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The system has already been installed at about 10 locations globally to manage the movements of millions of goods, the company reports.
The solution provides pocket sorter rails with RFID-tagged pocket or pouch carriers that enable it to automatically understand the exact location of each of hundreds of thousands of products that might be onsite at a large distribution center at any given time. The system can automatically deliver a particular item, via its pocket carrier, to the staging area, where goods can then be packed and shipped in order to fulfill a customer order.
Traditionally, manual orders have required warehouse employees to collect a batch of orders, walk along the warehouse shelves, pick items for those orders, and then sort and pack them. But the demands on warehouses have been changing astronomically during the past decade or so, says Andy Williams, SSI Schaefer's executive sales manager. Customers that previously processed 200,000 units daily might now manage 800,000 unit transfers a day in a similarly sized space. Warehouses can be up to one million square feet in size, but are not often larger than that. "As a result," he says, "the way these systems work has changed quite a bit."Overhead conveyor systems allow the goods to be received and stored in a rail system so that they can be delivered directly to the area in which they are needed when orders are placed. However, Williams notes, without RFID, the identification of each item and the carrier pocket in which it hangs can be difficult to accomplish. Bar codes enable the identification of goods in such conveyor systems, but scanning them can be slower, and accuracy is not perfect. That matters, he adds, when products are shipped in large numbers. If only 99 percent of scans are accurate, that could still mean hundreds or thousands of potential errors each day. "Knowing with 100 percent accuracy exactly where everything is, is critical," he says.
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