Technology is freeing up what is possible in the field of warehousing and storage design. Matt McDonald looks at one solution that can help businesses cut down on warehouse space and boost efficiency.
For manufacturers, warehousing and fulfilment have traditionally followed a person-to-goods paradigm.
Incoming goods are carried from a central position to a pre-designated spot for storage; and later they are retrieved and carried back to another central position for fulfilment.
This system has served the industry well for many years, but it has usually meant that warehouses have taken up a lot of real estate and have generally relied on a paper-based recording system.
What’s more, except in very small operations, it has always involved a lot of walking by those doing the order picking. Comfortable footwear has long been a requirement for store persons.
Technology is now changing things. These days, automation has freed up the field of storage design. It is now possible to think beyond the traditional warehouse and make better (and more profitable) use of space; and to cut down on the kilometres being covered by employees.
SSI Schaefer’s LogiMat™ vertical lift module (VLM), for example, abandons the traditional person-to-goods method in favour of a goods-to-person method of storage and fulfilment.
The LogiMat brings the goods to the picker, who stays in a comparatively stationary position as he/she goes about the job.
As David Bille, National Sales Manager at SSI Schaefer told Manufacturers’ Monthly, the LogiMat is ideally suited to the storage of small-to-medium parts.
“Typically, we do a lot in automotive or equipment spare parts, hydraulic, and so on,” he said.
In addition, it is recommended for businesses which are looking for secure storage. Unlike conventional open shelves, the system can be locked simply by pulling down the shutters. In addition, the system is equipped with sensors which trigger emergency stops if safety protocols are breached.
How does it work?
Simple in concept, the LogiMat is like a large (vertical) filing cabinet with two stacks of trays (one in the front and one in the rear). It features a lift that moves up and down as it retrieves trays and delivers them as required to an operator at a service window.
“It condenses the storage into a very small footprint. So whereas previously you’d have shelving either on the ground or a mezzanine, you can condense it into one unit and utilise the full height of a warehouse,” Bille explained.
And that’s the main attraction of the LogiMat, he added.
In fact, by having a vertical lift instead of conventional racks, companies can save up to 80% of the warehouse floor area.
“We can do units up to 20 metres high. I’ve actually seen some which have been installed in Europe, where the warehouse is only 10 metres high, but they’ve literally knocked a hole in the wall and built an individual structure which is a high rise structure just for the LogiMat to fit in,” he said.
“It can be 15-20 metres high outside the building. So it doesn’t even have to be in the building, all you need’s a small space outside the building.”
It may be customised according to need and is available in heights ranging from approx. 2.5m to 13m; five standard widths (1.65m, 2m, 2.5m, 3m and 4m); two standard depths (650mm and 820mm).
The LogiMat is designed with ergonomics in mind and is available with a number of options, including the ability to adjust the height of the opening according to user login and the ability to tilt the removal tray for better view and easy reach of the parts.
“When an operator keys in their access code, the height of the actual picking area will lift up and down to suit that operator’s preset height. And you can combine that with a tilt mechanism as well, so ergonomically it’s very effective.”
There is also an optional system to quickly identify the position of an item within a tray. “It’s a laser that...actually points to the particular container,” Bille explained.
So when a tray arrives, the operator is guided by the laser to the exact position on the tray to find the wanted item. There is no need to look around and mistakes are minimised.
Being modular, the LogiMat can also be integrated into any existing system or relocated with equal ease. For example, Bille explained, “You can run full picking software with it. We can interface with most WMSs and ERP systems.”
“And you can run it from its most basic mode where you punch in a location number...or you can just have a location control system which is then fed a file from an ERP or a WMS system to pick in a certain order or batch pick.”
So where does that leave our store persons in comfortable footwear? According to the company, the LogiMat can cut their walking time by 50-80%.
And, importantly for the bottom line, it can help them achieve up to 120 picks per hour or roughly 1,000 picks per day.
What’s more, if batch picking is possible, then even higher rates can be achieved.