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The Right Pick: Strategies for Handling
Taking the pain out of the picking process with cost-effective material
by Jonathan Katz
Think about all the different types of beverages available today. Of course, diet and caffeine-free sodas have been on the market for years. But now consumers can fnd
zero-calorie drinks made with stevia, drinks made with coconut
water, more exotic favors, and different size options randign
from 7.5-ounce soda cans to 20-ounce bottles.
This is just one example of an industry expanding its offerings to meet a diverse range of customer
demands. SKU proliferation has a signifcant
impact on material handling operations. Pallets with different product mixes can wreak
havoc on stocking and picking operations.
“Short orders are less than a pallet load,
TAKING A STEP UP (NOT OUT)
and on that pallet there could be many
different SKUs,” says Jim Galante, director
of business development at Southworth
Products Corp, a maker of ergonomic ma-
terial handling equipment. “Back at the
warehouse, somebody has to go to these
unique individual pick slots and pick up a
case of this or a case of that.”
In addition, these warehouses can be mas-
sive, Galante says. It’s not uncommon for a
worker to travel miles. In fact, on average, workers travel 8 miles
to build orders over the course of a shift, according to Galante.
Forklifts are not practical solutions for short orders because
workers must pull individual cases or boxes, Galante says. This
means they may need to get on and off the forklift frequently
to pull the cases and place them on a pallet or in a container.
Another possible solution is automation. Many larger organizations may use automation or even robots for order picking. But
the leap to automation can be expensive for small and midsize
organizations, and it brings its own set of problems, Galante says.
Some of the more cost-effective solutions to pick and place
effciently include high-rise order pickers and powered pallet jacks.
High-rise order pickers (OP) or stock pickers are particularly
useful in high bay warehouses where workers need to reach
individual items to fll an order. Unlike typical lift trucks, the operator drives high-rise pickers from a standing position with the
pallet positioned on a platform at a level angle with his or her
feet, Galante says.
When the worker arrives at the pick bay, the lift raises the
worker to the appropriate height—often 20 ft or higher. The
operator picks the items and places them on the pallet that
extends from the platform.
While high-rise pickers can increase effciency, they come
with some challenges that can be addressed with a simple
accessory. When operators pick an item, they often need to
step onto the pallet to reach it. Even with safety harnesses,
stepping onto a pallet can be precarious. And, because the
pallet is at their feet, workers repeatedly bend and reach
to load items and create a uniform, stable load.
“Most of the physical stress a worker endures on an
order picking lift can be eliminated if the pallet is in a more
accessible position” says Galante.
Southworth’s PalletPal OP is a spring
level loader that positions the pallet at
waist level so workers can pick and place
items without bending or reaching.
“We’ve been positioning pallets for
workers at ground level for over 30 years
with our spring level loaders,” Galante
says. “The PalletPal OP adapts that technology for use with any high-rise order
The self-leveling unit attaches quickly
without the need for tools, Galante says.
As the pallet is loaded, the springs compress, keeping the top level of goods at
an easily accessible height. An additional
beneft to workers is the turntable top, which allows the
pallet to be rotated so workers can load items from the
safety of the operator platform instead of stepping out
onto the pallet.
POWERED-UP PALLET JACKS
Another popular option for order picking is the use of
powered pallet jacks because they’re relatively inexpensive
and highly maneuverable. Their versatility allows workers
to access three sides of the pallet or container.
But like high-rise order or stock pickers, operators need
an attachment to avoid bending or reaching when loading
the pallets. The PalletPal Walkie also can attach to powered pallet jacks with similar ease to reduce or eliminate
bending. In this scenario, as the worker stacks the boxes
or containers, the Walkie platform compresses and a calibrated spring lowers the stack so the worker has convenient
ergonomic access to the top layer of goods.
“Level loaders, like the PalletPal OP or Walkie, go a long
way to reduce the stress of manual material handling in the
order fulfllment,” Galante says. “The reduced stress equates
to a signifcant reduction in fatigue and a corresponding
increase in productivity.”
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