Carton shuttle – the carrier of cartons

13th June 2019

Warehouse Automation

Waiting for a cheese burger at the next-door McDonalds outlet or for online ordered next party dress; waiting is single biggest source of frustration. It only increases more when as a business you are making your customers wait. The rise of ecommerce industry not only challenged the status quo of warehouse operations but also gave the birth to many new products. Shrinking lead times, on time order fulfilments, squeezing operational costs, and ensuring highest customer satisfaction levels is not an easy job unless every single point of the supply chain is tuned into the same rhythm. Storing large pallets in the warehouse saves space, but to fulfil individual orders like in ecommerce, breaking the pallet & again palletising is an intense activity, it consumes not only time but labour. Hence direct storing of the cartons after depalletizing a pallet is a great operational move for high velocity items, especially in consumer industries like FMCG, Ecommerce, Retail and fashion.

So, after breaking the pallets the individual cartons have to be stored efficiently and have to be retrieved quickly for order packing. Hence quick throughputs for the material handling are important, to achieve the same was invented the carton shuttle system as a mini-form of the Pallet Shuttle.
What is carton shuttle & how it works?
Carton shuttle is used to store and retrieve carton loads in a dense shelve racking. It’s a fast-moving vehicle that facilitates quick movement of cartons within the racking system or to the outer points like to the next picking zone. Carton shuttle interacts with the vertical lift, which with double side conveyor belts moves up and down between the racks with carton loads to be stored/ retrieved. The entire throughput of the system depends on the number levels of the shelving structure, speed of the vertical lift, depth of each row & also and the no. of rows throughout the storing lane. However, with a speed of 3m/sec, it moves cartons very quickly.

The entire system consists of a rack structure, vertical lift, carton shuttle per each aisle, controls and WMS/WCS software to give instructions. Cartons from the depalletized area will be routed to carton shuttle shelving through conveyor network. After taking these cartons, the vertical lift will move up to a designated aisle as per the instructions given by WMS/WCS transfer them on the buffer conveyor of the rack, from where carton shuttle will shuttle them to the exact locations & drops them. Retrieval of the cartons also happens in the similar fashion, and the retrieved cartons will be moved to the picking zone, where picking will happen. The half-filled or empty cartons will be transferred to the next picking station or to the shelving area again. Entire carton shuttle system calls for an impeccable and instantaneous communication across all the units involved.

Carton Shuttle Benefits:
High Throughputs: Though the throughput of the entire system depends on the feeding capacity of the vertical lift, fast movement of the shuttle ensures quick turnaround cycles.
Safety:Carton shuttle system is equipped with safety sensors, bumper and automatic breaking system to avoid any collision & accident.
Ease of Operation: The entire picking operations of the shuttle system are quite easy and require little human intervention.
Minimum Maintenance: Owing to the way the structure has been built, chances of damage to the metallic racks are minimum. Also, the shuttles require minimum maintenance.
Scalability: Carton shuttle shelving system is easily customizable with the addition of multiple levels and shuttles according to the requirement. More shuttles can be easily employed as the per productivity requirements.
High Storage Space: Through Pallet Shuttle, aisles can be eliminated in warehouses as forklifts are not required for end-to-end loading and unloading. In dense racking you can store 4.2 cartons /SqMtr.
Applications:
Carton shuttle will give more benefits like:
Single unit orders: In distribution centres where the average size of most orders is one. This is best applicable for industries like Fashion, Ecommerce, consumer electronics
Store level picking: In B-B-C business models, where the picking happens for individual small orders but at a store level.
Spare parts picking: In manufacturing assembly operations, where the most common items with high throughputs can be stored.

Key factors that need consideration

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