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Using Shuttle Systems in a Supporting Role

As the use of Shuttle Systems is increasing throughout the material handling industry they have rightly been perceived as a powerful tool for increasing picking performance.  While that is true, they can also be incorporated in a supporting role within larger material handling systems to provide buffer functionality to increase total system performance.

Shuttle Systems are highly configurable automated storage systems that have the ability for high selectivity from occupied positions and precise sequencing of the delivery of outbound items.  This makes them highly effective when configured so that items can be selected from inventory in a coordinated way to service batch picking stations around the shuttle system.  The selectivity and sequencing functionality of the shuttle allows for items to be presented to the picker very effectively bringing “goods to person” so that the picking operator can eliminate the travel associated with conventional picking concepts resulting in very efficient picking production.  Those same base abilities of Shuttle Systems can also be applied to buffering functions and the selectivity and sequencing functionalities can be leveraged to create high performing buffers that sometimes were not possible with legacy buffer technology.

Shuttle Systems can be used as a buffer to accommodate residual cases from automated pallet induction in a batch picking concept increasing the potential automated volume.  Often in batch case pick concepts that use a shipping sorter for order consolidation, auto-depalletizers can be applied to eliminate the manual induction process for items that exhaust full pallet quantities within a wave.  The problem is that single item quantities within a wave rarely align exactly with the pallet quantity often resulting in an approach that rounds down an items realized automation volume to the lowest full pallet quantity multiple.  If a Shuttle System can be used in this type of situation as a buffer, it is possible to round up each SKU’s wave quantity to the next pallet multiple.  Any cases not needed on a wave can be routed to the shuttle to be picked on the next wave with demand for that item.  This approach in many operations can greatly increase the possible automation volume increasing the automations potential to reduce labor.

Shuttle Systems can be used as a buffer to increase performance and reduce capital costs of other areas in a larger system.   Shuttle Systems can be applied in between picking operations and put wall arrays to buffer pick totes until an entire put wall batch can be released to the put wall.  This results in a very low cycle time between the first tote and last tote arriving at a put wall.  That reduces the number of cubbies required in the put wall system and reduces low put operator utilization time sometimes common at the beginning and end of put wall batches.  The full effect reduces equipment requirements and increases productivity.  Shuttle Systems can also be incorporated for positive effect as a buffer in between case pick and palletization workstations.  In this concept, picked cases can be buffered before release in pallet sequence from the system to highly productive palletization stations.  Because palletization operators will receive cases in pallet sequence they can be palletized without any manual sort requirements increasing productivity.  Additionally, the workstations can be outfitted with ergonomic lifts to further increase productivity.  The combined effect again is a reduced palletization station equipment quantity and higher productivity.

These are just a few of the ways that the unique features of Shuttle Systems can be creatively applied within larger systems for non-picking purposes to increase total system performance!
—Jason Gryszkowiec, St. Onge Company

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