One of the biggest efficiency questions that our clients must answer when optimizing their workspace is the question of how product will be moved from one place to the next. Options range from completely people-powered to fully automated robots that auto-navigate around a warehouse, but the practicality and potential for each option is defined by each client's specific needs and working space. Let's take a look at some of the different varieties of product movement solutions and how they may help solve challenges within your workspace:
In general, "carts" refers to a wheeled platform which is pushed by one person. These carts are highly customizable and tend to be used for manual picking operations. They can be paired with a ladder to allow for an increased reach level of available pick positions, or attached to tuggers to create a train of carts for more efficient picking of increased quantities, volumes, or weights of items.
These industrial trucks are powered, but still driven by a single human operator. These trucks can be used to lift and move material which has been stacked onto a pallet over short distances. There is a large variety of fork truck types that can be used to move product about a warehouse, including Counterbalanced, Sit Down Fork Trucks, Narrow Aisle Reach Trucks, and Double Deep Reach Trucks. For more information on fork trucks, check out our blog on Pallet Rack Aisle Spacing, which discusses how fork trucks and pallet rack sizes can be highly interdependent.
Electrically powered, human-operated tuggers can allow for heavy loads to be transported all at once across the production floor. These carts can even be expanded further to increase the modularity of the transport system. In these "mother-daughter" connections, a larger cart attached to the tug can be loaded with two or more smaller "daughter" carts which lock inside.
Automated solutions for product movement include Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). If your space or workflows include simple, repetitive routes, AGVs are ideal for transporting product back and forth over the same area with very little human interaction. These vehicles maneuver their way down their predetermined path by either looking for painted lines on the floor with cameras, or by following a wire-emitted signal.
If your picking or putting tasks are high-volume and in need of large-scale automation, an AMR might be the right solution for you. These robots require warehouse maps and sophisticated geo-guidance to pilot them from task to task around your workspace, but this early setup time can be made up for in the time saved by having a robot complete tasks automatically without relying on predetermined paths.
This product movement method is best suited for moving a large volume of product through a manufacturing or distribution process. They can be small enough to move individual products, or large enough to move whole pallets at a time, but can be tricky to maintain and to modify for different tasks.
As you've gathered by now, there are numerous different ways to efficiently move product from one place to another in a packing or manufacturing environment, but not all methods will accomplish the same tasks effectively. If you'd like to learn more about how McGee can help you solve product movement challenges in your space, give us a call or take a look at our Product Movement page to learn more about these solutions.