A-Frame Automatic Dispenser-Order Fulfillment System
Is your warehouse, distribution center, or order fulfillment operation struggling with rising labor costs or an unreliable source of labor? Does your required throughput keep rising—to levels beyond what your employees can reasonably handle in a given shift? These are serious problems for any operation, which left untreated can threaten your ability to grow and turn a profit.
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For some operations, implementing an A-Frame automatic dispensing system can be an excellent means of addressing the issues outlined above. Below, we take a look at what an A-Frame dispensing system does, its key benefits, and the questions you need to ask yourself to know whether such a system makes sense for your operation.
What is an A-Frame Dispensing System?
An A-Frame automatic dispenser is an automated technology which is used to facilitate high-speed order fulfillment. The name comes from the fact that, when viewed from the front, the equipment looks roughly like a capital letter “A”.
In essence, an A-Frame automatic dispenser is a form of automated picking.
On each side of the system, inventory is stored in channels, with one SKU per channel. In the center of the system there is a conveyor that runs continuously from start to finish, carrying totes, boxes, or shippers. As a tote or box moves through the A-Frame, the system dispenses the required items to make up each order. The system can automatically slow itself down or speed itself up, as required, to accommodate the item dispensing.
Older systems utilize a belt conveyor down the center to accumulate each order and then dump them in a tote or shipper at the end of the line. These systems are still around, but they often lead to order contamination, slower throughput and requiring more floor space. Often A-Frame dispensing systems that dispense directly into a shipper or tote provides far greater efficiencies.
How many SKUs can be dispensed by an A-Frame will depend solely on the size of the system and the size and shape of the inventory. A single A-Frame dispenser system can accommodate hundreds, or even thousands, of channels or SKUs. Likewise, there are portable A-Frame systems that roll up to an existing conveyor, integrate to the WMS software and start picking orders.
Benefits of Leveraging an A-Frame Dispensing System
1. High Throughput
A-Frame dispensers are capable of dispensing up to five items per second, per channel. This translates into a tremendous throughput, especially compared to manual picking operations. The system is in fact so fast that it’s measured in orders per hour, as opposed to lines per hour.
As a point of comparison, consider that an A-Frame can dispense upwards of 4,200 orders per hour. Most manual picking systems fall somewhere in the range of 75 to 125 lines per hour, while other automated picking systems fall somewhere in the range of 350 to 1,000 lines per hour.
2. Reduced Labor Costs
Because an A-Frame dispenser automates your picking process, implementing such a system immediately allows you to redirect your personnel to other, higher value tasks within your operation. In most cases, an A-Frame requires just a few employees working to replenish inventory—dramatically reducing your labor costs and allowing you to achieve a greater ROI.
3. Less Reliance on a Constrained Labor Market
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses around the country to close their doors in the name of social distancing, warehouses and distribution centers were facing a constrained labor market which drove up employment costs and made it difficult to retain workers.
As one of the most labor-intensive processes in most order fulfillment operations, taking steps now to automate your picking process can go far in removing your reliance on these constrained and unreliable labor pools.
Likewise, the reduction in labor makes social distancing very simple when implementing an A-Frame dispensing system.
When does this system make sense for an operation?
If you need exceptionally high throughput and want to reduce the labor costs associated with your picking processes, then an A-Frame could be the perfect solution for you.
While A-Frames bring a number of powerful benefits for the right inventory mix and profiles. Each channel in the system requires that items must be stackable; i.e., they must be stored in boxes, bottles, or other types of containers that can stack.
Making the Right Decision
Are you unsure whether or not an A-Frame dispenser can accommodate your inventory, or whether implementing such a system in your operation will lead to a positive ROI? A trusted systems integrator can help you evaluate your options so that you leverage the best possible technologies for your unique needs and challenges. In the event that an A-Frame dispenser does not make sense for your operation, they can also guide you towards a solution that does. Click here for a no-risk consultation.