Crown finds the middle ground with QuickPick Remote Advance
Crown’s QuickPick Remote Advance is a game-changing innovation in low-level order picking – a fast paced, physically demanding job. With the simple press of a button on the wireless remote, the order selector remotely advances the truck to the next pick location, allowing the operator to remain in the optimum pick position.
Not so long ago, automation was an all or nothing deal. When it came to storage, it was pallet rack or an automated storage and retrieval system. When it came to the movement of goods, it was lift trucks or automatic guided vehicles.
With the introduction of the QuickPick Remote Advance system last week, Crown Equipment is staking out a position in the middle ground between conventional materials handling and automation.
As part of a picking solution, Crown has added a wireless remote control system to its Crown PC 4500 Series of center control rider pallet trucks. The operator wears a specially-designed remote glove or trigger mechanism. Both remotes feature a thumb-actuated button that operators press to advance the truck to the next pick slot. A wireless transceiver module that snaps into a holder on the back of the glove periodically transmits and receives RF signals from an RF tower located on the truck. Onboard lasers detect objects that might be in the path of the vehicle and can also make minor course corrections.
The idea is that an order selector no longer has to climb on and off of a pallet truck for each new pick. Instead, the operator walks from one pick location to the next and advances the vehicle with the remote control. When all the items for that pallet have been picked, the order selector can climb onboard and drive the pallet to a drop off location.
“This is not an automated vehicle,” says Rod Squires, Crown’s marketing product manager for pallet trucks and walkie stackers.
While the vehicle is more expensive than a traditional center control rider pallet truck, the ROI comes from the additional productivity of order selectors who aren’t hopping on and off their vehicle between every pick. More importantly, Squires says, putting the new vehicles to work does not require a special IT infrastructure or software programming. It’s simply a matter of training operators to use the remote controls and they’re up and running.
Crown has targeted wholesale grocery and food service distribution for its initial implementations. I haven’t had a chance to talk to one of Crown’s customers, so I don’t know what kind of improvements they’re seeing from the vehicles. But what I think the new vehicle illustrates a trend, that is how conventional and automated solutions are evolving to provide more flexibility to end users.
A few years ago, HK Systems, now part of Dematic, launched something it called automate the conventional, adding fork AGVs to pallet rack facilities – a sort of poor man’s AS/RS. At the last ProMat, Toyota Materials Handling, the world’s leading lift truck provider, introduced an automatic guided vehicle. Just last month, Egemin Automation brought out a hybrid vehicle that can operate as an automatic guided vehicle or as a conventional lift truck.
What’s driving these new designs? Squires says its end users, who continue to look for new solutions to age-old problems. “As we talk to customers, they tell us they’re looking for technology that can improve how their operators do their jobs and that can fit into their budgets,” he says. “We’re going to continue to look at technologies that improve how operators interface with our trucks.”
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