5 Pack Station Automation Innovations that Will Improve Order Throughput and Increase Profits

How would you like to save over $12,000 during a single 8-hour shift on your pack station area? One of our customers did just that for a major distribution center. They reduced the number of transactions for each pack station operator, improving overall pack station line accuracy and efficiency.

Here is an example, based on a current PSI Engineering project, for reducing the amount of transactions to fulfill each pack station order. The current operator time per order is 60 seconds. These 5 pack station automation innovations increased order throughput by 55% and shaved seconds off the task times, resulting in savings of thousands of dollars:

  1. Automated Pre-Printed Document Insertion = 7 Seconds Saved
    By centralizing all of the pre-printed documents, the pack station operator was saved the time needed to pick and insert collateral manually.
  2. Automated Packing Slip Insertion = +10 Seconds Saved
    Dependant on if the packing slip needed to be folded and if was to be placed inside or outside the box, the time savings could be between 10 (20 and even 30 if folding is required) seconds by automating the packing slip insertion.
  3. Automated Carton Top Closing and Taping = 5 Seconds Saved
    An experienced pack station operator can seal and tape a box closed in about 5 seconds. A semi-automated or fully automated case sealer and taper can complete the task in a fraction of that time.
  4. Automated Carton Dimensioning and Weighing = 6 Seconds Saved
    With manual labor, the carton has to be placed onto and taken off of the dimensioner and scale. Depending on the size and weight of the box, this can take 5, 10 or even 20 seconds. An automated carton dimensioning and weighing station will do it in a fraction of that time.
  5. Automated Shipping Label Application = 5 Seconds Saved
    A print on demand shipping label can be applied by a pack station operator in about 5 seconds, using the ”slap and stick” method. An automated label applicator can do it in a blink of an eye.Total Time Saved = 33 seconds

In this instance, there were 120 packing station operators who used to take a minute each to complete the full set of tasks. Following the introduction of PSI Engineering’s pack station automation innovations there was a time savings of 33 seconds per operator. This equated to a 55% reduction in operator time, which resulted in a savings of $12,144 per day.


120 operators x 55% reduction = 54 operators

Savings of 66 operators x $23/hour = $12,144/8-hour shift


 

Here is the PSI Engineering’s automation system design for this project:

  1. An RSC (Regular Slotted Container) carton with top flaps open vertically enters the auto pack station area. Void-fill is added to the RSC to stop items from shifting inside the box.
  2. The carton’s LPN (Licence Plate Number) barcode is scanned to know which items and pre-printed documents the LC In-Feeders need to insert. (To learn more about how LC In-Feeders can pick and pack even the smallest of items and improve throughput even more, read our case study here.)
  3. The carton enters the manifest induct, and the LPN is scanned once again to verify the carton and its contents for packing slip insertion.
  4. The Print Feeder prints, folds and feeds the packing slip into the box at speeds of up to 20 cartons per minute. (To watch one of our print feeders in action, click here.)
  5. An operator folds the flaps on the box and runs it through the fully automatic or semi-automatic case sealer with top and bottom taper.
  6. The carton continues along the conveyor to the dimensional scanning and weighing system. This is where the DIM weight (cube dimension or weight of the carton – whichever is greater) is established. The data gathered here is important to reconcile records with the courier company. (We will talk more about DIM weights and reducing carton heights in an upcoming blog – subscribe here.)
  7. Next, the LPN is scanned once more to confirm the carton’s contents and recipient. Once verified, a shipping label is applied to the top of the carton and is scanned to ensure it matches the
  8. Finally, the carton exits the pack station line to the shipping area where all the shipping operator has to do is load it onto the truck. Or, if something is not 100% with the order, it is re-routed to the reject lane for attention.

Additional Soft ROI Benefits

The streamlining of tasks per operator at the pack stations not only resulted in a time savings of 55%, but it also saw an increase of throughput by 10%. This was achieved by:

  • Automating the weighing and dimensioning, which reduced the number of shipping area operators needed.
  • Reducing the number of operators on the line, which meant that fewer quality control inspectors and supervisors were required.
  • Decreasing the number of workers on the floor, which meant that fewer floaters were necessary.
  • Having a smaller workforce, which resulted in less no-shows per shift, saving on the hiring of casual laborers.

The soft ROI benefits go beyond greater throughput. The correctness and accuracy of orders was improved as a result of the automation, which increased customer satisfaction, generating more orders.

PSI engineering’s pack station automation innovations closely follow Henry Ford’s approach to the assembly line of reducing the number of transactions for each operator and automating where possible. At PSI Engineering we think Henry Ford would have loved the innovative pack station tools we have available today. For more information on how we can help you streamline your pack station line, improve throughput and save money, contact us.

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