Category Archives: tech notes

Basic Host Interface and Integration

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This paper describes an application example of the most basic interface of SOFT™ system using Hawk™ Model 201 smart carts into a paper based pick ticket system. Using this interface, absolutely no modification to the existing information system (host) is necessary. This interface will integrate with literally any information system, any hardware platform and any WMS. Additionally the interface will support all SOFT devices, man-up fulfillment modules, SOFT handheld terminals and wearable devices, and SOFT terminals for mounting on various warehouse equipment.

Definitions

Host—the computer currently connected to the pick system printers.

SOFT System—the computing system, user interface devices and all associated smart picking carts, modules. The SOFT computing system organizes and oversees the picking process

Existing printers—the printers that are used by the host to print pick tickets, packing slips and shipping labels.

Interface Overview

In this most basic interface, SOFT intercepts the pick tickets as they are sent from the host computer to the pick ticket printers. Internally, SOFT identifies the line items that are to be processed through the smart batch picking system and the line items that are to be processed with pick tickets. SOFT prints pick tickets for the orders to be picked from tickets. The paperless picking orders to be processed with SOFT picking devices are dynamically scheduled for picking in the most efficient sequence.

In this most basic interface, picking exceptions for the paper based pick tickets are handled as in the paper system. Picking exceptions from the smart paperless picking devices are recorded and viewed in report form. The report is printed so exceptions can be processed just as the paper based pick ticket exceptions are processed.

Interface—Host to SOFT™ System

The host normally connects to the SOFT System via a single printer port connection. To the host, the SOFT System looks exactly as the printer. The SOFT System receives picking orders by “extracting” and “decoding” information that is sent to the printer. The host software or hardware is not modified, it just continues to print pick tickets as normal. A switch box may be provided to make this connection.

Some systems may use multiple pick ticket printers. Normally in these situations only one ticket printer connection is needed for connection to SOFT. To the host computer, other ticket printers should appear “offline” and all print tickets are directed to the SOFT System. If multiple pick ticket printers are still necessary to support print volume, they are all connected to the SOFT computing system. Switch boxes are provided as needed. Internally, the SOFT System will examine the print ticket data as it is received from the host. It examines the information on a line-item by line-item basis. Within the SOFT system, there are multiple configurable means of organizing and processing work based on operational requirements. The actual means of filling the orders is independent of the interface and integration with the host.

Processing of work within SOFT may be any of the following:

  • Orders completely filled by SOFT devices
  • Orders completely filled by paper pick tickets
  • Orders completed by both SOFT devices and by paper pick tickets

SOFT will create all the necessary pick tickets, labels, packing slips and completion-exception reports depending upon the order fulfillment means. SOFT also provides means of consolidating orders for shipment.

Interface—SOFT System to Host

Information required from the SOFT System (order line-item completion information) is normally provided as an exception report for the basic interface model. This information may be provided in many ways, however, if the system design requirement does not include host modifications, SOFT will provide an “Exception Report”. This report will be delivered to the host system for entry just as any exceptions on the existing system would have been delivered. The exception report format is provided as required for operation.

SOFT hosting

 

Process Optimization of a Sorter-Based Operation

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Productivity of labor-intensive piece-picking operations often can be improved using batch processes where multiple orders are picked simultaneously. As the number of orders in the batch increases, the distance between picks is reduced, as well as the non-productive picker’s walking time, allowing pickers to spend more time picking. Piece-sorter devices (tilt tray sorters, Bombay sorters, etc.) allow the batching of hundreds, and even thousands, of orders.

This paper describes how adaptive technology principles can be used in a sorter-based operation to achieve better customer satisfaction, increase processing capacity and reduce labor costs.

Traditional piece-sorter operations use waves to organize the work. For instance, if the sorter has 640 drop-points, 640 orders are selected for a wave to process. Each order is assigned to a drop-point. Pickers are dispatched to collect all items for the wave orders; the mixed items are brought to the sorter induction stations from all picking zones to be inducted into sorter trays. As orders complete in the drop-points, they can be packed under the sorter. Once all the 640 orders are packed, a new wave of 640 orders starts.
One serious disadvantage of the traditional process is that most orders complete near the end of the wave, making it very difficult for the packers to keep up with the work during these periods. As a result, the wave transition time, defined as the elapsed time from the last drop of a wave to the last packing of the same wave (or the beginning of the next wave) is very long. Unfortunately, from the sorter utilization point of view, wave transition time is also wasted time.

In order to address the above issue, some distribution centers use waves with fewer orders than the available drop-points. The next wave begins as soon as there are enough packed drop points to accommodate all the orders for the wave. In the extreme of this solution, wave orders are half the number of available drop-points, allowing uniform packing in half of the drop-points while the other half is used to sort the next wave. While this approach addresses the issue of wasted wave transition time, its disadvantage is that reduces the batch orders by half; consequently, the picking productivity is not as good as with the larger wave.

Other processes attempt to “optimize” the day, grouping orders in waves with like items. Normally, this approach has other problems. In order to find the optimum grouping, all possible combinations need to be evaluated, and the number of combinations is astronomic. Also, even if the issue of the very large number of combination could be solved, optimizing the waves at the beginning of the day prevents the addition of new orders during the day, making the process very inflexible.

Nevertheless, there are very effective and realistic ways to optimize a sorter-based process using adaptive technology principles. In order to do it, the process can be broken in 3 parts: order selection, picking, and packing.

Order Selection

There is no need for using waves. Orders can continuously being added for sortation as orders are packed and drop-points become available. Under this approach, the sorter pulls orders at the pace it can complete them, keeping the sorter as busy as possible. In order to minimize the time for the first item of an order to reach the sorter, a buffer of orders can be incorporated into the system. These buffer orders are queued in transit from the picking zones to the sorter in such a way that by the time that the order is assigned to a drop zone, its first item(s) are already on sorter trays. This process yields the largest possible batches, maximizing picking productivity.

The SOFT™ software keeps a pool of orders to sort. From this pool, the SOFT™ software selects the orders to be added to the sorter. Each order has a priority. The SOFT™ software always selects from the orders with the highest priority. Orders in the pool can be added, modified or deleted at any time of the process. Priority of orders that have been in the pool for a long time can automatically increase as time goes by. New orders can be added at any time during the day and still being processed in an optimum way. This process provides the maximum flexibility for accepting and managing new orders to process.

Considering that drop-points are a very valuable asset for the distribution center, when selecting new orders to add from the orders with the highest priority, the SOFT™ software selects the orders that will complete the fastest based on the current location of the pickers. This process is continuously executed multiple times per minute. Orders that have no items yet picked can be re-evaluated to validate that they are still among the best orders to select under new current conditions. Once the first item of an order is picked, the order is committed for sortation and is not re-evaluated by the selection process anymore. This process maximizes sorter utilization.

Picking

The distribution center can have one or several picking zones. For practical purposes, each zone is considered a loop where one or several pickers work. Each picker has a dynamic sub-zone assigned to him/her. That sub-zone starts at his/her current location and ends at the location of the picker in front of him/her along the loop. At any moment, the workload of each picker can be calculated as the pending picks in his/her sub-zone divided by his/her pick rate. The workload is expressed in minutes. As long as all picker workloads are balanced (the delta between the minimum workload and the maximum workload is within an acceptable value), the SOFT™ software will issue transactions, one at a time, to each picker in his/her sub-zone. As soon as the system becomes unbalanced, the SOFT™ software searches for pickers to move across sub-zones in order to re-balance the system. The SOFT™ software checks for system un-balancing every time that a transaction is completed. When considering movements, the SOFT™ software uses a move penalty to account for the wasted time of the picker moving from his current location to a new sub-zone. This process minimizes straggler orders under the sorter and also prevents congestion in the picking aisles. The SOFT™ software can move pickers within their picking zones or to other picking zones.

Exception handling of shorts only requires the picker who finds the short to report it. If more inventory of the shorted item exists in other location of any sub-zone, when the picker of that sub-zone goes by that location, the SOFT™ software will direct him/her to grab it from there. This process minimizes the negative effect of handling shorts.

Packing

Packers keep going around the drop-points packing the orders that they find completed. Each packer has a packing sub-zone defined in the same terms as the picking sub-zones. The workload for each packer is the pending orders to pack in his/her sub-zone divided by his/her packing rate. The SOFT™ software balances the workload for the packers the same way that balances the workload for the pickers.

As the workload for pickers and packers is expressed in the same units (minutes), the SOFT™ software can move workers from picking to packing or from packing to picking if an imbalance between the 2 functions is detected.

Conclusion

Using SOFT™ software modules that adapt to the forever-changing conditions of the operation, the distribution center:

  1. Increases customer satisfaction providing maximum flexibility to accept last-minute orders or modify existing ones at any time of the operation
  2. Increases distribution center capacity maximizing sorter utilization
  3. Reduces labor costs maximizing worker productivity

Gather and Pack Operations

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This paper describes an application example where a Mandate® based SOFT™ system is used to fill orders using both a normal batch pick/pack operation and a gather and pack operation. The normal batch pick operation is used to pick medium to fast mover or “normal” SKUs. The gather and pack operation is used to gather very slow movers (low volume–velocity) or “gather” SKUs. The normal batch pick operation is also used to pack both the “normal” SKUs as well as the “gathered” SKUs. The “gathered” SKUs require a lot of transit time because they are spread over a wide area. HAWK™ order fulfillment carts are used to pick the “normal” SKUs. A Crown stock picker fitted with a SOFT™ terminal and a fork mounted, Vargo supplied, customer configured, “gather module” to pick the “gather” SKUs.

The gather operation itself is a “batch” pick operation. Unlike a normal batch pick operation, items are not picked and packed directly into their order container (carton). They are picked into a temporary location and transported to an area where they will be packed into their respective order cartons. Although gather and pack operations require handling of product twice, in many circumstances, this method of operation may greatly improve productivity.

The reason for productivity increases in certain “gather and pack” operations has primarily to do with physical space availability. In normal batch picking, the worker travels to the needed material transporting the all the batch shipping containers. These containers are statistically half empty. This unused space reduces the number of orders that can be picked together (the batch size). Batch size is the key to efficiency and productivity in a normal batch pick system.

In the “gather” portion of a gather and pack operation, a batch size is only limited to the actual size of the items to be picked and the available cart space. This allows for the creation a large batch size and thus the productivity of the “gather” portion of gather and pack operation can be greatly increased through the reduction of transit time. This increase in “gather” productivity must offset the decrease in productivity due to double handling the product in order for a gather and pack operation to yield a true overall productivity increase.

Host Interface

A basic SOFT interface with the HOST allows SOFT to capture all printed pick ticket data extracting and organizing work from the pick ticket information. The extraction process examines the work (pick jobs) based on the stock location for the job. Pick jobs are divided into two categories, normal pick jobs and “gather and pack” pick jobs. The interface back to the host system for pick exceptions is via a printed exception report generated by SOFT for all categories of work.

Background and Overview

The normal pick jobs accomplished by Hawk™ carts account for most facility volume. The “gather” jobs are picked using a single Crown SP 3000 series stock picker. Those items are picked and put into a “gather module”. There are five uniquely identified (numbered) gather modules to provide buffering. These modules have multiple configurable cell locations of varying sizes that are used for the temporary locations to hold gathered product. A representation of the “gather module” to this application is shown below.

SOFT and Mandate®—upon which SOFT is based—have some very unique and advantageous AWMS (Adaptive WMS) features for use in a gather and pack operation. The adaptive location management system of Mandate® allows locations to be created and deleted dynamically. This feature allows the re-configuration of the locations of a gather module to be a trivial operation. In the location management system, each location has a “parent” location. The individual cells (locations) in a gather module have a parent of the unique module number. The module itself is a location and it too has a parent location. When the stock picker picks up a module, the module’s parent becomes the stock picker. When a module is dropped off, the module’s parent becomes the floor location where it is placed. Product itself has a parent location—the location where the product resides. Another feature of Mandate® for gather and pack operations is the ability to adaptively deal with pure SKU and mixed SKU locations. Mandate® locations have an attribute of “Mixed SKU” or “Pure SKU”. Gather modules are configured to automatically handle this attribute as product is placed in or removed from module cells.

“Gather” Operational Perspective

The stock picker picks up an empty gather module. The worker scans the module and the module’s “parent location” becomes the vehicle. The SOFT terminal shows the gather pick jobs sorted by proximity to the module pickup point. The worker normally goes to the first job on the list and scans the location, whereupon SOFT displays a SKU validation screen and the quantity needed. The operator verifies the SKU and scans any suitable module cell whether occupied or not and places the specified units into the module cell. SOFT remembers the location of the product and presents the next job location. The process is continued until either all of the jobs are completed or the module is full. Once the module is completed, the worker drops the gather module off at a pack location by scanning it into the drop off floor location. When a module is dropped off at a pack location all the gather module cells or compartments are treated just as normal rack locations.

The “gather” operation continues filling modules until all “gather” jobs are completed. During the gather operation, Hawk workers are also completing normal pick work. SOFT selects orders for the normal Hawk work to include, when possible, only orders with no missing “gathered” items at the pack location. The Hawk worker’s job list includes jobs to be picked from the gathered items in the completed modules.

SOFT man-up order fulfillment module

These items are picked and packed by the Hawk worker into the delivery carton with the rest of the normally picked items. If SOFT requests an item to be picked from a mixed SKU location, SOFT will issue a screen warning to the worker that the location contains multiple SKUs. SOFT may need to select orders for Hawk carts that are missing gathered item orders. This occurs because there is no other alternative. In this case, the normal Hawk orders will be completed as far as possible with all available SKUs, both normal and gathered. If the order is still not complete once all available SKUs are picked the worker will be instructed to drop off the partially completed carton at the pack location. The “parent location” of the carton becomes the pack location.

These uncompleted orders may be reloaded onto a Hawk at any time by scanning the partially completed carton whereupon direction to complete the remaining items will be given to the worker. Once an order is completely filled (excluding any filling exceptions) the worker is directed to unload the carton at the shipping area.

Dynamic Cartonization With Batch Picking

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This paper describes an application example where a Mandate® based SOFT™ Batch Picking System is used in a distribution facility supporting fulfillment of large (many line item) split-case orders. There are normally many individual cartons required to fill a single order due to the number of units and SKUs. Additionally, some orders may contain line items with more than full case quantities. The fulfillment system is to deliver full case quantity line items where possible and “cartonize” the balance of the line items into split or mixed SKU cartons. Orders are fulfilled in several daily departure waves but individual orders are not split across departure waves. Stock is maintained on pallets in high bay storage areas using existing functionality. Pallets may contain both full and broken cartons. Man-Up stock picking vehicles are used to pick the stock. Each vehicle is equipped with a SOFT Order Fulfillment Module (OFM). The OFM is configured with a SOFT Terminal, automatic carton pushers, cell illuminators, automatic task completion switchers, driver director display, and both a shipping label printer and a packing list printer. In this particular application, the OFM is also used for performing cyclic inventory audits. However, for simplification, this paper does not describe that functionality.

Host Interface

Interface between the host and SOFT is accomplished through the transfer of files between the two systems. For the fulfillment portion of the application, the interface consists of two different comma delimited file formats, one created by the host and read by SOFT and one created by SOFT and read by the host. The host created file is the “Order File”. The SOFT created file is the “Pick Batch Complete File”. The transfer of all files is initiated by SOFT and uses SCP (secure copy) for the transfer.

New Operation Overview

All work including order fulfillment or “pick jobs” is kept by SOFT in a “job pool”. Each pick job is a line item of a particular order. The host provided “Order File” is read automatically from the host and loaded into the SOFT job pool. Work in the job pool may be dynamically enabled and disabled by job type (i.e. pick jobs and cyclic jobs) depending upon operational conditions. SOFT prioritizes pick jobs by the daily departure wave number, scheduling earlier departure orders first. Within departure waves, SOFT uses “virtual batching” where new orders are added to a batch as individual cartons are completed (either full or no more items remaining to be picked). Jobs are dispatched to the OFM units so that there is no processing or communication delay in getting the next job once the current job is completed.

Jobs assigned to the SOFT OFM are sorted by proximity to the last known location of the OFM and are displayed in a list. The worker may reverse the work sequence of jobs to change work direction. Jobs are initiated by first scanning a job location. Normally this will be the first job in the displayed list although any location may be scanned. Regardless of the location scanned, SOFT first looks up the scanned location to determine if a job is present for that location. If so, that job is displayed for processing and the pick location for the OFM is updated to that location, so subsequent jobs will be displayed that are nearest to the current location. If a pick location is scanned with no job pending, the nearest job is displayed. This feature is part of what is termed “adaptive software” where the control system adapts to the situation rather than forcing operations to conform to some arbitrary rule. Once a valid job location is scanned, the display could request a SKU UPC scan for additional validation.

For this application, once the SKU is validated, the display requests placement validation into the indicated order cell on the OFM (a pick job).

Upon the completion of a job, the nearest next job is automatically displayed. If a pick job quantity is great enough to use one or more full cases of a particular SKU, the worker may select the “Fill With Fullcase” button where the worker enters the quantity in the case. This quantity is decremented from the pick job and the remaining quantity is displayed for completion. A shipping label is printed for the full-case carton and the carton is treated as a full carton as described below.

Dynamic cartonization is accomplished by the worker as an order carton becomes full and unable to hold additional items. In this situation, the worker indicates the full condition on the SOFT Terminal and may move the previously labeled carton out of the OFM cell if possible. The carton may be moved to either a static defined floor delivery location or to a temporary holding location on the OFM. SOFT tracks the contents of each individual carton. With “virtual batching” when an OFM cell is vacated, a new “order carton” is immediately assigned to the cell. Normally, the worker requests a new order carton for the vacated cell. In this case SOFT will select an order carton that will yield the most efficient option. This may NOT be a carton for the same order as the carton that just vacated the cell. Additionally, due to the adaptive nature of SOFT, a worker may scan or force a partially completed order carton into the vacated cell. Shipping labels are printed for new cartons. Partially completed cartons may have labels reprinted at any time.

Due to the size of the orders it is possible to have multiple OFM units processing the same order. Through configuration and current conditions, SOFT evaluates the necessity for having multiple OFM units working on the same order and if so arranges jobs to be most efficient and prevents replicate job assignments. This makes this system extremely flexible and adaptive.

Once the last item for the final carton for an order is completed, the OFM generates a single packing list for all of the cartons for the order. The packing list identifies every carton for the order and its individual contents. The packing list is placed in the last carton and that carton is tagged with a sticker indicating the presence of the packing list.

SOFT screen

The OFM operator is requested to go to location “SL-02-04-11” and scan the location.
Upon scan completion, the display shows that there is 1 unit of SKU “HOK-21380” to retrieve. The operator is requested to put those units in OFM cell A-3 and push the carton back into the cell. There are 8 units of this SKU required in the next cell. As shown, OFM cell D-1 and C-2 may be closed and packed. The OFM operator should initiate a new order for Cells B2 and C3.

Integration of Paperless Batch Picking

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This paper describes an application example where a Mandate® based SOFT™ System is integrated into an existing facility that uses a paper based pick ticket system. The existing operation fulfills orders from multiple stock areas or zones. The existing operation creates “order-carton” pick tickets. An order-carton is the sub-division of a customer order cartonized to meet handling, weight or volume constraints. Items are picked directly into the shipping carton. Pick tickets may include items from multiple pick zones. The pick ticket includes two shipping labels, one for the top of the shipping carton, and one for the side of the shipping carton. The completed pick ticket also serves as the carton packing slip. A carbonless copy of the completed packing slip portion of the pick ticket serves for exception reporting to the existing information system.

The current operation is modified to use five SOFT Hawk™ Model 201 smart carts to fill orders from one of the fulfillment zones. Approximately 88% of the orders have one or more items filled in the Hawk™ fulfillment zone although only 23% of the units are filled from this area. A near insignificant percent (less than 4%) of orders are filled completely within the fulfillment zone serviced by Hawk™. The existing host system is not modified.

Host Interface

The host interface is a basic SOFT interface where the SOFT System captures all printed pick-ticket data extracting and organizing work from the pick ticket and printing pick tickets as necessary. Pick exceptions are reported to the host using paper based data entry defined by system configuration rules.

New Operation Overview

All pick tickets are printed by SOFT on two existing reconnected printers. The print tickets are categorized into three groups. One group, tickets with absolutely no SOFT zone items, is called “NSZ”. Another group has all items from the SOFT zone and is called “SZO”. The last group is tickets with items mixed from both zones and is called “MZI”. SOFT provides configurable means for handling pick ticket printing for each of the groups depending upon operational needs. In this application the number of SZO tickets are negligible and order fulfillment is near 100%. Due to this, SOFT is configured to print all items on a normal pick ticket. The sequence of the line items on the ticket is modified to move all the SOFT items to the end of the list and a dividing message (in this case a line) separates the SOFT items.

Tickets are printed in “starting zone” groups and delivered to the initial pick zone. This applies to the SZO tickets which are delivered to the SOFT fulfillment area.

Hawk order fillers (workers) identify a new active order carton by scanning the carton label. New active order cartons can be added at any time. When a new active order carton is scanned, the Hawk “cell” (cart location of the carton) is also scanned to record where the carton is located.

SOFT provides continuous dynamic adaptive batching. All of the active orders on the Hawk are examined line item by line item to determine the nearest next item to fill. The worker will normally fill this item; however, the worker may also select any other item to fill. SOFT automatically adapts to this situation and reorganizes the work to determine what is best to do next based on the location of the worker. This dynamic optimization is the foundation of Mandate®, the platform upon which SOFT is constructed.

This example application is configured to allow new order-cartons to be activated immediately upon the completion of an existing active carton rather than having to wait to reach a load/unload location. In this application, the completed carton is stacked on the top shelf of the Hawk and a new carton-order is started in the Hawk cell. SOFT Zone Only (SZO) tickets are placed on the Hawk and new orders are activated on the fly.

When a carton is moved from the Hawk the worker scans a “zone transfer location” where the carton is placed. Mandate® tracks and logs the last known location of all cartons.

Zone transfer workers move cartons manually between zones. The workers pick up a pallet from a designated zone transfer spot and deliver it to the designated zone.

Handling Pick Exceptions

In this application, the handling of exceptions is configured to have fulfillment shortages recorded by the worker on the pick ticket/packing list. A carbonless copy of the pick list with the recorded shortages is delivered to a terminal on the existing host system for data entry. The host system handles all exceptions identically and transparently.

Outbound Audit, Creation of Shipping Documents & Shipping

This application example has two SOFT outbound audit workstations. All of the carbonless copies of the pick list with the recorded shortages are removed at these stations. These stations are also used to do sample QA checks on outbound cartons as well as shipping documentation reprinting.

outbound report

Paperless Batch Picking

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This paper describes an application example of a Mandate® based SOFT™ System integrated into an existing facility that uses a paper based pick ticket system. The existing operation fulfills orders from multiple stock areas. A few high volume or velocity SKUs are picked from pallet floor locations. Lower velocity SKUs are picked from two separate carton flow rack stock areas. In addition, some SKUs require special handling and are picked from a separate isolated stock area. The existing operation does not order-consolidate product filled from separate areas. Individual non-VICS conforming shipping documents are created for each of the fulfillment areas.

The current operation is modified to pick the high velocity SKUs using SOFT handheld pick terminals from the existing pallet floor locations. The low velocity SKUs are picked separately from each of the two stock areas using SOFT Hawk™ Model 201 smart carts. The fulfillment of the special handling SKUs uses simplified printed pick tickets. Outbound shipments are automatically consolidated and dynamically re-cartonized. The special handling SKUs are not consolidated. All shipping paperwork meets the UCC/EAN 128 and VICS standard. Shipping documents are created by a common printing system. The new order fulfillment system provides EDI data for all shipments. The existing host system is not modified.

Host Interface

The host interface is a basic SOFT™ interface where the SOFT System captures all printed pick ticket data extracting and organizing work from the pick ticket information. SOFT™ prints simplified pick tickets as necessary for processing special handling SKUs. Pick ticket data for each of the three areas serviced by SOFT™ are consolidated into a single internal pick ticket for each customer order. Pick exceptions are reported to the host via a printed exception report generated by SOFT™.

New Operation Overview

Special handling SKU orders are picked using a simplified printed pick ticket. This ticket does not include shipping documentation. For the other areas, selectors (order pickers) use SOFT devices to fulfill orders. The operations in these areas are identical except selectors in the high velocity area are filling a single active order at a time while the selectors in the low velocity area are batch picking multiple active orders. The selectors identify a new active order using one of two methods. One method is to scan a partially filled carton. The other is to scan a license plate on a “new empty” carton. For the Hawk, once the new active order carton is scanned, the Hawk “cell” (cart location of the carton) is scanned. SOFT indicates the need for “new empty” carton activation. Upon scanning a new unique license plate labelled shipping carton SOFT™ assigns an order to the license plate label.

Once a carton is active, SOFT displays a pick list. The list of items is sorted in a configured pick walk sequence. Usually the selector scans the first SKU on the list, places the requested units in the shipping carton, and acknowledges the transfer. A carton is complete within a zone when either: 1) all the SKUs have been picked in that zone or 2) the selector indicates the carton is full. If the carton is not full, SOFT displays a zone completion screen; which indicates the next zone and the number of units remaining for the carton. The selector may make a decision not to transfer the carton to the next zone because it is too full to be of any significant value in the next zone. In this case it would be transferred to the shipping zone. The selector always scans the zone transfer location where the carton is placed. Mandate tracks and logs the last known location of all cartons.

Zone transfer workers move cartons manually between zones. The workers pick up a pallet from a designated zone transfer spot and deliver it to the designated zone.

Handling Pick Exceptions

If for any reason, a selector is not able to fill a request, the selector identifies an exception. Exceptions come from a list specified by operation management. SOFT internally records the exception, will create proper shipping documentation, and indicate the condition on the exception report to be delivered to the host system.

Outbound Audit, Creation of Shipping Documents & Shipping

In this application, all outbound documentation is created at an outbound audit area. Carton license plate labels are scanned, the contents of the carton are displayed, the cartons’ contents are checked as required, content exceptions recorded, the carton weight is automatically read from a scale and recorded, and VICS conforming shipping documentation is created. A single packing list is created and it is included in the last carton of the order. Earlier cartons have a shipping label generated with the carton number for the shipment (i.e. 1, 2, 3, …) and a note stating “NO Packing List Enclosed”. The final carton of the shipment has the note “PACKING LIST ENCLOSED”. SOFT generates the necessary shipping documents.

The final step is the loading of shipping trailers. This is also accomplished on SOFT handheld terminals where the cartons are scanned as they are loaded. The data captured is used for the generation of the ASN as well as production reports.

asn report