Five Automation Myth Busters

Before you write off warehouse automation as being too complex or expensive for your operations, here are five good reasons to take a second look.


Myth # 2: Voice is the best method for picking applications

Is voice really the hottest picking solution available today? If you were to ask Steve Stomel—CEO of ProCat in West Berlin, NJ—you would get a resounding “no.” After just three years in the field, ProCat’s PickRight solution is being used by over 800 pickers in about 45 warehouses nationwide. PickRight is a wireless touch-screen picking system offering companies a new method of picking orders. The system costs significantly less than other electronic picking systems on the market, according to Stomel.

The PickRight solution consists of three devices: a scanner worn on the index finger, a monitor worn on the wrist and a printer worn either like a purse on a strap or on the belt at the waistline of the operator. So the operator is a veritable walking processing center. The ring scanner instantly verifies each pick. The wrist unit is a Windows-based display screen that displays easy-to-use picker prompts. An export file allows for electronic order correction and the device is capable of extensive management reporting.

How is PickRight better than voice applications? “Operators using this system can see the prompts easily right on their wrists and they know where the pick location is and the quantity required,” explains Stomel. “The wrist unit offers far more information to be available to the picker than traditional voice systems provide. The portable and wearable printer gives companies a wide range of printing capabilities and allows the operator to print on the spot.”

Here is how it works: as the picker begins to work, he logs on through the wrist device, which asks the picker which order he is about to pick. The unit directs the picker to a pick bin, where the barcode is scanned using the ring scanner. The item is then placed in a shipping carton. When the order is complete, the picker presses a button on the wrist unit that signals the printer to print a shipping label and a packing label for that order.

With the PickRight solution, companies can choose team picking, having multiple people picking the same order at the same time. Or choosing the batch picking method, companies can have an individual picker picking multiple orders at the same time.

Stomel reports that customers praise the system’s near-100-percent accuracy rate, claiming their picking productivity improves on an average of 20 percent to 25 percent. “Just a year after implementation, DCs typically require 20 percent fewer pickers working in their facilities because productivity increases significantly,” he says.

The setup is a lot simpler than voice systems. “Our technicians are live on-site on a Monday afternoon, for instance,” Stomel explains. “By Tuesday morning, pickers can be picking accurately with PickRight. Our customers tell us that the training time for a new employee is under 30 minutes. So you can literally take a brand-new employee who has never been inside a DC and have them picking with 100-percent accuracy in under 30 minutes.”

 

Another advantage over voice systems is the fact that pickers actually scan the barcodes on each picked item as it is picked and placed in the shipping carton. “With a voice system, if the wrong product is picked and loaded into a pick slot, you will wind up shipping the wrong item because there is no system for picking verification,” Stomel says. “PickRight will alert the picker if he or she picks the wrong item.”

But for true believers in the power of voice, Stomel says PickRight is programmed to be able to do voice-directed prompts from the wrist units. “The units have voice capability and the software application announces the pick bin and the quantity required to the picker. This can be done using a Bluetooth headset or through a speaker on the wrist unit. We also have the ability to implement multiple languages so the wrist unit can display is available in any MicroSoft-supported language.”

 

Myth # 3: ASRS solutions are designed only for high-rise warehouses.

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