In the massive warehouse, a forklift zips down the box-laden aisle. The driver stops and pulls a box from a pallet to the forklift.
The instant the driver is back behind the wheel, the lift is off again. This is a scene that is re-enacted millions of times a day in warehouses around the world.
Order fulfillment is probably the most labor-intensive function in any warehouse or distribution center. So, in order to increase efficiency and reduce these labor-intensive costs, it is only natural that companies look for ways to automate this process. ELKO AS, a leading manufacturer of installation equipment, wiring devices, and telecommunication products in Norway, wanted to do just that … improve their processes through automation.
ELKO contacted Goodtech Products, the Norwegian distributor for ProSoft Technology. Some of the main objectives ELKO needed were to have the ordering system "smart enough" to be able to define, and adjust in real time, the best route for picking the goods from the warehouse, as well as to "know" when restocking was needed. Avoiding the need for printing-out the pick-lists (one per order) of goods to be taken from the warehouse was also essential. The final objective was to have workers receive information digitally, at the right time and in the right sequence, on their way between the shelves.
Key to this improvement was the mobility of handheld devices for each operator, and key to this mobility was the reliability and security of the wireless network. For that, Goodtech recommended ProSoft Technology’s Industrial High-Speed Ethernet Hotspot radios.
The ELKO warehouse contains a lot of steel and concrete, and long distances.
"The signals from a traditional wireless network, like the ones commonly found in Norwegian homes, do not work here," says Jonathan Braende, Account Manager at Goodtech Products. "And if the signals do not do their job, the customers do not receive their goods – and ELKO loses money. We need wireless signals that reach the site from a reliable wireless network – regardless of the working conditions."
Twenty industrial routers were installed from the ceiling beams in the production hall and warehouse. They transmit the wireless signals, regardless of any obstacles, and can tolerate intensive use for long periods of time.
The work of moving goods from the shelf to the forklift is now much easier. Workers no longer need to manually track which goods they have to retrieve, and where and when they have to do it, because they receive real-time instructions wirelessly via their hand-held PDA.
A computer system calculates the most efficient sequence in which workers need to take goods off the shelves. Stacks of paper containing pick-lists have been replaced by simple messages. These messages are updated and refreshed in real-time. The warehouse workers are now able to pick three times more goods during the day than they did before the new wireless system was introduced.
"It's faster. It's easier. And I find it more motivational to work than before," one of the workers said.
"We are very pleased with this system," says Stig Nerland, Systems Consultant for ELKO. "The routers are reliable and the system works. We save time and money."
Learn more about ProSoft Technology’s Wireless Solutions here.