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Layer picking innovation

03 March 2014

Flexi Narrow Aisle’s Warehouse Systems Division has launched the FlexiPiCK – a layer picking-based storage and order fulfillment solution that offers case pick rates of more than 1,000 outers per hour per operator.

The FlexiPiCK is designed for building mixed pallet loads and is suited for handling and picking layers of product from palletised loads and assembling full pallets of mixed product. It is especially suited to the grocery retail sector, where huge volumes of packaged, canned and bottled products pass through the supply chain.

The truck features integrated hydraulic arms which carefully grip single or multiple layers of product from within the pallet storage cube to build a new pallet of products to fulfill retail orders quickly and efficiently.

"Layer picking is increasingly seen as a time and manpower-efficient means of compiling mixed pallet loads for order fulfillment in the retail sector,” says John Maguire, sales and marketing director of Flexi Narrow Aisle.

"Traditional grocery retail supply chain structures tend to be somewhat rigid: palletised loads move through the supply chain with surprisingly few options offered to the ultimate retail store destination. Retailers tend to receive products by full pallet quantity or individual case picked quantity – the latter is often charged at a higher unit price due to the extra picking cost involved.

"The introduction of the product layer marketing concept in the USA – where it has been used extensively to handle fragile and glass packaged products with great  success - has been further developed by Flexi Narrow Aisle. Thanks to its four integrated arms and rubber pads that gently lift and cushion the loads carried, the FlexiPiCK is a cost effective method for suppliers to pick orders and allows them to offer their wholesale and retail store clients order quantities at lower cost than case-ordered volume prices and with less inventory commitment than a full pallet of product. We feel this new development will be of particular interest to the UK's growing value and variety store sectors."

Thanks to its ‘True Radius’ chassis design, the FlexiPiCK system is the perfect platform for layer picking technology. Layer picking units have previously been developed using traditional counterbalanced forklift truck platform. However, these trucks have to turn at a 90 degree angle to the truck’s mast to execute the layer picking process using huge additional space and providing unacceptably low case pick rates.

Other solutions were developed that increased case pick rates but required costly bespoke lifts and lateral slewing clamps together with steel rail guidance systems installed to reduce aisle widths. The FlexiPiCK system requires a load access aisle of only two metres which dramatically reduces the floor space footprint required.

John Maguire says: "Lateral stability issues mean traditional forklift trucks have not proven to be suited to cost effective layer picking development and, of course, current automated conveyor and robot- based solutions are prohibitively costly for many FMCG and grocery retail operations.

"Because a FlexiPiCK is designed to pivot through 220 degrees it is perfectly configured to undertake layer picking operations in very narrow aisleways and without the need for the type of floor mounted steel rail guidance systems that have previously been installed with counterbalance forklift-based layer picking installations.”