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Automating the Goods-To-Person Cycle – Why, How, and Why Now?

As logistics seeks to deliver greater responsiveness and agility, warehouses must identify ways to fulfill orders faster and more accurately, all while keeping costs under control. Automating the Goods-To-Person (G2P) cycle can help organizations with efficient and accurate order fulfillment while keeping up with ever-increasing order volumes and diverse product assortments. 

The need to automate Goods-To-Person fulfillment.  

Goods-to-person order fulfillment systems are not new, but systems so far have offered limited functionality.  With the push towards one-day or same-day order delivery, warehouses, and last-mile fulfillment centers are now looking to optimize warehouse operations. They are adopting improved controls and software, robotics with real-time reporting, and better data capture are emerging as essential enablers of productivity and profitability. 

Historically, warehouses relied heavily on human labor for the picking and placing of items and traditional G2P solutions with their conveyor belts improved the process minimally.  G2P automation, however, eliminates the physical strain involved in the picking and packing processes. They go directly to products and save the time and physical strain involved in this process. Mechanized solutions that allow horizontal/vertical carousels and vertical lift modules (VLMs) improve efficiency and speed, especially as vertical storage picks up.

However, these systems today also need a compact design, faster operation, and provide a much higher level of flexibility to meet demand velocity and accelerate order fulfillment. 

How does G2P automation work?

G2P automation involves almost a reversal of the traditional picking process. It integrates advanced technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to make the picking and packaging process more efficient.

These automation systems can be used to fulfill a variety of order types. These include single-item orders, multi-item orders, and mixed-case orders. Here’s a breakdown of the key components:

Inventory Storage – Warehouses can store goods in high-density storage systems like carousels, vertical lifts, or automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS)

Automated Retrieval Systems: Robot task assignment and management allow warehouses to retrieve the required items from storage based on picker instructions.

Pick station – Ergonomically designed workstations present the retrieved items to pickers for order fulfillment.

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS): A central WMS controls the entire G2P operation, optimizing workflows, managing inventory data, and directing automated systems.

G2P automation allows for more efficient distribution and drives the smooth movement of products to and from the picking stations. Automated systems such as Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs), pallet runner systems automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and robots equipped with pick-and-place technology make the order fulfillment processes highly efficient, accurate, and fast. This is a big advantage for fulfillment centers where order volumes fluctuate rapidly and ensure greater efficiency in task execution and completion.

The benefits of G2P automation

Goods-to-Person (G2P) automation brings the goods directly to the pickers at their workstations instead of workers navigating rows of shelves and containers for the inventory they need. While the design of the system can be configured, a robust G2P automated system will deliver the following benefits:

Operator Productivity

Goods-to-person order fulfillment systems eliminate the need to physically look for, pick, and pack the order. They use automated retrieval systems and robots to navigate the warehouse, travel within the storage system, and retrieve and deliver goods to the picking station.

An efficient G2P system also helps warehouses and fulfillment centers navigate rising SKU volumes and presents SKUs ergonomically with high throughput for optimal picker efficiency.

Efficient throughput acceleration also enables effective utilization of space for both retail and fulfillment purposes, minimizes the idle time between picks, and allows pickers to quickly access and process a large number of diverse orders. This ensures that pickers are consistently engaged in productive tasks, drives effective space utilization, and reduces the time from order receipt to dispatch.

Faster order fulfillment and customer satisfaction

G2P minimizes human decision-making and improves efficiency and accuracy for shorter order fulfillment times and increased accuracy. G2P systems have real-time visibility into inventory levels for quicker processing of orders from receipt to dispatch. These systems significantly reduce the error rate in orders, consistently deliver items to pickers, reduce variability in picking times, and make order processing more reliable. 

Faster and more accurate processing leads to shorter delivery times and drives customer satisfaction with lightning-fast deliveries. These solutions are well suited to meet the throughput needs of 3PL and last-mile fulfillment centers, given their space constraints.

Reduced labor costs and improved worker safety 

Warehouse automation reduces labor costs and improves worker safety as well. By eliminating the need for strenuous walking, bending, and reaching for items on high shelves, G2P automation reduces the risk of workplace injuries and improves worker well-being. It also increases worker satisfaction and improves morale by reducing fatigue and lowering risks of musculoskeletal injuries.

The work environment also becomes more organized and predictable with G2P automation. Controlled temperatures, lower noise, and automated monitoring software make the workplace more comfortable and also provide opportunities to enhance their career prospects. It also allows workers to focus on higher-value activities like quality control, problem-solving, and customer service.

Adaptability and scalability 

G2P systems drive business adaptability, deliver immense scalability, and ensure operational efficiencies irrespective of demand. These can meet order volume fluctuations, guarantee efficient operations during peak seasons, and avoid overstaffing during slower periods.

Real-time data from automated G2P systems can enhance inventory accuracy and control, minimize stockouts and overstocking situations, maintain consistent service levels, and help businesses scale. 

Why now? 

Advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence, and sensor technology have made G2P systems more affordable, efficient, and easier to implement. It allows warehouses and 3PLs to manage the exploding varieties of product types, volumes, and SKUs. 

G2P automation provides a competitive edge and transforms warehouses and fulfillment centers into a well-oiled machine, equipped to meet the demands of the modern e-commerce landscape. This automation utilizes the speed and efficiency of robots with the accuracy and adaptability of human operators thereby accelerating the picking process and providing predictable fulfillment. 

Rising labor costs and a labor shortage, evolving customer demands, and advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence, and sensor technology are making G2P automation a compelling choice for warehouses today making it the perfect time to embrace it. 

How to choose the right G2P solution?

The ideal G2P system should be able to handle the product variety and volume and should be designed to meet the specific needs of the warehouse. Large warehouses will have different automation demands as compared to smaller fulfillment centers. These systems need an ergonomic design that not only increases operator efficiency but can also navigate much smaller spaces, vertical movement up to 8 feet for efficient picking, and packing and navigate through small and compact spaces easily. 

As fulfillment moves closer to the shopper, with micro-fulfillment centers, neighborhood fulfillment centers, and even dark stores, MFCs need to run in top gear with a solution that exhibits fast, agile, reliable, and scalable characteristics, demands no floor preparation, and can be installed without heavy material handling equipment in weeks vs. months. 

Robust solutions further optimize efficiencies and reduce costs by removing the need for expensive operator stations and ensuring that the automation solution can easily function with standard racking and deliver ROI within a short time. Connect with us to see how we can streamline your G2P automation journey and make warehouse and MFC operations more accurate, efficient, and fast. 

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