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500% pick rate rise – Bin-to-person vs Goods-to-person explained

Article by Megan Gee

The possibility of a 500% pick rate rise is not something to be considered lightly. This is why it’s vital that you choose the right technology for the task.

This can get confusing when terms that mean different things, yet seem very similar, get thrown around in the wider discourse. You might find yourself asking “what’s the difference here?” or “are these different people talking about the same thing?”

That is an entirely legitimate question to ask when confronted by the phrases “bin-to-person automation” alongside “Goods-To-Person”. That is why we at Wise Robotics want to explain, explore, and make sense of this entire set of questions.

What is “bin-to-person” robotics?

Bin-to-person robotics involves robots moving up and down a designated ‘robot only’ walkway space, between a set of shelves. The items they are moving are all stored in identical standard sized bins. The robot rolls up the aisle, picks up a bin, and carries it to a picking station.

Is this the same as Goods-To-Person?

Bin-to-person could be seen as a type of Goods-To-Person automation option. After all, the goods are being moved to where the picker is stationed. However, it isn’t exactly the same thing and it isn’t what Wise Robotics offers in the Goods-To-Person solution. There are several advantages that OWR’s Goods-to-Person solutions provide that bin-to-person options do not.

Is “bin-to-person” flexible robotics?

The difference between fixed and flexible robotics does seem clear, but there are some nuances and unclear lines, that bin-to-person falls into.

Bin-to-person uses a type of flexible robotics, in that the robots themselves do not require physical infrastructure to move. They are not moving on rails or gantries, and there are no conveyors involved in the process.

However, the racking and storage where the bins are located do not move. The configuration of the aisles the robots need to move up and down remain the same throughout the operation. The shelves can be freestanding, so they can be readjusted, but that would mean a pause to ongoing picking operations.

From this, you can see that while bin-to-person uses flexible robotics, it does not fully commit to the notion of flexibility in the way that OWR’s Goods-To-Person automation solution does. There are several other key advantages of Goods-To-Person over the bin-to-person alternative.

GTP advantage – Storage density

A key difference between Goods-To-Person and bin-to-person is that the latter requires aisles. While they are smaller than the walkway aisles required by manual warehouses, they still take up space.

Goods-To-Person solutions require no fixed walkways. Racks can be stored face-to-face. Robots move underneath freestanding shelves, move an entire shelving unit, and continue on with their work. No space is lost to mobility. Every inch is used to maximum effect.

Given how warehouse floor space is at an extreme premium these days, can you really afford to choose an automation option that doesn’t every last square foot to the fullest extent possible?

GTP advantage – Simultaneous selection

With bin-to-person automation, a robot is extremely limited in what it can do in one trip between the shelves and the picking station. Most can only move a single bin in a single journey, and even if they can carry more than one bin at once, that only adds time to seeking the right bin from the right space and then putting it back again.

Because Goods-To-Person solutions lack a fixed storage system, they can become much more efficient. Combine this with racks that can store a huge variety of products at once, and it is easy to see why Goods-To-Person provides radically more efficient performance than the alternative.

GTP advantage – Flexibility for storage

Bin-to-person solutions only work in a warehouse environment where you have one size of bin and one size of racking. For any business with a more complex and varied array of SKU sizes and types, bin-to-person cannot handle things efficiently. While some systems like this can move multiple bins at once, all those bins need to be the same size.

Goods-To-Person options have no such drawbacks. The only limitation is the weight of an individual rack. It doesn’t matter what size or shape it is. If it is a rack, and it’s not too heavy, OWR’s robots can move it at speeds of up to two metres per second.

GTP advantage – Walkway woes

In a bin-to-person solution, while there might be less walking there are still plenty of walkways. As well as impacting storage density, this also slows down operations due to the possibility of congestion. Because the storage shelves are fixed, the aisles between them can only fit a limited number of robots at once. This quickly creates the possibility for blockages and delays, as one robot waits while the other retrieves a bin, and moves it to the picking station.

In Goods-To-Person systems, this kind of problem is entirely circumvented. The robots and the racks are both free to move and be moved. Neither gets in the way of the other, instead they both work in perfect synergy for maximum efficiency.

GTP advantage – Flexibility of arrangement

In a bin-to-person automation solution, the shelves that the bins are stored in do not move. Instead, the robots move up to the bins, pick them up, and take them to the pickers. This means that if a particular product suddenly experiences a spike in demand, and needs to be kept nearer the picking stations, the entire operation needs to pause. In a bin-to-person situation, adapting the arrangements cannot be done on the fly.

With Goods-To-Person, everything is in flux, so anything can be changed. If a product needs to be stored in a different part of the warehouse, a robot can move it there. If a specific section of the warehouse needs to be designated a quarantine zone, that can be accommodated. If specific products become very popular, and need to fly into the hands of couriers much faster, that can be arranged.

Goods-To-Person embraces the concept of flexible robotics in full. When everything is flexible, you get the most efficient system possible.

GTP advantage – Maximum efficiency

In a bin-to-person system, the robots can only do one task at once. Moving the bins on the journey from the storage shelves, to the picking station, and back again. That is the only role they do. In this respect, while you have automated the 50-70% of the time that manual pickers spend walking between shelves, you haven’t made that time usage any more efficient in and of itself. All you have done is changed things so that the movement costs only electricity, not a salary, national insurance, holiday time, health and safety, and all the other expenses associated with staff.

With a Goods-To-Person system, the robots can be doing so many different tasks. They can rearrange stock for maximum efficiency based on current demand, as we earlier mentioned. They can also be integrated into your WMS system so they can respond to projections about what will be in demand soon, and rearrange the warehouse based on that pattern. When the warehouse’s picking stations aren’t being manned, Goods-To-Person robots can rearrange the shelves so that everything is stored optimally for the next day’s shift and shipments.

Bin-to-person solutions simply cannot match the versatility of what is on offer from a Goods-To-Person solution.

Discover the full power of the Goods-To-Person solution

To find out how Goods-To-Person robotics can provide your business with an up to 500% pick rate rise, talk to Wise Robotics today. We can arrange a fully socially distanced tour of our demonstration centre to discuss this next-generation technology in far more detail.

Whatever your warehouse needs, Wise Robotics is ready to bring your business into industry 4.0.

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