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Goods to person throughput

3 Key Factors in Goods-to-Person Throughput Design

Kyle Dorge | 30 March 2018

When approached by companies interested in purchasing goods-to-person systems, we often hear the following assertion:

We want (insert goods-to-person technology name) because, according to the vendor’s website, it will allow us to pick X lines/hour/work station.

From a mechanical standpoint, a goods-to-person system certainly can attain the tote delivery rate advertised on a vendor’s website.  However, these advertised rates do not consider the primary determinant for the throughput rate that is actually realized at a goods-to-person work station – the pick cycle time.  Pick cycle time is composed of 3 major components (2 manual + 1 automated).  These 3 components and some of their key considerations are listed below:

1. Time to complete the operator’s picking activities (manual)

  • What do your order profiles look like? Are you picking several units/line or only 1-2 units/line?
  • How bulky are your products? How many units can you collect into your hands at one time?
  • If batch picking to multiple orders at a time, how far will your operators need to travel to deposit the picked units?

2. Time to complete the operator’s non-picking activities (manual)

  • What required tasks at the work station will take time away from picking? (Examples include value-added services, serial code capture, and/or order pack out.)
  • What do the operators’ break schedules look like?

3. Time for the goods-to-person system to cycle the next tote into position (automated)

  • The time to cycle out a tote and present the next one varies among goods-to-person technologies, but it typically falls within the range of 3-5 seconds.
As you have likely gathered from reading thus far, the manual components of the goods-to-person system play a huge role in the realized throughput rates from these highly automated systems. Therefore, we are faced with the challenge:  During the system design phase, how do we determine the expected goods-to-person throughput rate at a work station that takes into account these manual components of the pick cycle time? The Answer:  Predetermined motion time measurement systems. Predetermined motion time measurement systems, such as MOST or MTM, employ engineered standards for basic manual movements to accurately establish rates for new processes.  These systems are quicker than traditional time studies, are flexible enough to capture any picking and non-picking activities, and are able to inherently capture allowances for personal time, rest time, and/or unavoidable delays. If you have questions on goods-to-person throughput, pick cycle time, or predetermined motion time measurement systems, please contact our consulting team. We would be happy to help.  

Author: Kyle Dorge

Kyle is an Associate Consulting Engineer with Bastian Solutions out of Indianapolis, IN.  In this role, he works with Bastian clients to develop and validate material handling system designs through extensive data analysis and computer simulation.  Kyle received his B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Missouri and is currently pursuing his M.E. degree in Sustainable Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology.

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