Walking and manually picking orders can account for more than 50% of the time associated with picking. (Source) Together with storage space optimization being the primary and the most common issue logistic managers face with they form a clear need for a solution.
A Vertical Lift Module (VLM) can cover both challenges at once. The construction inside looks like two shelve racks at the front and back of the module with a lift in between. The lift moves up and down to pick up the needed tray and bring it to the access point in the front. The system allows users to select trays through the user interface. When the tray reaches the access opening, the needed goods can be selected from it.
1. No need for more: Optimizing your storage space
When every horizontal square meter costs more and more each year, it only seems wise to build up space vertically. The beauty of a VLM is that it can be built as high as your operations demand. The available height is from 2.45 meters up to 23.85 meters. With the use of several floor space square meters VLMs can store up to 80 tons of goods.
To make one’s logistics centre even more efficient, VLMs can be built outside with the access opening inside the building.
2. Your faster picking solution: Increase speed, minimize error rate
With the optimized stock management and the use of solution’s options the response time and hence the overall picking time can be optimized to the required standards.
For example, depending on the volume needed to be stored, if there is more than one lift module, placing them next to each other will significantly save travelling time for employees. Then, with the right statistics in place, more commonly used together items can be stored on one tray to save time on excessive retrieval processes.
SSI Schaefer’s VLM – SSI LOGIMAT® also has additional options to support and enhance the throughput.
LOGIDUAL supports when there is a need to access more than one tray at a short time. The second tray is retrieved with a slight delay to be at the access point when an employee is done with picking from the first.
LOGIPOINTER uses a laser to show which container on the tray stores the requested item. This helps to reduce picking errors and also to improve picking time.
3. Be careful: Safe processes for the employees and inventory management
Vertical Lift Modules are not only equipped with a safety light grid which means a risk-free workspace for employees but also ensure the safety of your stock. While manual procedures require individual responsibility for putting new data in the system, VLMs operate via the user interface and this is the only way. Hence, when something is retrieved or replenished it has to be put in the system. All the movements are tracked and recorded which leads to significantly less possibility for inventory misplaces and picking errors.
4. No excessive movements: Improved Ergonomics
Shelving racks require a range of different movements – stretching to pick the items from the higher shelves and bending to retrieve goods from the lower ones. These are less comfortable work conditions which in some cases can also lead to injuries and illnesses.
The ergonomics concept is the base for VLM design. The access opening is located at an ergonomically comfortable height to reduce excessive movements of the employees. Some of the modules also tilt (LOGITILT) the trays for convenient picking.
Some solutions tend to fit more to the specific business models and market segments. As a responsible person for logistics in your company, you already have an idea of what is there on the market available for your business operations. However, a lot of tools work better in a complex. They might not cover all but rather be a part of your system playing a supporting role.
What is your first thought when a conversation touches small items, fast turnover and the extreme importance of selecting accuracy? Ecommerce! With the changes in customers’ behaviour, many businesses added Ecommerce to their portfolio or started to work on it. Individual orders are smaller in volumes but richer in SKUs, hence, are more sensitive to errors. They generally require a faster shipping time and higher quality, including the appearance of the package. It is just one of the most obvious cases where vertical storage lifts can be in use, but Ecommerce is not the only industry to benefit from it.
Your warehouse equipment, systems and production lines are made of smaller parts. Some of them need to be on-site to ease maintenance and prevent any disruption of the operations. With VLMs in place, large quantities of spare parts can be stored on just a few square meters of the floor space. They will also be organized and ready for quick retrieval when needed.
A VLM is also helpful for companies that run production lines. In some process designs, semi-finished goods don’t enter the next stage right away and have to be stored somewhere. With less space, more semi-finished goods can be stores and retrieved easily in a VLM.
Another option is to use VLMs for finished goods as a buffer before shipping.
On the road again: VLM with conveyors
Vertical Lift Modules follow the goods-to-person principle, therefore, saving on travel time. However, if an employee’s workstation is not located near the module and they still have to move between the areas, it may potentially become a bottleneck slowing down the overall picking process. Here comes the need for automation. VLM’s productivity can be enhanced by connecting the areas and workstations by installing a conveying system. The items picked from the module can be placed on the conveying system which will deliver them right to the next handling point. Automating the connection between logistics areas enables the staff to focus completely on their roles – picking goods, and, therefore, it increases throughput.
VLM with Automated Guided Vehicles
Solution design is always limited to the current available space. It is not always possible to install a conveying system right away but there is another option suitable for automation. The bins and cartons picked from the Vertical Lift Module can be delivered to the destination by AGVs.
AGVs follow an optical guiding line, which takes less space and enable more flexibility with the routing. They are equipped with safety lights to track any movement or barrier in the front and stop when needed. Therefore, they do not need to be separated completely from the areas where employees pass.
SSI Schaefer helped C+C Krug GmbH to shift to semi-automated processes by combining conveying systems, SSI LOGIMAT® and WEASEL® AGVs. The bins are selected by an employee from the VLM, then placed on the conveyor. At the end of the conveyor, each bin is picked up by an AGV to be delivered to the next workstation where it will be taken care of by another staff member. To see how the processes are organized, follow the link.
A Vertical Lift Module is a great solution when it comes to optimizing the available storage space and especially height. As it is applicable to any industry and is compatible to fit into a more complex operations design it represents a perfect first step towards automation also for your business.