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Pick-n-Go technology from Kollmorgen, already widely used in Europe, takes warehouse automation to a new level by enabling existing forklifts to move to designated picking locations without a driver. The warehouse worker spends more time on the floor actually picking orders, increasing productivity by 60 to 100 percent.
Benny Forsman, business unit manager at Pick-n-Go North America, says that the driverless forklifts typically use a laser attached to the top of the vehicle, which reads tape reflectors on racks or walls. "These systems navigate within a tenth of an inch at all times," he says.
The most common installation is in the food distribution industry, says Forsman, because the case-picking activities in that environment are very suitable to the application. "Typically, you see a lot of low-level case picking in these warehouses, where the worker is picking goods from a pallet and putting them on a pallet on the forklift," he says. "The worker can be on the floor moving from position to position picking goods and the forklift will follow right with him. So typically you would see something like a 60 to 100 percent increase in the number of picks per hour an employee can do because he never has to get on and off the forklift." If a worker does need to drive the forklift, however, it can easily be switched from auto to manual.
When the forklift pallet is full, the vehicle automatically travels to wherever the warehouse system directs it, whether to a shipping dock or a film wrapping station. "Another forklift will have already arrived so the picker never has to stop and wait. He just continues doing his job," Forsman says. The Pick-n-Go system is compatible with all existing forklifts, he adds.
In addition to improving picking efficiency, driverless forklifts have a number of soft benefits, Forsman says. These include increased safety, less damage to goods and racks, and lower service and maintenance. "But people buy these for the ROI, which comes from increased productivity and throughput in the warehouse, which reduces costs. That's what it is all about."
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