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5 Order Fulfillment Technologies to Keep an Eye On

Greg Conner | 28 October 2020

 

As an independent systems integrator, Bastian Solutions is constantly evaluating the latest cutting-edge technologies.  Largely driven by the continued growth of ecommerce, advancements in automated order fulfillment solutions continue at an unprecedented pace.  Here are five order fulfillment technologies to keep an eye on…

 

1. Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) and Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR)

6river

Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) technology have literally been moving materials from point A to point B since the early 1950s.In recent years the popularity of AGVs has increased and are now a very common solution in both manufacturing and distribution applications. A new, more sophisticated twist on AGV technology which is commonly referred to as Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) is posed to dramatically impact order fulfillment. Unlike AGVs which follow fixed routes, usually along wires or magnets embedded in the floor, AMRs have onboard intelligence which allow them to dynamically change paths and avoid obstacles.

6River Systems (pictured) has introduced a new advancement in a very old picking methodology. Pick-to-cart has been around for about as long as discrete orders have been being fulfilled. A traditionally very labor-intensive operation in which workers literally transverse a warehouse picking items from storage locations to a cart. Usually workers would have a sheet of paper which would direct them to the pick locations and instruct them on the quantity of items needed.6 Rivers has incorporated AMR technology to reduce the required labor. In 6 River’s solutions, their robotic cart, which they refer to as “Chuck” autonomously travels with the worker to each picking location. The worker literally follows the cart to each location and then follows the instructions on the on the carts LED screen to fulfill the order. Once the orders on a cart are completed, the cart autonomously travels to a consolidation location and a new cart arrives allowing the worker to continue picking.


2. Cube Storage

attabotics

AutoStore pioneered and continues to drive advancements in cube  storage technology.  Their Black Line robots and new advanced traffic control software – Router now allow AutoStore to achieve fulfillment rates even faster than some shuttle solutions.  When you combine the space efficiency with the new increased speed to fulfillment rates, AutoStore has become a very formidable technology to consider.

New players are offering their own twist on cube storage and offer the potential for even more productivity gains. For example, Calgary, Alberta Canada’s Attabotics (pictured) offers a similar high density storage solution configuration to AutoStore. However, their use of “ant holes” allow any robot to access any bin directly. The ability of Attabotics robots to travel not just the x and y axis but also the z axis is an intriguing design. Thanks to a recent influx of $50M from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Attabotics is well funded. Attabotics is definitely a technology to keep an eye on.


3. Shuttle Systems

adapto
Shuttle technology is by no means new, as the technology has been in the market for many years now. However, advancements in this technology continue to make it a very viable order fulfillment solution. Traditional shuttle systems have a fixed number of shuttles per storage aisle. In most applications this results in either too many or not enough shuttles in different areas of the system. The ability of shuttles to change aisles and even levels has been one of the largest advancements in shuttle technology.

Vanderlande  recently introduced its latest Adapto (pictured) shuttle system. Adapto’s design allows for shuttles to access all aisles on each level. This helps balance the work flows to pick stations connected to the shuttles by high speed elevators.

The French company, Exotec has blurred the lines between shuttle and AMR technology with their Skypod offering. Similar to Opex’s Perfect Pick solution, Exotec’s robots have the ability to climb within the racking aisles. However, what separates Skypod from other solutions is its robot’s ability to leave the storage media and deliver goods to and from picking stations.


4. Goods to Person (GTP) Mobile Shelving

scallog

Prior to their acquisition by Amazon Robotics in 2012, Kiva Systems introduced the first mobile shelving order fulfillment technology. Through the utilization of mobile robotics that drive underneath static shelving sections and bring them to worker pick stations, Kiva pioneered the GTP process. However, in April of 2015 Amazon announced it would no longer sell or support Kiva products outside of the Amazon supply chain. Since then there has been a rush to release a Kiva type solution while avoiding Kiva’s many patents.

Scallog (pictured) is a French company that is quickly gaining momentum in this area. They have developed a Kiva like mobile shelving solution with a very simple and scalable implementation. A Scallog starter kit permits customers to quickly realize the benefits of the GTP system while avoiding a logistic “big bang”. Modules can then be added at the customers pace to increase storage capacity or throughput. A highly functional standard software package allows for seamless integration into existing Warehouse Management Systems

 

5. Vertical Buffer Modules (VBM)

kardex

When most hear the term Vertical Buffer Module (VBM) they instantly are drawn to a vision of a spare parts crib at a large manufacturing plant. However, thanks to Kardex-Remstar’s new LR 35 technology (pictured), VBM’s are quickly becoming a very intriguing order fulfillment tool.

The LR 35 operates more like a mini-load crane inside a box vs. a traditional VBM. With a central crane the system has 100% access to all storage locations and can be a very economical solution from small to medium size system. Used in conjunction with Kardex-Remstar’s software makes this a very attractive order fulfillment solution.

 

Advancements in order fulfillment technology are evolving rapidly. Not all technology is best for all applications. It’s important that end users work with a trusted and well-versed integration company to properly select and apply order fulfillment technology. Bastian Solutions’ team of engineers can you help guide you through this process. Give us a call today!

Author: Greg Conner

I joined Bastian Solutions in 2005 after graduating from Purdue University. My first role was as a project engineer before transitioning to a field application engineer. After seven years, I became regional director of Indiana, overseeing all local FAEs as well as Bastian Solutions’ e-commerce business. In 2016, I was promoted to Vice President, Eastern U.S. where I oversaw sales and operations for all Eastern U.S. offices. In 2019, I was promoted to Vice President of Global Sales, now overseeing international operations and global marketing.

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