Menlo Worldwide Logistics is implementing a radical new product picking regime involving ‘Pick to Light Carts’ developed by warehouse system integration specialist Inther Logistics Engineering. The system has been operational at the global logistics company’s Maastricht (Netherlands) facility since early December and is to be rolled out across its international network in the coming months.
Menlo and Inther have been working on the new system’s development for 3 months and have now completed successful trials with the ‘Go Live’ implemented for a medical device client in early December. Menlo’s Maastricht facility in the Netherlands is the first operation to bring the system into operation, and will assist Menlo in processing some 60,000 orders per year for this particular client. Initial measurements of the system’s performance show overall improvement in productivity of up to 20%.
With guidance lights on the reception bins of picking carts, which move from aisle to aisle, rather than on the storage racking, product location display and confirmation buttons are also positioned on the carts. This configuration allows operators to locate and secure product more quickly than more traditional picking methods. Although existing carts can be adapted to utilise the new equipment, Menlo have chosen to invest in new carts, which can also accommodate 16% more orders and have a facility to carry larger, or irregular out-sized items.
Menlo’s Functional IT Consultant Michel Kil is excited by the new system, “We have data that is already showing savings of 2 to 3 hours per day just on the picking list printing process, a further 30 minutes on manual order consolidation and picking performance improvements of up to 50%. There is some additional time required for build and breakdown of the cart but overall we are experiencing consistent levels of between 15 and 20% increased productivity. This is indeed impressive.”
The efficiencies inherent in the new Inther system start with the consolidation of orders at the beginning of each shift. Orders can be sequenced in batches of 21 at a time, which is much more effective than using the picking list method. Rob Winnen, Inther’s Project Manager explains more, “Yet more time is saved as the cart’s alert buttons enable the operator to report product discrepancies from the rack location before moving on to the next item with no loss of time. The report is immediately logged at a discrepancy station for resolution without disruption to the picking schedule.”
Kil also comments on the integration of ‘Pick to Light’ with Menlo’s global data centre back-up facility in Portland, Oregon. “We aren’t experiencing any latency in data communication and the strong data security features provide confidence and operational advantage. The global data centre handles order input from across Menlo’s international operation and will aid the possible adoption of ‘Pick to Light’ at our Asian and American sites in the future.”
Winnen says Inther is also looking to the future with adaptations to the system. “We are already working on a number of variants, including utilising the system in reverse to increase the efficiency of ‘put away’ processes.”