Dynamic answer to storage challenge
25 January 2013
Compared to traditional static shelving and longspan racking, dynamic carton live storage can offer faster picking, reduced manpower and improved space saving and organisation, according to Edward Hutchison, managing dire
Optimum availability of goods is a decisive competitive factor for any operation and demands fast access, on-time delivery and the shortest lead times.
However, as warehouse and factory floor space is increasingly expensive, to be able to respond to these exacting requirements, operators need maximum storage volume occupying the minimum floor space. In some applications conventional storage struggles to meet these demands, so many operators are opting for live storage.
With traditional storage solutions, cartons have to be placed around a fixed location to make sufficient quantities of small parts available. This hogs space at the pick face, which means fewer pick locations in a given space or larger areas for a bigger pick face, particularly when fastmoving products are involved.
By concentrating cartons into flow lanes, carton live provides a dense storage system that will also increase productivity. Goods are fed into the system at the rear to flow down rollers in a lane designed around the carton, or container, to be presented at the front on the pick face. Once a carton at the pick face is empty it is simply taken away. A full carton sitting behind it flows down on the roller tracks to take its place, ensuring that products are constantly available to pick.
FIFO principle It all works within the FIFO (first-in, firstout) principle, which enables easy control of time critical products, such as goods with sell-by dates. The principle applies not just with cartons but with pallets also and solutions will often combine a mix of carton and pallet live storage.
There are higher initial investment costs with a carton live system but these will be more than compensated for with improvements in working efficiency. Greater density of pick locations for small parts, for example, can save up to 20% floor space and travel time for pickers can be improved by two thirds. And because the goods move unassisted into the picking position, pickers have constant availability of goods.
Carton live will also help to eliminate double handling because the high storage density it offers allows stock arriving via Goods In to be located at the pick face rather than in a buffer store on pallet racking. It also speeds up product location because items aren't spread along the pick face as would be the case with traditional racking and shelving.
Picking face layout greatly influences performance. Layout will generally be determined by the movement velocity of items being picked - whether they are fast, medium or slow movers - and may involve the use of conveyors.
The speed of picking activity can be increased by designing the picking face to take into account the order picker's natural picking curve and provide an ergonomic working area. This includes installing the picking conveyors at the correct working height or a step-up rail to facilitate access to the working levels above natural reach height for pickers of all sizes.
Health and safety is always a central concern for all warehouse and distribution operations. Carton live storage can minimise the risk of accident, particularly when combined with a pallet live system or buffer pallet storage. In this case, replenishment takes place in the aisle at the back of the system while picking takes place in the aisle in front, separating forklift movement from pedestrian areas.
Traditional racking installations can be converted into carton live by retro fitting flow shelves, which means that greater efficiency, increased productivity and improved health and safety are also within easy reach.