Layer picking bears fruit

Premia Handling Systems Pty Ltd
Monday, 06 December, 2004



The drive by retailers for smaller, more frequent deliveries is forcing suppliers to re-evaluate how they deliver goods to major retailers' distribution centres.

Orders are increasingly calling for 'layers' of goods, rather than full pallet quantities.

However, manually assembling pallets with layers of products is a labour-intensive, physically demanding and costly exercise.

Recognising the trend towards increased usage of layers within the supply chain, Danish material handling company, Univeyor has developed what is believed to be the world's first universal layer picker.

The automated layer picker is a fast, reliable and cost-effective system for handling whole layers of almost any product, from cases to shrink-wrapped packs of bottles and cans.

It enables the user to assemble multi-product pallets to customer orders without the costs, OH&S concerns and product damage associated with manual handling.

Designed to handle up to 150 layers per hour, the Univeyor Layer Picker uses a specially-designed low pressure vacuum head to gently and safely lift whole layers of products.

The unit can be used in a number of semi- and fully-automated applications including:

  • Order assembly of mixed pallets;
  • Order assembly of sandwich pallets;
  • Depalletising of whole layers to feed cross docking systems;
  • Layer picking and inserting slip sheets.

The first Univeyor Layer Picker in Australia has been recently installed by Coca-Cola in Melbourne.

"For decades, the choice has been between moving whole pallets or picking individual cases by hand and re-assembling into loads," said Michael Watkins of Premia Handling Systems, which has been appointed as a distributor for Univeyor in Australia.

"As deliveries become more frequent and mixed pallets more in demand in the supply chain, automated picking of layers will become increasingly commonplace.

"Working on the basis of an average of 15-20 cases per layer, and with the capacity to pick up to 150 layers per hour, the Univeyor Layer Picker has the capacity to handle around 3000 cases per hour. To achieve anywhere near this level of throughput in a manual operation would require about 15 people," said Mr Watkins.

"This clearly illustrates the magnitude of savings possible with automated layer picking," he said.

Univeyor has recently supplied three Layer Pickers to Denmark's largest grocery chain, Netto. The three units are responsible for around 85% of the picking from pallets in Netto's new distribution centre. They automatically pick whole layers of pallets, remove any slip sheets and depalletise layers to single parcels. The system includes automated pallet conveyors from the store to the Layer Pickers and package handling conveyors to an automated sortation system.

In another application, a Dutch grocery group is using a Univeyor Layer Picker to depalletise layers and transport individual cases for replenishment of live storage racks for picking.

Michael Watkins, one of Australia's most experienced logistics professionals, has established a new company, Premia Handling Systems, to provide materials handling and logistics solutions for SMEs.

Premia Handling Systems offers three key services for SMEs:

  • Operations design;
  • Equipment supply;
  • Project management.

Mr Watkins has more than 20 years' experience in materials handling and logistics.

"My goal with Premia is to offer SMEs, who are struggling with materials handling and logistics challenges, a cost-effective alternative to some of the larger equipment and service providers," said Mr Watkins.

"The experience I have gained on both sides of the fence working as a supplier to the industry and as a practitioner within it, means I can empathise with the dilemmas faced by many SMEs," added Mr Watkins.

"A typical scenario in many SME operations is that they know they have problems, but they don't know who to turn to for support. Many of them are inhibited to talk to the bigger suppliers because they believe the cost will be difficult to justify," he said.

"Premia gives businesses like that an alternative. We can go in and look at a company's manufacturing or distribution operation, or certain parts of their operation, and provide them with budget-conscious solutions.

Premia Handling Systems has been appointed as a reseller of Siemens conveyors in Australia, and also represents Danish company Univeyor, which manufactures the automated layer picking system.

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