Monday 24th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Automation replaces manual picking

The installation of Layer Pickers, supplied by Univeyor, is paying dividends for ACR Logistics at its 125,000sq m distribution centre at Veghel in the Netherlands. The Layer Pickers are located in the centre’s automated storage area.

The centre, which handles goods for companies including Unilever-Bestfoods and Masterfoods, receives between 800 and 900 pallets daily and which were handled manually. With about 40% of that volume being delivered as rainbow pallets in layers there was potential to replace labour-intensive manual picking with a fully automated system.

The Univeyor Layer Picker was selected from several options because of its high capacity – 150 layers an hour – and flexible design. Although the products’ varied size and shape could have been a problem, the Layer Picker uses a vacuum chamber which seals around each layer, which means it can pick up to 90% of the products in layers.

ACR uses a warehouse management system (WMS) to provide picking instructions to the Layer Picker. It collects incoming orders in batches, decides which order lines can be picked as full layers and passes information to the Layer Picker about product type, dimensions, quantity and stacking sequences for each pallet.

Pallets are then conveyed from the automated or manual storage areas to a sequence buffer for fast and accurate layer picking.

Each Layer Picker is effectively doing the job of 20 manual operators, dealing with 16 items per layer and 130 layers an hour. With a 20-hour operational cycle a day in the warehouse, this equates to a saving of 40 man years with the Layer Picker.

ACR just needs four operators in addition to the Layer Pickers to deal with surveillance, replenishment and despatch. The Layer Pickers have also resulted in improved ergonomics and reduced the use of forklifts.