Productivity Fulfillment

productivity fulfillment

Picture source:


Industrial Engineer-Volume 41 Number 12

In September, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the business sector (nonfarm) labor productivity increased at 6.6 percent annual rate during the second quarter of 2009. This was the largest productivity increase since the third quarter of 2003. Quarterly per hours worked. What helps drives this steady productivity increase?

Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), such as horizontal and vertical carousels, vertical lift modules (VLMs), pick-to-light technology and inventory management software have been a significant part of the technological mix, and the sales and implementation of these systems have tracked closely with productivity improvements.

Reducing costs and achieving greater productivity within existing facilities, while improving customer service, are the keys to soften the impact and growing during these uncertain economic times. Carousels and VLMs deliver items t an operator, while manual shelving and drawer systems require operators to travel aisles searching for items. In many manufacturing, warehousing and distribution applications, ASRS can improve employee productivity up to 72 percent. These system automatically organize waves and batches of items to be picked and assure that the items are delivered to the operators exactly what to pick and to improve efficiencies. The most common is called batch picking. In manual shelving and drawer picking systems, an operator gets and older and picks all the items on that order. The operator will walk the entire system passing 99 percent of the items he doesn’t need to find the one he does need. When that order is complete, the operator starts in the next list and repeats the process.

Batch picking allows all the items to be picked simultaneously for multiple orders, reducing wasted time. A workstation is created in front of the ASRS and often six to 14 orders are “batches” or picked simultaneously. Multiple carousels and VLMs work together as a “pod” or integrated work group. The units rotate and move and deliver the items to the operator and pick lights direct what the operator picks and where to put it for each order.  When all the items are picked for that batch of orders, they are completed and sent to shipping or delivered to the requesting department and the process is repeated for the next batch.

During the current economic condition, ASRS also can maximize their existing floor space to find economic benefits. ASRS are very high-density devices. By “taking the air out” of a facilities storage requirement, these systems create 66 percent to 90 percent space savings opportunities by utilizing otherwise wasted vertical space and required physical space. Systems such as a VLM provide true “floor to truss” utilization and can reach up to 60 feet tall to maximize every inch of a building’s available height. Likewise, items are stored on trays in a VLM, and the system will automatically scan the height of every tray each time it is put back into the system. A series of tray rails populate the entire vertical height of the unit. When the tray is scanned, the control automatically finds the smallest location possible in the unit to no more that half an inch of wasted space. During non-use, VLMs can be “shuffled”, rescanning the trays within the unit and restoring them in the most space saving configuration possible, creating more usable space without any worker effort.


  1. Peter Abraham (1401086136)
  2. Ratih Cendhani T (1401139533)
  3. Anita Andriani (1501203285)
  4. Erthina (1501157184)
  5. Rici (1501164265)