picking systems

Picking systems are the most important components of a warehouse and a production. Every warehouse and every production line is very specific and poses different challenges for picking. Precisely for this reason, it is not possible to create a universal order picking system for all applications. The more important it is to first prepare a solid and thorough needs analysis. The resulting results must cover actual needs. The individual picking techniques are only considered in a further step. Those who first deal with technology and are too fixated on it without understanding the process correctly will not be successful. First plan independently, then build. How is it possible to look at all these techniques at the same time? Aren't they completely different "worlds"? We will give you the answer.

In this and other articles we would like to introduce you not only to our LUCA systems and their use, but also to give you a detailed insight into the various possible combinations. We will also explain to you which picking systems fit together and how best to use them.

What are picking systems?

Not everyone takes the question for granted. That's how we're gonna answer them. Imagine a big camp. Many articles or semi-finished products are stored in shelves or on pallets. The customer or production orders a certain number of articles. We've all ordered something online, haven't we...?

The order is first checked and the stock is checked. If the goods exist, the WMS (Warehouse Management System) generates a picking order. Certain articles or products must now be searched for in the appropriate quantities from the storage compartments and taken along for packaging. The process is called "picking".

This is exactly where the picking systems come in. You are to support the employee in the warehouse during picking. Depending on the storage type, there are many requirements. LUCA is currently developing and supplying various picking systems to guarantee optimum performance and quality. Read more about picking at Wikipedia.

If you want to find out more, then read on, or simply talk to us: Contact

The best picking systems?

Many scientists and researchers have been dealing with this question for several years. We are repeatedly asked whether there are picking systems that can do everything. The question is like, "Which car is the best?"

The answer here is very simple: "none of the picking systems is the best". It is simply not possible to build a single solution and thus fulfill all tasks and requirements. Every warehouse is different. Every customer order and every industry has its own focus. We at LUCA already understood the task years ago and therefore offer ALL picking systems. Thanks to the professional software of the LUCA server, the different technologies are controlled together.

Certainly, some solutions are so specific that they only make sense for certain requirements. Some of them are currently very standardized and fulfil most tasks very well. Others are new and very innovative. Whether the innovations are really practicable will be seen later.

The main differences

First and foremost, we need to differentiate order picking systems according to the type of automation. In some warehouses and productions it does not make sense to use complex and expensive automation. On the other hand, a high-performance shipping warehouse cannot be fully operated without automation. This results in the following breakdown:

  • Fully automatic order picking
  • Semi-automatic picking with conveyor technology
  • Manual order picking systems

Fully automatic order picking

A fully automatic picking system can only be used for certain articles and mostly for very high outputs. Even the very high costs have to justify the investments. On the other hand, the fully automatic picking systems can be used where an absolutely high quality is expected (e.g. pharmacies). The goods are picked fully automatically and transported to the packaging, e.g. via a conveyor system. The replenishment of the fully automated systems is also often automatic. In the method, the articles, as well as the packaging, must fulfil certain conditions.

In order to be able to operate a fully automatic system, a highly qualified technical staff is required. Constant monitoring of the systems and immediate reaction in the event of faults are essential.

Due to the high costs and special article features, the fully automatic picking systems are not very common.

Semi-automatic picking with conveyor technology

Semi-automatic order picking is often equipped with conveyor technology. One example of this is the classic dispatch systems. Automatic or manual carton erectors are used to prepare the cartons. The cartons are transported to the individual picking zones via a conveyor system. And this is precisely where the various order picking systems are used. Pick-by-Light, Pick-by-Scan, Pick-by-Watch, etc. are used depending on the storage type.

Which picking technology is used there again depends strongly on various factors. Here, the A/B/C analysis, as well as the article spectrum and packaging, is decisive. Pallets, mesh boxes, flow racks, shelving racks, etc. are also among the most important criteria when deciding on the picking method.

After picking, the cartons or totes leave the picking zones again and reach the outgoing goods area via the conveyor system. This is where the final packaging, labelling and dispatch take place. Static or continuous scales are also often used there. The actual shipping weight plays an important role in the costs. This example of a classical shipping plant describes exactly one "man to goods" method.

We distinguish between:

  • Man to goods
  • Goods to man

When using an automatic warehouse (AKL or HRL) and a picking pre-zone, the goods are automatically moved from the warehouse to the picker, whereby the transport is also carried out via the conveyor system. At the workstations, the goods are automatically offered to the order picker (goods to man). In this case, the systems try to distribute the individual withdrawal to as many orders as possible. Various picking systems and shelving techniques are also used for the distribution of articles: e.g. Put-to-Light, Put-to-Point®, etc. Here we are also talking about a special type of order consolidation.

Basically, semi-automatic order picking systems are very widespread. The costs of hardware and implementation for semi-automatic picking systems are kept within manageable limits. The design of the systems is often not too technically demanding, so that highly qualified personnel is not required. Annual maintenance is usually sufficient for the systems. Therefore, the operating costs of the plants are also very balanced.

Manual order picking systems

The focus of manual order picking systems is always on people. The technical equipment is intended to facilitate the picker's work, guide him and signal possible errors.

In many warehouses only forklifts or picking trolleys are used. In most cases the warehouses are very large and consist of many alleys and corridors. Different shelf techniques are also used here (pallets, flow racks, shelving, etc.). For this reason, the picking systems also have to be structured differently.

In a picking warehouse, where only pallets are picked, forklift terminals are completely sufficient. On the other hand, the small parts and small containers find their place in shelves or flow racks. Picking trolleys are better suited for picking. In order to use the right picking system, different criteria have to be considered. There is no optimal solution for all these tasks.

Not only the storage methods, but also the order structures are decisive for this. In addition, the size, weight and volume of the orders also play a very important role. In order to take all these characteristics into account correctly, it is very important to carry out a correct planning of the picking systems. You will also find useful information and tips in the further course of the article.

Type of manual picking

One of the important additional criteria for the correct selection of manual picking systems is the type of picking. There are the following differences:

  • single order picking
  • Multi-Order-Picking

In addition we will give you detailed information in further articles.

Manual picking methods are frequently used:
Pick-by-Light, Pick-by-Voice, Pick-by-Frame®, Pick-by-Point®, Pick-by-Watch, Pick-by-Tablet, etc.

It used to be a robot ...

At this point I would like to mention an example from practice that I experienced with a customer. This example shows how a bearing should NOT be rebuilt at the moment.

The story started around 2001 and the customer had a well functioning manual picking system. The entire daily requirement was handled by 3 order pickers. A relatively straightforward pick-by-light system with a small conveyor system was used as the picking system. The customer picked cell phones. For whatever reason, the management decided to use a KUKA robot for picking, which is to pick the mobile phones fully automatically.

The idea wasn't bad at first. Order picking for 24 hours. The mobile phone business was very future-oriented. The articles were clearly defined: small boxes. The Pick-by-Light shelves and the conveyor technology were rebuilt. The robot with his colorful arm was finally there. The commissioning was relatively problem-free. The only robot has achieved the same performance as the three order pickers. Everything was fine, but ...

...but

Sometimes, however, the robot did not grip the carton optimally with its mobile phone. Perhaps the cartons on the shelves were not so optimal. There were some interferences per shift. Troubleshooting was not always so easy. So... Skilled personnel here!

Instead of 3 order pickers, the company had to hire 4 highly paid and highly qualified technicians to supervise the robot 24 hours a day. After a few months of operation, the robot unfortunately had to find another use.

It is therefore not always sensible to introduce automation. First there has to be a correct planning and understanding of the problem. In the next chapter we will show you a correct procedure.

The correct planning and the concept

We often experience that the customer is already very fixated on a certain technology during the inquiry. Sometimes these are the new fashions, such as pick-by-vision, and sometimes the proven technologies, such as pick-by-light or pick-by-voice. Again and again, the focus is not on the process and the concept, but only on the technology. Unfortunately, this is not optimal. Without a correct task analysis no optimal picking systems can be built.

Finding the right picking system?

Years ago, only paper or HDT scanners were in use. Only a few companies could afford the proven Pick-by-Light or Pick-by-Voice. With the technical development, the number of possibilities and solutions has increased considerably. However, the choice of technology should not be based on "fashion", but on the real needs of employees and processes. The picking systems should always be supportive and not serve as control mechanisms for staff.

To answer the question, the planner must first understand the current and planned process in detail. Unfortunately, we often experience that this is not the case. Only after a thorough analysis can the appropriate picking system be selected. We also offer workshops and not only answer your questions, but also offer concrete solutions. Talk to us.

Combination of picking systems

Some combinations of order picking systems are particularly efficient. As an example, the problem with the checksums and performance of the classic Pick-by-Voice is very well suited here. At high performance, the employee has to "talk" a lot with the system; confirmation of the aisle, confirmation of the checksum, confirmation of the quantity, possible confirmation of the batch. All this takes a lot of time. In addition, the employee must have a good spatial orientation in order to find the storage locations. The combination with the Pick-by-Point® solves the orientation problems and the annoying confirmations of the same checksums, which are learned by heart anyway.

The Pick-by-Point® light shows the storage compartment with a large dot. The employee then only confirms the quantity withdrawn. The combination of picking systems is very efficient and flexible.

Then why is LUCA so special?

There are many suppliers of individual order picking systems on the market. However, this is rarely enough to offer an optimal solution. We supply all systems from a single source and control them centrally via our LUCA server software. We support our customers and planners not only in the creation of the systems, but also in the planning phase.

The LUCA systems control the picking and material flow of the entire plants, as well as individual small and large plants. For years we have maintained very good partnerships with our hardware suppliers and offer only the best components (e.g. Zebra, SICK, Datalogic, etc.).

Conclusion

LUCA offers many order picking systems, which allows an optimized solution to be created. In some cases it makes sense to even use the individual systems as a combination. The focus in the planning should be the concept and the solution and not only the technology. Talk to us. LUCA is very specialized in order picking systems and develops professional solutions for warehouse logistics and production.

Thank you very much for your time.

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