The Guide to Automated Picking Systems

businesses can use automation to make picking more productive

  • Written by Ellie Kwon
  • Published on September 7, 2023
  • Time to read 9 minutes

What Is An Automated Picking System?

Automated picking systems are like high-tech helpers that businesses use to quickly and accurately pick items from shelves or storage. They make things faster, reduce mistakes, and save money on labor. These systems can work day and night, are safer, and help businesses learn more about their operations.

Why Use One?

Automated picking systems are a technology that businesses can use to make picking more productive.

Increasing Growth and Productivity

These systems help workers grab items from shelves quickly. Thus, orders get ready faster, no more looking around or walking back and forth. Further, machines are better at picking the right things and getting the amounts right. This means fewer mix-ups, which makes customers happier and reduces returns. Also, these systems can always work, even when people are sleeping. This means orders can be prepared 24/7.  Using advanced technology like this can make a business stand out through productivity. Preparation and distribution can happen faster with APS. That makes customers happier because they get their items sooner.

Cost Saving and Efficiency

Using these systems means businesses don’t need as many people to do the picking. That saves money and lets workers focus on more critical tasks. These systems are great at using storage space efficiently. This is super important in crowded cities with less space.

If a business gets busier, these systems can grow, too. Just add more machines to handle more orders. These systems can also learn things and give the business helpful information. They can track how well things are going and help make better decisions. These systems do things the same way every time, so orders are always correct.  If a business has many different products, these systems can handle that complexity better than people.

But remember, using these systems isn’t easy. It needs careful planning, money, and looking after them to keep them working well. Before using these systems, a business should consider what it needs and wants to achieve.

A variety of automated picking machines are shown moving boxes

Types of Automated Picking Systems

Automated picking systems refer to technological solutions that automate the selection and retrieval of items from a storage area. This is typically in warehouses, distribution centers, or manufacturing facilities. They improve efficiency, accuracy, and speed in the order fulfillment process. There are several types of automated picking systems

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)

First, AS/RS systems use robotic mechanisms to move storage units (pallets, bins, trays) within a warehouse. These systems can be vertical or horizontal and can easily retrieve and store items without the need for humans. AS/RS is suitable for high-density storage and can handle various item sizes.

Goods-to-Person Systems

In these systems, items are brought to a picker who remains stationary. The system uses conveyors, shuttles, or robotic arms to deliver the required items to the picker. Thus, this reduces the picker’s travel time, making the process more efficient.

Person-to-Goods Systems

In contrast to goods-to-person systems, in person-to-goods systems, the picker moves to the location of the items. Thus, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), robots, or carts can help transport pickers to the proper storage location.

Robotic Picking 

Next, robotic picking involves robotic arms equipped with advanced computer vision systems to identify and pick items from bins or shelves. So, these robots are trained to recognize various shapes, sizes, and textures of items.

Shuttle Systems

Similarly, shuttle systems use small robotic vehicles that can move horizontally and vertically to retrieve items from storage locations. These shuttles can be used with racks, trays, or bins and can handle high-density storage.

Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light Systems

These systems use lights and displays to guide human pickers to the right items on shelves. Lights indicate the item’s location to be picked, reducing the likelihood of errors.

Automated Conveyor Systems

Picking systems can integrate with conveyors to transport items from one location to another, streamlining the movement of goods and reducing manual handling.

Batch Picking and Sorting Systems

These systems increase picking efficiency by grouping multiple orders into a single picking route. This reduces the overall travel time and increases the number of items picked in a single pass.

Wrapping Up

Automated picking systems offer benefits, including increased picking speed, improved accuracy, reduced labor costs, and optimized space utilization. However, they also require careful planning, integration, and maintenance to ensure their effectiveness. Factors such as the type of items being picked, the layout of the facility, and the volume of orders to be fulfilled determine the appropriate automated picking system.

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