applications, where there is handling of any number of SKUs from which orders are assembled.
Predominantly, ICA has targeted those businesses that process orders in one of three ways
those that palletise in layers,
those that do rainbow pallets,
those that column or random stack.
These are among the demanding and common order assembly methods in Australia.
The system will speed up production facilities or warehouses that survive on multiple stock picking, shaving time off distribution of multi-orders.
For example, a business may have 400 SKUs from which it has to make up to 500 palletised orders on a given day. In many warehouses, much of this is probably being done manually or with basic material handling techniques.
But every business is different. Business will depend on volumes, customer demand, number of SKUs, order collation and dispatch profiles plus other variables. Therefore, ICA has developed a system by which certain technologies can be mixed and matched to provide the optimum cost effective solution.
Layer picking, for example, involves robotised pick-up of entire layers of product to be assembled on pallets for entire orders. This volume-driven solution is ideal for companies that predominantly sell on layers, such as those supplying soft drinks or chips, washing powders, etc.
The system is ideal for picking and distributing product during times of retail specials, and every solution will be tailored to suit the end user. Likewise, rainbow pallets (where pallets slot in between layers of product) are suited to end-users such as the convenience store chains, which would make a large order across a lot of stores, but needs to facilitate limited storage at each store.
For the even more complicated order picks, where one pallet comprises a multitude of products, made up of less than a complete layer of any one product, a gantry system with either single or column stack capability may be utilised.
All solutions depend on the type of business, the volumes and number of SKUs, however what ICA has set out to do is eliminate situations where personnel have to assemble orders by hand in paper driven systems.
ICA offers a fully automated approach to eliminate manual order consolidation.
Not only does it positively affect logistics and handling, workplace occupational health and safety also benefits.
As an example, in the meat processing and packaging industry, because of the sheer weight of some items (approximately 27kg), manually handling these contravenes the OH&S Councils maximum of 16kg.