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Shoptalk: Will a Carousel Work for You?

It's a matter of application, load, throughput and operational needs

workers in a carousel access aisle

In our most recent Shoptalk video, employee-owner Joel of our Systems Integration Group discusses vertical carousels—the advantages they offer and how you can evaluate them for your operation.

Carousels and vertical lift modules fall into the category of goods-to-person (sometimes known as GTP) systems. Besides order picking, you can also use them for tool dispensing in manufacturing facilities and as work-in-process buffers. Joel explains some of the benefits of this type of system, including high storage density, enhanced security, less transit time per person and real-time inventory tracking.

Read more: Goods-to-Picker Methods and Alternatives

Carousel advantages

  • Storage density: By storing products densely and using more vertical space, you can store more in a smaller footprint than shelving, carton flow or modular drawers.
  • Time savings: By reducing transit time, carousels can speed up your picking process, making your labor spend more profitable. In a warehouse or DC, time spent walking is unproductive and wasteful. Automated systems like carousels bring products to people, which minimizes walking.
  • Security and product protection: Carousels and VLMs completely enclose stored materials, which protects products from theft and product damage.
  • Better ergonomics: Employees using a carousel retrieve products from an access window that sits at waist height—in the ergonomic “golden zone”.
  • Flexibility: Vertical lift modules give you the option of expanding as your needs change. You can adapt them to changing inventory and SKU strategies.
  • Agile integration: Carousel systems can incorporate a variety of picking technologies—smart picking, voice- or light-directed picking, augmented reality or mobile devices. You can integrate almost any number of systems if you need to.

conveyor with bins in an aisle between carousels

Is a carousel system is right for your operation?

Here are a few questions that can help you clarify how a carousel or vertical lift module fits your application:

Is your product mix a good fit?

A couple of factors are important here: turnover and size.

  1. Are products picked at a high enough frequency to justify the use of an automated carousel?
  2. As for size, a Rotomat carousel, for example, works best with small parts or products contained in bins. With a Lean-Lift VLM, the product height is limited by the access window.

Read more: Questions to Ask: Carousel Picking Systems

Can you use the system as intended?

Planning is critical. You’ll want to consider carefully all the details of implementation early in the planning process, because if you change the way you use a carousel as you go, it might not work as efficiently as expected. When that happens, it can be hard to maintain employee support for the new system.

This leads to the next question:

Do you have operator buy-in?

You need to make sure the people who are actually using a carousel are fully on board. Training is a big part of this. Users need to understand why you’re using the new system and how it can benefit the operation, not just how to run the equipment.

These are just a few things to consider as you examine how carousels can help you meet your goals. This article provides an expanded guide.

For the right application, carousels deliver better use of labor and space

If labor rates are a concern for your operation, and if you need faster pick rates and better space efficiency, an automated system like a carousel can help.

Video: Do Carousels Make Sense for You?

About Shoptalk

Every full-time employee at Cisco-Eagle owns shares in the company, and we empower our employee-owners to provide exceptional service. Our Shoptalk series uses informational posts, videos, and other content to help you identify, specify and implement the right equipment for your operation.

More Shoptalk videos

download the Cisco-Eagle guide to order picking operations.

Download the Cisco-Eagle guide to order picking

When it comes to picking orders, you have many options: equipment types, methods, technologies and more. Download our guide to order picking to read tips and articles from our expert employee-owners. You’ll find practical examples of ways to cope with ergonomics, slow movers, various picking systems and much more.

Download the guide today

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