Material handling automation solutions encompass a broad range of conveyorized and robotic solutions, goods-to-man systems and software-enabled productivity tools.

The heart of our automation solutions is a robust put-away and retrieval concept, whether automated or directed by software. Our systems are typically focused on driving efficiency through logical process improvements leveraged by reliable equipment and software solutions.

Whether we are improving packing and shipping throughput with creative end-of-line automation or simply moving product around a manufacturing floor with conveyors or robots, we understand the need for a justifiable solution. Our systems are only as sophisticated as they need to be to solve bottlenecks in your production or fulfillment operation. In short, we understand that a project must generate an acceptable return on investment to be realized.

Conveyor Systems

Carton & Tote Conveyors

Conveyors used to move product around in warehouses and factories.

Pick Module Conveyors

Aisles of racking or shelving with a high concentration of picking faces at ground level.

Sortation & Packing Systems

Efficient routing of orders through packing and shipping stations requires careful planning of the system.

Automatic Storage and Retrieval (AS/RS)

Vertical Lift Modules (VLM)

VLMs allow for very dense storage of small parts. The system’s ability to store and retrieve parts based on part number makes it a very efficient way to fill orders since the parts are delivered to the picker without the need to lookup locations or walk to a storage bin. This goods-to-man functionality and reasonably high retrieval speed has allowed these lifts to be used for distribution. Pick rates of over 100 lines/hour are not uncommon in a paired VLM environment once picklist automation is used to send orders directly to the lifts.

Vertical Carousels

These carousels are the VLMs older cousin and still have a home in small parts distribution applications. The typical limitation with these units are height and the need for product size uniformity. Like VLMs these units can be paired for tandem picking and can have pick lists electronically sent to them for processing. Carousels are great up to about 18’ tall. Beyond that height it becomes more costly per cubic foot of storage than a VLM and proportionately slower with height. Combinations of carousels and VLMs are often the right solution when a large variety of part shapes and sizes are to be stored.

Horizontal Carousels

Horizontal carousels have been used in distribution for a long time. Their operation is intuitive since it is open and easy to visualize. Much like the carousel at the dry cleaners, this carousel brings wire carriers that are suspended from the top around an oval track to picking station. The carriers are arranged with adjustable shelves so product of all shapes and sizes can be accommodated.  The longer the carousel, the slower it is to rotate a carrier to the picker, but carousels are typically arranged in “pods” of 2 or 3 so that all the units in the pod can work on the same order. While the picker is picking and putting parts in an order tote, the other units in the pod can be rotating to the next pick. Carousels work best in distribution applications when you can batch orders together so they can be picked concurrently.

Mini-load AS/RS Systems

Mini-load is industry terminology for an automatic storage and retrieval crane system that stores items that can fit in a tote. Mini-load can also be used to handle cases with specialized attachments, in some applications. AS/RS cranes are typically very tall, to maximize cube, and either operate in a dedicated aisle or can switch aisles to access more locations. System height, aisle length and number of cranes servicing the system is driven by the design throughput and quantity of SKUs to be stored. Totes are stored in racks and can be stored 2 or 3 deep in systems that are designed to maximize density and can afford the throughput reduction. Smaller mini-load systems are often used for buffering of orders in large upstream of picking and packing operations.

Unit-load AS/RS Systems

Unit-load refers to palletized product. Automated unit-load storage and retrieval crane systems offer extremely dense storage of pallets in a fully automated environment. Often termed “dark warehouses”, these storage cubes can be over 40 meters tall and are often simply “skinned” with sheet metal panels to create a rack-supported building. These systems can be used for storing large inventories of bulk stock to feed mini-load picking systems, refrigerated product such as dairy, or even frozen palletized product. These systems are capital intensive and expensive to maintain but require minimal labor and operate in efficient, low energy consumption environments.

Automated Dense Storage Systems

Pallet Shuttle Systems

Deep lane racking structure configured like drive-in systems, using low profile robotic pallet carts which run under and move loads.

Mobile Racking Systems

Single rows of selective racking with upright on heavy carts on perpendicular tracks, allowing forklift aisles to be opened and closed between any two racks.

Directed Picking Systems

RF Picking Solutions

The most common form of the “paperless picking” systems. Picking instructions are sent to associates via radio frequency signals (RF) broadcast throughout the warehouse. Pickers use either handheld, forklift mounted or wrist mounted RF unit receivers with a screen/keypad to receive picking instructions and confirm/edit picks. Barcode scanners are used to confirm the location and/or item picked.

Scanners come in a variety of formats. Scanner “guns” with integrated screens are perhaps the most common. Finger scanners are gaining in popularity since they allow for hands free picking. Mobile printers on the hip are also popular, allowing the picker to print a packing list or shipping label on the spot. This is typically the first step in the order fulfillment evolution from old paper picking methods.

Light-Directed Picking (Pick-to-Light) Solutions

Pick-to-light or put-to-light systems (PTL) allow for extremely fast picking rates since operators are driven to bin locations by lighted buttons indicating quantity in an orderly fashion, allowing picking associates to focus on getting from one location to the next and simply counting out the quantities being picked from each bin. These systems are common in high volume pick modules where orders have a high diversity of SKUs and have a low quantity per line item. PTL systems are almost exclusively used for piece or each picking of small items.

Voice-Directed Picking Solutions

Voice picking systems allow associates to pick items throughout the warehouse hands free. Directions are spoken through a headset by a computer-generated voice routing the associate through the most efficient pick path and allowing the picker to use both hands to pick up cases while reading back “check digits” from the barcode to confirm the correct item is picked. Voice-directed picking systems are the clear choice for fast picking of cases in operations in high speed floor level picking over a large area. Voice picking can also be implemented in dense VNA areas where associates right stock pickers up and down guided aisles and cluster pick multiple orders of small parts into individual totes.

Intelligent Vehicle Solutions

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)

AGVs have been used to automate repetitive material delivery routes in factories and warehouses for half a century. These vehicles come in a wide variety of configurations, but all are designed to follow a series of mapped routes throughout a facility. AGVs follow wires, floor tape or GPS and are outfitted with a variety of sensors to avoid collision with obstacles. AGVs make sense when there is a consistently high volume of materials movement following a consistent path.

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR)

Similar to AGVs, AMRs are smart vehicles used to move things around from place to place in a warehouse or factory. AMRs more sophisticated, flexible and more effective than AGVs. These small robots can simply carry a tote, move a section of shelving or be customized to perform pickup and delivery functions automatically with a section of MDR conveyor mounted on the top of the robot. AMRs are growing in popularity at a tremendous pace due to the increasing affordability of the technology and rising cost of labor.

Autonomous Drone Technology

The next frontier. Stay tuned for creative ways to utilize drones within the 3-dimensional area of large distribution facilities. We are only a few years away from practical material handling applications of drones.

Software and Controls

Standard Conveyor Controls
Warehouse Control Systems (WCS)
Warehouse Enterprise Systems (WES)
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

Our strong relationships with the world’s top manufacturers allow us to design systems that pass on significant savings to our customers without sacrificing quality.

Let us show you how technology can impact your operation.