EASY Automation Appraisal Requirements

As e-commerce represents an ever-increasing percentage of orders within distribution and fulfillment centers, warehouse managers evaluate automation solutions to combat the increased operational costs associated with e-commerce orders. In a warehouse or fulfillment center designed for traditional pallet storage and picking, those orders being fulfilled through each or case picking can add up and get expensive.

Currently, many of the operations we have worked with have responded to the additional e-commerce orders by “throwing labor” at this issue. What happens during peak seasons? Do you throw even more labor at it? What about if there are changes in ordering patterns? Do you hire and train temporary workers? That is where automation can come in and deliver solutions for these challenges.

However, it can be challenging to decide the appropriate level of automation for your current operations. It can be even more challenging to determine the proper level for you in 3 to 5 years. Do you integrate more now and deal with the cost today or slowly build a system and integrate it into your operations?

We created our EASY Automation Appraisals, where our team can take a data-driven, engineered solutions approach to determine the best plan of action for your facility. After all, each operation is different, and we want to connect you with the appropriate set of solutions, never to oversell or stick you with a system that you cannot fully optimize.

So, if you are at that stage where costs are rising due to an increase in each or case picking compared to your rate of pallet picking, your operation may be an ideal candidate for an EASY Appraisal. But what all is needed to conduct one within your facility?

  • Order Line Data – The most critical data for us.
  • Inventory On Hand – Historical data showing what all are you storing & how much of each item?
  • AutoCAD Layout of the Facility – We want to know where everything is at, as it stands today.
  • SKU Item Master List – We want to know what size your products are, how big their cases are, and what size pallets or cases are currently being stored?
  • Labor Rates & Outlay – How much are you trying to process, and how much does it cost to do it?
  • Outbound Shipping Requirements – Do you need poly bags? Does your packaging require dunnage?

Not all that information is technically needed – we have enough experience to work around virtually any roadblock – but having all that information will give us a clear understanding of what to look for in your operations. From there, our engineering team can tour your facility and see your processes in action ourselves. You can learn more about our EASY Appraisals here.

Are You Ready for an EASY Automation Appraisal?

The changes associated with fulfilling e-commerce orders are going to affect the structure of your business. It is a question of “when,” not “if.” If you are unsure how to adapt to those changes or adopt best practices with these systems, that is where we come in. These appraisals are designed to fit your needs now with a growth plan. We also offer a business case for how these additions can deliver an ROI within a few months or years.

Give us a call today to share more about the specific challenges you see in your operations and allow our team to develop custom engineered solutions that can help you combat those rising labor costs while increasing throughput and order accuracy.

Contact us today to schedule your EASY Automation Appraisal!

Automated Packing Solutions Blog

As e-commerce continues to grow rapidly, fulfillment centers are exploring avenues to maintain or lower operational costs through process improvement, data-driven design, and technology solutions. For companies experiencing growth in their e-commerce fulfillment demands – or are new to e-commerce fulfillment altogether – it may be challenging to find a place to start.

The packing process is one of the more costly areas for most fulfillment centers in that stage. For the most part, freight, materials, and operational or labor costs all rise as order volume rises, and if there is no strategy in place to maintain or lower those costs, expenses can get out of hand quickly.

By investing in automated packing technology solutions, distribution centers, warehouses, and fulfillment centers can minimize these cost increases while boosting productivity, increasing fulfillment velocity, and improving your overall customer experience.

What Should I Look for with an Automated Packing Solution?

With any well-designed automated packing solution, it is essential to value the reduction of waste. Not only are you paying for material you may not be entirely using, but you are creating a messier working condition and requiring additional cleanup – two factors that can cause increases in labor costs over time.

To that end, some systems offer to automate tray forming, which allows enough material to ship the product with minimal scrap. Once the product is in the tray and any value-added services like coupons or marketing materials are included, the ideal packing solution can automatically measure and void fill an inflatable or paper cushioning to keep the product secure for shipment.
Another feature of an optimal end-of-the-line solution would include automatic lid placement and pack closure. After the lid is placed and the pack is closed, shipping information and any other required labels can be applied to the package, either by a packer or automatically by the packing solution.

Lastly, once the system is implemented, you will want to find a partner that offers ongoing customer service in the event of a disruption. The right solution partner should help you meet your customers’ needs and your operational needs long after installation. Some systems even offer remote repair and offsite monitoring, which can detect problems, perform routine maintenance, and conduct productivity analyses.

The result should showcase a product that looks similar to a product shipped from the most comprehensive e-commerce fulfillment centers, with tamper-evident, easy-to-open, and easy-to-return packaging. A right-sized package can also reduce freight costs, and customers are happy because the product is secure and delivered in line with their expectations.

Find a Custom Automated Packing Solution for Your Needs

Each business has its challenges, and the optimal solutions for those challenges genuinely depend on the organization’s distinctive needs. As part of an overall fulfillment strategy, the right automated packing solution should be uniquely designed to minimize freight, operational costs, and weight while improving productivity for a valid return on investment.

If you are interested in increasing your fulfillment velocity and meeting your customers’ demands for rapid delivery, give us a call. Our team of experts will learn about your business’s specific challenges and connect you with the right automated packing solution that best fits your operational needs.

EASY Appraisal

As fulfillment centers battle against labor challenges, increasing costs, and quicker fulfillment expectations, many explore the world of warehouse automation to lower expenses while meeting changing demand.

The problem is: where does one begin when it comes to evaluating how these tools can positively impact your operation? How does one determine which of the multitude of solutions that are available today is the right fit to meet their specific needs?

Easy Automation Appraisal LogoWith our EASY Appraisal, our team can work with you hand-in-hand to ensure the correct measures are being taken to help you achieve your goals.

Our EASY Appraisal is a simple process where our experts tour your facility and get to understand your unique operations. There, we can determine where your pain points exist, how your workflow takes place, and formulate a plan of action. Our ultimate goal is to create a business case that will deliver an ROI and set you on a path for growth.

We consider four variables into our process:

Engineering Theory: Our data driven approach to evaluating your storage and fulfillment needs.

Automation Hardware: The most appropriate systems designed for your needs, without overselling or overequipping.

Software Integration: Setting you up with the correct tools to manage these systems

Your Needs: We customize all our solutions to meet your requirements, meaning you will not get an out-of-the-box plan. We recognize each business has its own unique needs and challenges.

At an introductory level, we can deploy these solutions within hours, without the need for facility reconfiguration, IT systems, or WMS integrations. If your organization is interested in more significant automation levels, we can work with your organization to determine what is needed to meet operational challenges that can be resolved through automation.

Using our “Simple, Smart, Strategic” approach, we can work with facilities of all types to integrate automation solutions at any scale. Starting small, we design these systems to be flexible and scale as needs change.

Ready to get started?

Want to learn more? Our Solutions Engineering professionals are ready to answer any questions you may have about introducing automation into your facility. We have the expertise to deliver solutions, big or small, that can provide a return-on-investment more quickly than you may realize.

Automation Solutions to Facilitate E-Commerce

There is a rapidly growing market for interest in automation solutions, especially in response to the COVID-19 crisis that has reshaped supply chains globally, nationally, and locally.

Before the crisis began, businesses of all types were slowly shifting to support e-commerce. However, when the pandemic hit, that shift suddenly forced those interested in these solutions to re-evaluate if automation was required to meet customer demand. No matter the degree of automation integrated before COVID-19, fulfillment centers need to incorporate automation to a higher degree.

To meet customer demand – where the time between order and delivery expectation is shorter than any time in history – warehouses need to change. Warehouses that are not fully prepared for this rapid rise of e-commerce often rely on an excessive amount of labor (including additional overtime), missing ship dates, and not meeting customer expectations on order accuracy or fulfillment times, all while confronting an ever-increasing volume of SKUs.

The pain points are all building up for those who have not yet adjusted. In those cases, how does one respond?

Some businesses start from scratch by building new facilities, while others are looking to adjust by retrofitting under their current footprint. These companies are looking to increase storage density, reduce time and costs, and achieve higher throughput capabilities by introducing automation into their processes.

Several solutions help warehouses and distribution centers stay competitive and thrive in today’s changing world. Below, we have highlighted seven automation solutions we have seen be useful in these efforts, no matter what level of automation your facility currently has implemented:

Solution 1: Goods-to-Person AS/RS – AMR Hybrid Solutions

Goods-to-Person AS/RS - AMR HybridOne unique AMR solution we have seen successfully facilitate e-commerce is a Goods-to-Person AS/RS+AMR Hybrid Solution. This high-density, automated storage-and-retrieval system (AS/RS) can move goods to-and-from a storage mechanism that allows for vertical storage of up to 36 feet. The system can support small-item picking and delivery of the goods to a packing station. The system is also scalable, giving the ability to adjust as your needs grow by adding additional AMRs and racking. We have seen this solution be especially useful in micro-fulfillment centers and as a solution in facilities with a high volume of SKUs.

Solution 2: Goods-to-Man Tote Handling AS/RS

Goods-to-Man Tote Handling AS/RSHigh-speed AS/RS tote handling solutions offer scalable goods-to-person picking that improves the speed with which orders are picked, increases order accuracy, and reduces labor costs related to the picking process. It is a low-risk solution for those looking to introduce automated solutions into their operations. An additional benefit of this solution is that an operator can customize either the software or the system quickly if needed.

These systems offer high-density storage both vertically and horizontally within the system with robots that deliver products to a packing station or workstation for further fulfillment. It utilizes put-to-light technology that offers a high degree of accuracy, even with high volumes of order picking.

Solution 3: Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)AMRs offer a wide variety of benefits, including facilitating complex fulfillment, zone picking, each picking, case picking, maximizes labor, reduces labor costs, and can be designed to be scalable, flexible, and adaptable to nearly any fulfillment process. Because they do not require massive investment or even a WMS, on-demand automation solutions like AMRs are becoming adopted widely, especially for those looking to make low-risk introductions into automation.

Solution 4: Vertical Lift Machines (VLMs) in Groups

Vertical Lift Machines (VLMs)VLMs are another goods-to-man solution that helps pickers efficiently fulfill orders while optimizing floor space within a facility. For instance, it can fit what would typically take up 5,000 square feet of floor space into about 150 square feet (meaning a 90% improvement in floorspace utilization). These are usually used for small cube items but can facilitate some heavier items in certain situations.

Products are placed on a tray, and the VLM will deliver the tray to the picking area, where a laser will dictate the exact location where the item is stored. This process allows for extremely high pick rates with a high level of accuracy to go along with the advantages of the additional cubic storage volume they offer.

Solution 5: Put to Light Tables – Picking from Multiple Machines

Put-to-Light TablesPut-to-Light systems are an automated sortation method to break down larger product quantities into smaller individual orders. Known as the “scan and sort method,” this order fulfillment method takes items that are usually batch picked beforehand and transports them to the put station. The operator will scan a bar code on individual items, and the lights will illuminate with any customer order including that product. This technology solution will increase productivity as it reduces the time associated with searching for the put location. By the time the operator is done, the next product is already waiting, meaning it is a nonstop picking environment where workers are never waiting on automation.

Put-to-Light offers the same hardware devices and software as pick to light, meaning you can utilize both systems on one platform. This process will be beneficial when it comes to training new employees to use this technology solution. This system’s primary goal is to give you the ability to pack and ship more orders in less time while reducing errors.

Solution 6: Mixed Use of AMRs, Pick Modules, and Conveyors

AMRs and Conveyor CombosWe’ve touched on the integration of AMRs in conjunction with pick modules in addition to (or in place of) conveyors here. In short, by using this solution, you are shifting the work of your labor force to more valuable tasks. Like many automated solutions, it lessens the pick process’s length and gives you a flexible, scalable solution to adjust as e-commerce continues to grow.  Click here to learn more about this solution.

Solution 7: Horizontal AMR – AS/RS Solutions

Horizontal AMR - AS/RSAmong the most dynamic environments thriving in today’s high-demand world are ones that utilize highly automated horizontal AMRs in AS/RS storage environments. In this environment, a facility’s layout is full of mobile shelving units with caged-off pick cells surrounding the area. The robots find the shelf, then deliver the shelf back to its appropriate location once picked. It completely removes the need for human labor to travel the pick floor.

This style of goods-to-person to bin-to-person picking eliminates the redundant walking of pickers while also improving accuracy and reducing labor costs.

Which is Right for You?

Which is the right solution for you? Will you need a WES/WMS system? Do you need a partner to help you consider using an engineered solution in the future?
There are several factors distribution centers need to consider, not only to meet today’s demand but also to facilitate growth and adaptability for future unforeseen changes in fulfillment expectations.

We have the design and expertise to partner with you through the decision-making and implementation processes. Give us a call today!

Value of Fetch Solutions

Order fulfillment in today’s world is significantly different from even just a few years ago. With the rise of e-commerce, expectations for order fulfillment’s speed and accuracy make it hard for traditional warehouse operators to keep up.

In competing with the Amazons of the world, these traditional distribution centers are battling against now-slow fulfillment times, rising labor costs, and throughput challenges. Meeting those customer demands can be trying without introducing technology and dynamic solutions designed to meet those challenges head-on.

For those new to these emerging technologies, making that jump into automation can be scary. However, Fetch Robotics offers a line of products designed to assist with several operational variations without massive infrastructure investment.

They may not fully understand that there are introductory-level solutions available that allow incrementally beneficial solutions, many of which offer a return on investment relatively quickly. Plus, you do not have to deal with software integration or making a bunch of infrastructure changes. Instead, you can get a simple solution up and running quickly and easily. If you need something complicated or need a more comprehensive solution over time, these solutions can be more fully integrated to meet those needs.

Here are five ways that Fetch can incrementally add value to your operations:

  • Zone Pick/Batch Picking: Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are great tools to handle material movement, especially in zone or batch picking scenarios. They can physically move products from the pick area to another point in the process – perhaps to a conveyor or packing area. This usage saves your labor force from the physical toll of handling the material and traveling required, which also cuts down on travel time and allows your fulfillment to happen quicker.
  • Each Picking / Case Picking: People typically do not think of AMRs when handling each pick or case pick scenarios. However, that is a misconception. In fact, with the rise of e-commerce, these AMRs can similarly speed up the fulfillment process. Because each picking tends to associate itself with higher labor costs, integrating AMRs can be a great way to keep those labor costs down by reducing the distance traveled and the wear-and-tear on your workers.
  • Adaptability: As consumer demand continues to change, distribution centers that rely on heavy-duty pick modules or conveyors can fall behind. Why? Because they cannot change their processes quickly enough to meet those changes, the infrastructure they have constructed is too limiting and costly to move. Fetch Solutions allow your operations to quickly and easily adjust as needed.
  • Scalability: With a Fetch AMR solution, you can scale your automation quickly and simply by adding robots. Because workflows are developed within the FetchCore cloud operating platform, they can be programmed within just a few minutes. By adding more robots, you can increase your throughput as needed, allowing you to respond to demand changes as quickly as you need to.
  • Flexibility: Because these AMRs run on cloud-based software, they can be re-programmed at any point from anywhere that has an internet connection. That means, should your needs change – for instance, a new pick point needs to be added or removed, you can set those points without needing to re-program or re-map an entire facility.

Let’s Talk this Through

These solutions are not solely limited to support e-commerce, either. AMRs can support a wide variety of material handling needs and distribution concepts. Their adaptability, scalability, and flexibility can be explicitly designed to suit any number of needs.

If this is all new to you, know that we are here to help. Our team has years of experience in integrating these systems to fit a variety of industry models. Give us a call today, and we can talk about what challenges you face and determine the right course of action to give your organization that incremental value needed when you are first integrating dynamic solutions.

Conveyors or AMRs

For decades, conveyor systems have been a standard solution in warehouses to move products through the fulfillment process. They grew popular because they can handle the heavy-lifting of transporting products while saving the wear-and-tear on your workers, who would otherwise be required to move those products physically.

Unfortunately, conveyor systems can be expensive, bulky, and take up too much room on the warehouse floor. More importantly, they offer an inherent lack of flexibility as companies adapt to changes in the way consumers are ordering products.

One solution we see in this area is integrating autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) alongside conveyors. For the right tasks, these AMRs can give businesses that adaptability to adjust their operations to meet where consumer demand is going. For warehouses and distribution centers, flexibility is more important now than ever. The speed of change is accelerating, and warehouses that rely solely on conveyor systems may not be able to react with the swiftness they need to.

Where AMRs can replace conveyor is in the areas of transportation and work distribution. They assist in moving products from one pick zone to the next or from a pick zone to a packing area or a quality control area. They can also move products from pick locations to a put-to-light area. Several applications potentially make sense for this change. Really, other than when a package must move through a place at a very high rate, AMRs can potentially make sense to replace conveyors.

By integrating AMRs, you can have your labor force working on more valuable tasks like picking versus physically moving products themselves. We have broken down the many advantages of these AMRs in warehouse operations prior (link), but this relatively new technology is a smart, flexible technology that can sometimes replace functionality historically handled by conveyance.

Look, conveyors will never go away completely. There are some things a conveyor does that really can’t be replaced altogether. Especially with high-speed transportation or sortation, a conveyor will probably be needed. However, full reliance on these monuments of infrastructure may keep your company from adapting as necessary to changes within the supply chain industry.

Really, an investment like this is an investment in your facility’s ability to be dynamic in response to demand changes. As e-commerce continues to grow at an unprecedented pace, facilities need to follow suit and understand how to react accordingly. By prioritizing adaptability in your processes, you can meet the challenge of changing demand quicker. That means down the road, your costs will be fewer, your downtime will lessen, and ultimately your customers will be more satisfied.

Of course, if you need any assistance in evaluating your facility design, the Storage Solutions team will help. Our experts have decades of experience in equipping warehouses and distribution centers with the right mix of tools to get the job done right. We understand that, as the industry continues to change, adaptability is becoming increasingly important. Armed with the right combination of technology with tried-and-true mechanisms, warehouses can respond to dynamic changes with relative ease.

If you are considering adding conveyor systems to your facility, talk with us first. While we recognize the value that these systems have traditionally brought to warehouse operations, technology has evolved to the point where they may not be the best option any longer. Our team of experts can talk with you about your processes, challenges, and then design a custom workflow to amplify efficiencies without breaking the bank.

Pick Modules AMRs

If there is one pain point we hear most often from operations managers, they are always fighting a battle between what they need to accomplish today versus preparing for changes down the road. The priority always defaults to ensure that day-to-day operations remain steady, restricting the amount of planning one could be doing.

Often, the operation team doesn’t know what is coming down the road. The team is often blind to the decision to add a new product, remove a product, or some other mandate that will require a new aisle or a lane to their storage configuration. However, especially in the age of Amazon, those changes are coming faster than before. The change is happening regardless — “when” not “if.”

Traditionally, pick modules have been constructed along with a conveyor system within a facility to optimize the fulfillment process. The pick modules and conveyance systems can be seen essentially as giant monuments within a facility. Costly and inflexible, multi-level structures have been “how things have been done” for so long that even the most attuned manager may not realize that alternatives exist. Not only do they exist, but they may also make more sense for certain operations.

Pick modules are becoming the “old school” way to process orders. Technology continues to evolve, and new processes have shown that perhaps that old-school way of thinking may be outdated. Especially when it comes to adaptability, the types of changes you can make with a pick module or a conveyor are limited. What can an operations manager do when a change is required?

In response, we have seen facilities create several efficiencies and save resources by switching to a more “new school” methodology by modernizing using autonomous mobile robots. By automating material transport with AMRs, you can see all the same benefits of the traditional pick module/conveyor system, without the massive investment in infrastructure.

The thought behind the process is the same: You can conduct the same picking operation, but you pick in an environment where everything is on the ground. Instead of using the inflexible conveyor to move products, you utilize the AMRs. Instead of the multi-tiered structure, you can use vertical storage space to store safety stock or reserve inventory. Plus, you still save the steps – and time – for your employees to move products down the line.

The real advantage of this system is how quickly you can adapt to the next change. Let’s face it: consumer demands and behavior will continue to change, but it is unlikely that change will come in the form of slower expectations with a greater appreciation for errors. Using cloud-based on-demand automation software, changes in processes can be quickly made via a mobile device. That is a little easier than installing a new “monument” to an old school way of thinking.

The costs are similar, especially when you consider the ongoing maintenance costs that come with the conveyor. By adopting this “new school” way of thinking, you set yourself up to adapt to the next change in the fulfillment process. This is the type of investment that can see returns early through efficiencies and continue delivering for years to come.

When it comes to investing in the future of your operations, the decision isn’t always easy. However, learning more is.

Our Solutions Development team would love to learn more about the challenges you face and develop a simple, smart, and strategic way to address those concerns for the future while understanding the need to fight the fires that come with managing day-to-day operations in a distribution center. We’re here to help – give us a call today!

On-Demand Automation Intro Blog

On-Demand Automation may be a foreign term to warehouse managers who look at the prospect of introducing automation as an insurmountable hurdle in their warehouse operations. Those decision-makers are hesitant to learn about implementation because they see the idea as too costly, too distracting, and too steep of a learning curve.

“It will take too many resources. I will never get a return on my investment. I’ll have to reconfigure my entire operation.”

These are all misconceptions, especially by introducing on-demand automation.

In short, on-demand automation allows warehouses to introduce technology into any facility, as is, at any scale, without installing IT systems, and with the flexibility to change at any time. Fetch Robotics, a pioneer of on-demand automation offers software that works with a line of autonomous mobile robots that increases productivity with a return on investment in under two years for most applications.

On-demand automation is the perfect way to introduce automation into your operation, earning ROI while providing evidence for buy-in from stakeholders for further investment into automation.

Why Introduce On-Demand Automation?

  • Deploy AMRs in hours: In the past, automation brought long lead times, engineering, and installation requirements. With on-demand automation, we can create virtual conveyors or transport maps in just hours using cloud-based software.
  • No facility reconfiguration: Most automation solutions require changes to your facility, including floor space, layout, and storage mediums, to work with the system. However, on-demand automation solutions work with your existing floorplan and can independently navigate without modifying anything.
  • No additional IT systems: Because on-demand solutions use cloud-based software like FetchCore, they can work with or without Warehouse Management systems. That flexibility means AMRs are ready to go no matter your operating system.
  • Scalability: Once you go with on-demand automation, you can add to your robot fleet without adding infrastructure. So, you can continue to easily add AMRs as needed without investing in costly automation systems.
  • Flexibility: Consumer demand is changing rapidly, so warehouse managers need to be adaptable. On-demand solutions are not limited to a single-function workflow. Modifications can be made on the cloud-based platform and pushed to the robot in just a few clicks.
  • Data, data, data: On-demand automation software collects data from robots, equipment, systems, and devices across all facility operations, giving you actionable insights into how your warehouse operates.

If you are interested in automation but just not sure how to get started, we will help. Our Solutions Development team is prepared to answer any questions or misconceptions you may have about introducing automation into your operations. It may not be as difficult or costly as you think, with a return on investment quicker than you may realize.

Carton Flow Blog

Warehouse managers are often tasked with finding new and innovative ways to increase storage capacity while increasing speed and effectiveness in order fulfillment operations. Carton flow, also known as case flow or gravity flow, features various storage options that may be the right solution for your facility.

A carton flow system can be an ideal way to improve picking speeds and storage capacity within a warehouse. These systems consist of tracking and rollers that use gravity to push products through a pallet rack. As an item is picked from the rack’s front, the package behind it gravity feeds into the front position, ready to be selected.

This storage style is ideal for a warehouse set up for case picking or each picking. This process allows for each SKU to have a dedicated pick face, helping the picker with the accuracy of an order. Because a lot of SKUs can be presented for picking in a bay of rack, that means shortened travel with a reduced pick path, increasing throughput. It allows you to get more done at a faster rate because you are making a shorter run.

One additional benefit is that these can be installed into standard pallet rack, with the tracks being dropped into hangers that attach to the beams. These systems can be designed to fit multiple sizes of cartons, bins, and boxes to accommodate different SKU sizes.

Traditionally, there are two downsides to carton flow picking. Because someone (or something) physically places the boxes into storage, then another person retrieves them, there are additional material touches with each pick. The extra step may slow down some processes that require high throughput to remain effective.

With this storage method, products are automatically sorted for a first-in, first-out inventory system.

There are many different styles of carton flow available and finding the right mix of these may be the way to turn your warehouse into a more profitable fulfillment operation that maximizes its storage capacity.

Spantrak Carton FlowFull-Width Roller Tracks

Pros: Typically, this style of racking is suitable for heavy loads because of its durability and ability to withstand abuse. It offers higher capacity on a per-square-foot basis, so this type of racking is often found in beverage storage situations where there is a need to store heavy cases of product.

Cons: The downside of the durability is that this style of racking is rigid in its configuration. It offers almost zero flexibility after it is assembled (without tearing it down and re-assembling, of course). For instance, if you have 15″ wide lanes and the packaging size for that product changes, you have to get new lanes to accommodate the updated package.

Example: UNEX’s SpanTrack Carton Flow Lane

Carton Flow FlextrakPolycarbonate Skate Wheel Tracks

Pros: These polycarbonate skate wheel tracks essentially make a level of carton flow lanes a full flow bed. Since carton lanes are not configured ahead of time, this style of racking is very flexible in terms of the package sizes that can flow through the storage. Meaning, if your product size or packaging type changes, then you will not have to reconfigure this system. It is also relatively easy to install into new or existing racks.

Cons: Because there are no pre-defined lanes, this racking style makes it easier to change pick faces frequently. However, if your warehouse is relatively static in terms of the number of SKUs in inventory & their packaging, there may be lower-cost alternatives for carton flow storage.

Example: Engineered Products’ Flextrak Bed Carton Flow

Carton-Flow-Plastic-RollersSmall-Diameter Plastic Wheel Carton Flow In Shelves

Pros: Small-diameter plastic wheel carton flow is a light-weight shelf and track system that can be flexible in that it allows for adjustments as product or packaging changes. This style of racking is ideal for lighter-weight products that will not damage the light-duty carton flow during use. While it is used in a low percentage of carton flow applications today, this type of racking has historically been popular because of its low initial cost.

Cons: Because of the plastic wheel’s small diameter, this type of racking is not built to store large or heavy packages. It is also susceptible to damage due to its light-weight design.

Example: Gauer Metal’s Flow-Track Option

Carton Flow Heavy DutyHeavy-Duty Carton Flow

Pros: Heavy-Duty Carton Flow is an excellent option if you are storing very heavy or bulky items like automotive parts, and you have concerns about the durability of your carton flow racking. Like the polycarbonate skate wheel tracks, this carton flow style offers a full bed of rollers, though snap-in wire dividers are also available. The main difference is that the rollers are full steel, offering additional durability with an estimated 40% higher weight capacity.

Cons: With the added durability, there comes a higher initial cost in material and installation for heavy-duty carton flow.

Example:3D Storage Solutions’ Heavy Duty Carton Flow Applications

To find the option best for you, talk with an expert. Our team of Storage Solutions experts has decades of experience finding creative solutions for nearly any use case. We can walk you through what may be best for your warehouse and see if carton flow is ideal for increasing your storage capacity and optimizing your fulfillment operations.

Semi-Automated Storage Solutions

As the supply chain industry continues to evolve, workers are challenged with finding new and innovative methods to implement technology to reduce disruptions and increase operational efficiency in each facility. Warehouse managers in need of a dynamic yet straightforward solution should evaluate implementing semi-automated pallet carts with deep lane storage systems.

Semi-automated storage solutions – sometimes referred to as pallet runners, pallet shuttles, or pallet moles – allow for efficient organization of a warehouse because they can store, load, and retrieve full pallets. They are fast, easy-to-use, and adaptable enough for more inventory systems (First-In, First Out; Last-In, First-Out, etc.).

Essentially, the system centers around a cart that travels along pre-determined lanes within deep storage structures within a warehouse. While there may be some level of fully automated programming available, the carts typically are controlled via remote. An operator can control up to four carts simultaneously.

How Do Semi-Automated Deep Lane Storage Systems Work?

The functionality of a semi-automated deep lane storage system is relatively easy to understand. Once a pallet is placed onto the load position in the pallet rack by a forklift, the cart transfers it based on the direction of an operator with a remote control. From there, there are three main functions of a pallet runner:

  • Loading/Storing: After the pallet is loaded onto the rack, a cart will position the pallet for storage in the first available storage position in that lane. Semi-automated deep lane storage systems allow for very dense storage, with systems typically being 12-40 pallets deep per lane.
  • Unloading: Like the loading function, an operator can use a pallet runner as an unloading mechanism. The cart travels the lane until the first available pallet is located. Once located, the cart picks up the pallet and moves it to the unload end position in the rack where a forklift driver picks it up & loads it for shipment.
  • Continuous Loading/Unloading: This is like the manual loading/unloading function; however, the runner can be programmed to return to retrieve the next available pallet automatically.

What Are Other Benefits of Semi-Automated Storage Systems?

Semi-automated deep lane storage systems help maximize space in a warehouse while creating optimal storage density by using technology to load, store, and unload full pallets. This system comes as a benefit to your forklifts by moving wear-and-tear from those more expensive-to-replace capital expenses and onto this more versatile option. They also help reduce damage to both product and racking structure by keeping products within a lane and minimally exposed to hazards within the warehouse.

You can further outfit these semi-automated carts with additional features that may suit your operational needs, including integration in cold environments (from 30 degrees to -22 degrees Fahrenheit), wi-fi enablement, remote control charging capabilities, and more.

Want to Learn More?

If you have an interest in implementing dynamic solutions like semi-automated deep lane storage, we should talk. Storage Solutions experts are ready to share their knowledge, experience, and guidance in the installation and maintenance of these semi-automated storage solutions. We are one of the few United States-based integrators who can offer support and service 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact us today to start developing your semi-automated deep lane storage project!