When Vanderlande was designing its new automated goods-to-man order picking system, it developed the pick@ease workstation in co-operation with Dutch research institute TNO.
In the goods-to-man process, products, stored in standard-sized plastic containers, are retrieved from storage racks by automatic storage and retrieval systems and brought to the operator via a conveyor system.
The workstation plays a crucial role and Vanderlande set out to design a workstation which measurably improved the order picking performance, decreased risk of work related injury and illness, decreases physical and mental discomfort and improved the quality of work life for the operator.
Vanderlande reckons a single order picker working with the new pick@ease system can replace up to nine traditional order pickers while it also improves picking accuracy.
Prior to its development, TNO performed a study on behalf of Vanderlande Industries into the basic principles with which an ergonomic order picking workstation would have to comply.
It was found that a workstation, where product containers and those representing customer orders arrive at an operator position on two separate levels, greatly increases the risk of work related injuries to the operator especially when picking at very high rates.
Constant high productivity cannot be maintained for more than an hour with this method, which means that either productivity drops or operators should be rotated to other tasks, often several times a day.
A model was built at Vanderlande’s Innovation Centre with product containers and customer order containers arriving at the operator position at the same level.
The station has an added beneficial feature in an adjustable work platform to suit the variation in operator heights.
The prototype was assessed by TNO in a real-life operator test for muscle fatigue, torso bending frequencies and mental burden, among other things. This test proved that operators could work with pick@ease for an entire shift without loss of production or risk of physical injury.
The test also showed that operators could maintain a consistent pick performance of above 800 order lines per hour over this period without any problems. In a traditional warehouse, this number currently lies between 150 and 175 order lines per hour. The German TÜV has validated TNO’s assessment and certified the ergonomics claims and sustainable performance.
The workstation forms part of an integrated warehouse logistics and material handling solution, which enables retailers and manufacturers to organise their distribution process in the most efficient, cost effective way, from goods receiving right through to shipping.
The station is designed specifically for medium and slow moving products. When it comes to picking, these require the most time in manually operated warehouses owing to the longer walking distances involved in bringing the product to the picker for processing.
The new workstation has also been designed to provide a shelf-ready supply. Product groups are combined at the workstation in the correct order. This means that retail display shelves can be filled efficiently, which reduces costs for the stores.