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.
Liam Jarvis, a vertical lift technology expert from SSI SCHAEFER, explains how Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) can effectively tackle both issues simultaneously. VLMs are designed with two shelving racks at the front and back, with a lift system in between. The lift moves up and down to retrieve the required tray and delivers it to the front access point. Users can conveniently select trays through the user interface and easily access the needed goods once the tray reaches the access opening.
Let’s delve into the benefits of VLMs:
- Optimizing storage space: Liam emphasizes that in an era where horizontal square meter costs are escalating, building vertically is a prudent choice. VLMs can be constructed to match the operational demands, reaching heights ranging from 2.45 meters up to an impressive 23.85 meters. By utilizing a few square meters of floor space, VLMs can store up to 80 tons of goods. Furthermore, VLMs can be positioned outside the building, with the access opening conveniently placed inside, further enhancing logistics center efficiency.
- Faster picking solution: By optimizing stock management and utilizing various options, such as placing multiple lift modules adjacent to each other, VLMs can significantly reduce travel time for employees. Liam suggests that by strategically storing commonly used items together on one tray, excessive retrieval processes can be eliminated. SSI SCHAEFER’s VLM – SSI LOGIMAT® offers additional options like LOGIDUAL, which supports accessing multiple trays in a short time, and LOGIPOINTER, which employs lasers to reduce picking errors and improve overall picking time.
- 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.
- 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.
Vertical Lift Modules as a part of logistics solution
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“, says Liam.
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.