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Materials Handling Technologies: The Warehouse of the Future

August 15, 2017

A modern warehouse operation involves the transport, retrieval, and dispatch of objects within a warehouse or a distribution centre.

If your business is revolving around a productive and systematic distributing system for integrated tracking, it will benefit from adequate material handling technologies. These are the seven solutions which are here to stay.

Sorters

The sorting systems are mainly used for direct outboard orders related to various staging sections for dispatch. The sorting facility is an invaluable element of every warehouse as it can manage the diversity of the stored items. It is responsible for maintaining high input-output ratio and accuracy. An automated sorting system is the key component of high-volume cross-docking operations. The sortation system works by measuring the shape, size, condition, capacity, and weight of the conveyed items so it can deliver a successful transport to the dispatch lanes.

Stacker cranes

Irreplaceable for storing items in confined and limited spaces, stacker cranes employ the goods-to-man principle that makes them more effective than forklifts in managing the high traffic of storing and retrieving. With a 35m reach, they use the vertical space more efficiently than the forklifts. In addition, they make the whole operation much safer as they separate the pedestrian tracks from the equipment lanes. Some models can be upgraded with an ASRS (automated storage and retrieval system) for mini load and pallet load applications.

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Conveyors

Distribution centres use conveyors for quick transport of storage items from one play to another, whether they are small boxes or stacked pallets. With a variety of conveyors available, they are suitable for different applications. The design of the system depends on the conveyed object’s size, shape, weight, and capacity. More advanced conveyors feature accumulation option and buffering that evens the peaks and troughs. Finally, conveyors can be upgraded with sticker applicators, printers, carton sealers and weight scales.

Robotic systems

As an alternative to manual operations, the use of robotics speeds up the repetitive workload and increases productivity values for distribution systems designed for high volume. Robotic systems have many advantages that include minimal product damage, elimination of fatiguing and hazardous repetitive action of racking, and equal speed for palletizing and de-palletizing procedures.

Satellites

This warehouse materials handling technology uses rails to move among the tightly packed racks in order to store and retrieve pallets. The whole procedure is based on moving fully loaded pallets in and out of the storage construction. Using a forklift, the operator manually positions the satellite cart in the intended rack place. The cart is then operating via remote RF controls. Another benefit of these smart carts is that they are able to fetch and put away the designated pallets within their own operating circle, while forklift drivers are free to deliver and remove the pallet loads from the racking face.

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LIFO and FIFO

Satellite systems are equipped with sensors that determine any possible course of action. These systems are perfect for SKU (stock keeping unit) applications which are characterized by high traffic of pallets. They can be configured for both LIFO (last in/first out) and FIFO (first in/first out) operations. The use of heavy-duty pallet racks improves the efficiency of multi-deep pallet management in high-density spaces.

Carousels

The main advantage of carousels is that they can be used in warehouses where floor space is limited. By exploiting the vertical space, carousels are ideal for high-density storage and retrieval of small inventory pieces with low pick rates. In addition, they are great for secure storage and items requiring climate control. Basically, a carousel is configured as several trays located within a tower. Every tray is divided into bins that contain products. The trays are programmed to quickly reach the operator for picking and replenishment. The operators are usually located on a ground level, but a secondary floor can be added if the volume of racking requires it.

The success of modern warehouse operations largely depends on using the right racking technology. Warehouse gear and accessories have gone a long way from simple forklifts, and manufacturers today offer different technologies that make material handling easier and more time-effective.

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