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How to Handle and Remove Corrugated Box Waste in Distribution Applications

December 6, 2022

Overhead conveyor system removing cardboard waste.

Without efficient waste handling flow, systems bog down as people work to clear trash from their work areas. It’s a distraction that significantly impacts productivity and safety, so removing trash from a large scale picking or packing system can be problematic. Pick systems tend to generate empty cartons, and dealing with that waste material can be costly and time consuming if not planned in advance. Devising the right waste (or empty carton) strategy cannot be minimized during the system design process.

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How to Convey Large, Heavy Loads

October 25, 2022

Conveyor with large, heavy carton

The demand for high-throughput, accurate order fulfillment isn’t only about sorting cartons, parcels and other relatively small, light packages. Large, bulky, heavy items are also in high demand and must be quickly picked, sorted and shipped.

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How Material Handling and Automation Increases Labor Flexibility

September 13, 2022

heavy pipe handling at a manufacturing facility.

Manufacturing plants, warehouses and other industrial operations are all facing one central challenge today: labor shortages. There are other challenges in supply chains, material inputs and environmental situations, but everyone in every industry across the board is dealing with labor—or the lack of it. 

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Vacuum Grippers and Lightweight Palletizers

August 18, 2022

Vacuum palletizer for a cobot system

One of the most exciting things about today’s automation is that it’s becoming increasingly specialized; like eating from a buffet, you can choose what you want. That’s the idea behind cobot palletizers that zero in on a specific target: lighter weight, end-of-line carton palletizing that used to take high six figures and months of implementation time. The critical part of any palletizing project, of course, is the end effector.

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Posted in Automation, Order Picking & Fulfillment, E-Commerce| No Comments »

The Ergonomics of Automation

June 2, 2022

Worker at a distribution center reaching over a conveyor to retrieve a package.

Above: distribution center worker stretches over a conveyor line to access a package. Automation can reduce or eliminate this type of stressful, repetitive motion. 

Companies tend to focus on the hard-dollar ROI when they evaluate automation—labor reduction, throughput improvements, error reduction and efficiency—but should also consider “soft” benefits like ergonomics, safety and flexibility. Ergonomics in particular should be considered a primary factor in an era of aging labor and tight supply.

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The Anatomy of a Pick Module

April 12, 2022

Pick module with carton flow on two levels in an apparel distribution center.

Pick modules support a range of warehouse activities, but their primary role is to increase the speed and space efficiency of order fulfillment operations. Configured with racks (which are usually the support structure), conveyors, flow storage, shelves and modular storage, they let you design the storage, fulfillment and picking strategy that fits your needs. Some pick modules are simple — really, just a shelf-supported mezzanine. Others combine automation and WMS systems for full systems integration.

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Posted in Organization, Automation, Mezzanines, Order Picking & Fulfillment| No Comments »

New Rules for Industrial Automation ROI

January 4, 2022

Automated guided vehicles can run independently to deliver picking and storage options to warehouse employees.
In October 2019, I wrote this article on ROI factors for automation projects. That was just over two years ago, but the world is–to understate the case–a different place now. We endured a relentless Covid-19 pandemic that still persists. The “great resignation” has accelerated. Ecommerce demand was already ascendant, but is on an even faster track. The labor pool got shallower and continues to contract. What should we consider when we look at these projects in 2022 and beyond?

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Posted in Automation, Manufacturing, ROI, Order Picking & Fulfillment| No Comments »

When is an ASRS System a Good Fit?

November 18, 2021

Muratec unit load pallet handling ASRS system in action.

Automated storage and retrieval systems are becoming more commonly deployed in today’s modern distribution, manufacturing and warehousing facilities because they make more sense than ever in an age of escalating demand and declining labor availability. Is space tight? What are the error rates throughout fulfillment? What kind of space issues do you see moving forward? What are the safety and ergonomic concerns?

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Posted in Automation, ROI, Order Picking & Fulfillment, E-Commerce| No Comments »

Specifying High-Performance Parcel Handling Conveyor Solutions

September 2, 2021

parcel conveyor system in a warehouse fulfillment operation.

The pressure on companies of all types to continuously ship faster and more efficiently has grown, particularly in the age of increased e-commerce, an extremely tight labor market and Covid-19 restrictions. Increased demand also affects retail distribution as companies work to develop effective delivery channels outside traditional ship-to-store.

The core mission of these operations is parcel shipping–an old art with new twists.

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Ways to Pick Full Cases Faster, More Accurately and More Ergonomically

July 16, 2021

full case picking from carton flow rack

Case picking is common in most e-commerce, retail and wholesale distribution operations, so it’s important to understand the best ways to pick cartons from start to finish through a process. Most warehouse operations will need at least some case-picking capacity. Beverage and grocery distributors almost always need a large full case picking function. Since order picking commands a high percentage of distribution center labor costs, finding ways to make it more efficient is critical.

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