A space saving, efficient and cost effective solution to case picking in cold stores
Article by Rob Kershaw, Sales and Marketing Manager, Barpro Joburg.
One of the biggest challenges in managing and running a cold store facility is how do we pick individual cases as opposed to full pallets. In the past most cold store facilities were set up for full pallet distribution. In and out. However over the last decade or so retailers are moving away from carrying large quantities of stock on pallets rather ordering cases in line with demand freeing up capital investment in stock.
So cold store facilities have to be set up to handle case picking as well as full pallets and very often at the same time.
As the leading supplier of high dense mobile racking systems into the cold store sector at Barpro we have seen an increasing demand for case picking.
Seeking solutions for our customers Barpro approached our principals STORAX based in the UK, to see now how their industry had coped with the challenge.
The idea of multi-tier structural mezzanines is growing rapidly in the UK as a cost effective, space saving and super-efficient case picking solution, in mobile racking freezer stores.
STORAX UK has installed a number of structural mezzanines in freezers and confirm that this solution offers great benefits for cold store operators.
How do they work?
4 or 5 levels of flooring interconnected by stairwells installed in a corner or outside the cold store taking up the least space possible. Reach trucks retrieve full pallets from the mobile racking and feed them onto the floors via 1 or 2 pallet gates. Staff with pallet jacks to transport them to dedicated picking locations. From here cases are picked to pallet jacks and transported back to the pallet gates for the reach truck to remove and place in the staging area, which could be static racks alongside the mezzanine or the floor on the bottom level. 1 picker works each floor and gets to know the location of the different SKUs. Knowing the products on his floor allows him to pick the heaviest products first to go on the bottom of the pallet and lightest at the top. This prevents crushing.
On a recent trip to Europe I went to investigate mezzanine case picking solutions at one of the largest cold storage facilities in the UK and a long standing customer of STORAX.
It is a massive operation and the volumes speak for themselves:
- One site.
- 52 acres.
- 135 000 pallet positions on high dense STORAX mobile racking in cold storage.
- 1000 pallet movements per day
- 400 – 500 trucks / day, pallets double stacked.
- 30 000 cases / day picked over a double shift.
- 10 pickers each picking 3000 cases a day.
- Case picking is approximately 2-3% of total throughput.
On average his client used to pick from the bottom level of the mobile racks but as demand for case picking grew needed a more efficient solution was required. The client is satisfied that the 2 x 5 level mezzanines are meeting their expectations and identify the following benefits:
- Dedicated picking area where pickers can pick uninterrupted by reach trucks moving in the aisles. In Australia it’s now illegal to have pickers and reachtrucks operating in the same area.
- Reach trucks can get on with their work not worrying about pickers.
- Reduced accidents between pickers and reach trucks due to 1 and 2 above.
- No chance of product from upper static racks falling on pickers walking in the open static rack aisles.
- Best solution to achieve the amount of pick faces required which is a challenge with growing product ranges and new customers.
- All pick faces on floor level. No need for costly material handling equipment to pick from 2nd, 3rd or even 4th pallet level.
- Smooth and efficient replenishment of the pick face between reach-truck and pallet jack operators.
- Space saving
- The whole volume of the cold store is being used. With floor pitch around 2.5m very little space is wasted.
- Mezzanines are tucked into the side or corner of the cold room only I aisle is required for the reach truck to feed it. Reducing number of aisles required and increasing income generating storage capacity.
Another potential benefit of this solution is the opportunity to implement to ‘pick by voice’ technology. This would take picking efficiency to an even higher level.
Some of the technical features
- Heavy duty structural I Beams for vertical and horizontal support.
- 6mm thick steel plates as flooring creates a solid floor for smooth pallet jack movement.
- Bolted construction allowing movement and flexibility for dynamic and evolving business needs.
- The structure can be mounted on mobile racking rails. This increases strength and also allows for the possibility to install high dense storage mobiles in the future offering flexibility should demand for case picking drop.
- Energy saving LED lighting.
- Black polished steel reducing glare and floor reflections on pickers.
- Cold air distribution socks over blowers to circulate and distribute cold air above top floor.
To make maximum use of the picking efficiencies multitier mezzanines offer, picking staff need to be equipped with high quality freezer clothing. This significantly increases the amount of time they can spend in the cold store without taking breaks. Barpro offers the DELF range of high quality freezer wear which is a must for cold store picking.
There is increasing interest among South African cold stores who can see the potential benefits. Multi-tier mezzanines can give a significant edge over competitors especially in the field of 3rd party cold storage distribution. Being able to case pick more cost effectively while using less volume gives an edge in this price sensitive market.
Let us help you create that edge. Call Barpro for more information.
Cape Town: 021 552 9190
Johannesburg: 011 450 1075
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