The continuous growth of e-commerce has posed many challenges to online fulfillment operations. Compounded by a shortage of labor and industrial real estate, warehouses and distribution centers struggle to achieve more output with limited resources. Efficient space utilization, as well as a happy and productive workforce, have become critical success factors.
A lot of companies have turned to technology and automation to address their pain points. However, many vital tasks remain to be performed by human operators. It is important to ensure a seamless integration of systems to maximize the benefits.
This article looks at three solutions to optimize your workspace and speed up your order fulfillment processes.
Vertical storage solutions hand in hand with ergonomic workstations
Vertical storage solutions can deliver impressive results by fully utilizing the horizontal and vertical space in the warehouses. Instead of running up and down the aisles between racks, operators push a button to have items brought to them. Compact storage and automated retrieval improve order picking accuracy and efficiency while saving valuable floor space. But what happens next after the items are retrieved? Here lies the great opportunity to further maximize the throughput of warehouses.
In the following configuration, a group of BOSTONtec standing workstations is positioned side by side at the access area of the vertical storage units. The lower shelves serve as a work surface. They are set at the ergonomic height to allow the operators to put retrieved items into the totes easily. The upper shelves hold the label printers. Pick-to-light devices are mounted on the upper shelves to guide the operators to put the correct item into the respective bin to finish up picking multiple orders simultaneously. Completed orders are taken away by the conveyor to the next work area for packaging.
It’s a cost-effective and space-saving setup that can be customized to integrate smoothly with different vertical storage solutions to expedite the picking process.
Custom fulfillment cubby unit with put-to-light technology
This custom fulfillment cubby unit is another example of how different technologies and systems interact to achieve optimal performance. It allows an associate to fulfill multiple orders at the same time with maximum efficiency.
The design focuses on flexibility and adjustability to accommodate the needs of multiple operators/shifts. It consists of two electric height adjustable frames. The main frame supports cubbies on three sides of the operator, and a smaller pedestal holds a receiving bin that accumulates products from the conveyor.
At the beginning of their shift, associates can adjust the cubby station’s height to fit their size and comfort level at the touch of a button. The height of the pedestal is controlled by a separate control switch and can be adjusted to the operator’s preference.
A mounted overhead scanner scans items from the bin. Once identified, the computer will associate the item with a specific order and direct the associate to place the item(s) into one particular cubby via a Put-to-Light system.
Once an order is complete, an indicator light will alert the associate, who will gather the items and press the indicator light to cue the system to generate all labeling to include with the order All items are then strapped together before being placed on the output conveyor for final packaging.
This solution improves the pick accuracy and reduces the number of employees needed for the task. The emphasis on ergonomic details improves efficiency and prevents injuries from repetitive motions. Equally important, it sends a clear message to the employees that their well-being is a priority. That goes a long way toward retaining skilled workers at a time of low labor availability.
Standing workbench over conveyor
By bringing the products to the operators, conveyor systems can save time and space. They free the operators a significant amount of manual material handling. The repetitive motions such as lifting, lowering, pushing, and pulling cost not only time but also the health of the workers. In a labor shortage crisis, no one can afford to lose any more work time or workers.
In the scenario below, the standing workstation is integrated seamlessly into the conveyor system. It is positioned over the conveyor and serves as an individual shipping station in an order fulfillment operation. It uses the conveyor as a work surface. A section of the rollers on the conveyor can be taken out to incorporate a drop-in scale to weigh a package as it goes through the workstation to minimize physical exertions. The workstation provides easy and ergonomic access to everything you need to complete a packaging task in a small compact footprint.
Technology, when integrated well into work processes, can make jobs easier for us humans. Creating an ergonomically optimized work environment allows us to reach our full potential. Are you inspired to achieve more without acquiring more space or hiring more people? Reach out to us, we can help make it happen by customizing your workspace to your specific process needs.