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High speed transfer in pick module

The E-Commerce Pick Module

Matt Kuper | 15 October 2015

Goods-to-person systems are a great tool in e-commerce fulfillment centers. Add a pick module equipped with the right technology for your fastest moving products, and you have the perfect setup.

Goods-to-person picking, the new buzzword in material handling, is a great option for operations with a high number of SKU’s and a relatively low cubic velocity of SKU’s, but in an operation that has very fast moving or large items, it can be prohibitively expensive to use this technology throughout. Sometimes it is best to use, or supplement a goods-to-person operation, with a pick module.

The pick module has been a staple in the distribution center for decades, but several new technologies have allowed it to progress and evolve into a faster picking machine. Here are 5 key elements of the modern pick module:

1) High speed transfers

A three-directional transfer conveyor within your pick module ensures quick, efficient carton handling.[/caption]

  • Bastian Solutions’ high speed right angle transfer utilizes high speed DC servos for all three directions of travel (Up/Down, Left/Right, Forward) to ensure high speed and gentle handling of product. The current trend in eCommerce with the new regulations on dimensional weight, is to use smaller boxes and pick directly to the shipping carton to reduce number of touches. The transfer is capable of diverting up to 40 cartons per minute, at a minimum of 4” x 4” footprint to both sides of a conventional pick module. By using higher speed transfers, it is possible to reduce the size of the pick module, or the number of pick modules resulting in substantial cost savings.

2) Carton Flow

Boxes in carton flow rack

In order to maximize pick face density, or the number of pick faces per foot of pick module, carton flow is likely your best option. Pallet flow can also be used for very high velocity SKU’s, but it increases the effective travel time of pickers and increases the amount of space that your pick module will occupy. When using carton flow, there are a number of great options, depending on how flexible you need the pick faces to be, that are helpful additions to your pick module including full bed rollers, rails, or plastic wheel beds.

3) DC Conveyor (Belt over Roller)

Conveyor in e-commerce fulfillment center When running a pick module at these higher rates, it is critical to maintain spacing and gap between shipping cartons. Using DC conveyor in a zero pressure application is a great way to keep boxes from getting back-to-back when entering the transfer zone and ensuring that product gets routed to the proper area. It is very difficult to keep boxes from getting too close, but being able to adjust speeds individually every two feet on the conveyor will allow for small gappers to physically pull a gap each time.

Another notable feature, necessary to keep boxes from getting side-by-side, is to create windows for operators to reinduct boxes back into the main line from the pick zones. By using a smooth transition plate, with sensors at each put zone to detect product, you can pause the zone immediately upstream of the put zone on the main conveyor line. This way, even with boxes flying at 60 cases per minute, the operator does not need to rush to find a window and your product will stay aligned.

4) Pick To Light

Pick to light in e-commerce pick moduleWhen using carton flow in a high-speed operation, pick to light (PTL) is one of the fastest options available. Every time a box comes into a zone, a barcode scanner looks up the order and the corresponding lights in the carton flow rack illuminate indicating the SKU’s to be picked in the shipping carton. PTL is capable of sustaining nearly 400 lines per hour per person and can achieve up to 600 depending on layout.

5) Dynamic Batch Picking

Dynamic batch picking in e-commerce fulfillment centerDepending on order profiles, batch picking has always been a way to increase effective throughput in any picking system. Coupled with pick to light on the pick faces, the same technology can be implemented on the put zones to allow for operators to distribute like SKU’s into orders with commonality. This increases the effective pick rate of operators and can greatly increase the effective rate of the pick module assuming the material handling equipment can keep up.

To learn more about how a pick module can improve your operations, contact us

Author: Matt Kuper

Matt Kuper has more than 16 years of experience in the material handling industry handling a variety of systems projects and technologies including high-speed sortation, pick modules, goods-to-person, and pallet handling systems. He joined Bastian Solutions in 2013 and has since overseen some of the company’s largest and most complex integration projects. 


9 Things to Consider Before Buying a Carton Flow Rack System | The Material Handling Blog says:
8/28/2018 10:09 AM

[…] pick module combines pallet rack, pallet flow and carton flow with other material handling products like […]

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