Is a Goods-to-Person Strategy Right for Your Operation

By Scott Hennie, MH Engineered Solutions President

Order Picker Travel Time

Did you know that in a non-mechanized, non-automated operation, an Order Picker spends up to 90% of his time traveling from location to location and task to task? Do you realize that if you reduce that travel time by 10%, you double his picking time from 10% to 20% of his time?

This travel time could be walking from pick location to pick location or from a storage zone to a shipping area. It could also be time spent traveling vertically on an Order Selector truck, going from the floor to upper pick levels. In the worst cases, it is traveling to find a ladder, traveling back to a pick location with the ladder, and traveling vertically up and down the ladder to retrieve the part. Have you ever seen this scene played out? If you could bring the goods to the order picker, how much productivity would that generate in your distribution center? This is the concept of Goods-To-Person technologies.


One of the oldest technologies of Goods-To-Person are carousels, both Horizontal and Vertical. Carousels can be very effective in increasing both Order Picker Productivity and Cube Use in a facility. The major factor here is that you need to be sure there is enough activity or volume to continuously bring the product to the person without the person having to wait for the machine.

Horizontal Carousels will generate higher picker productivity while Vertical Carousels or Vertical Lift Modules will better utilize building cube or ceiling height. In either case, it is important to make sure that the re-stocking of the machines does not come at the expense of the picking productivity you can gain from the machine!

Put Systems

Put Systems, or Put Walls are a way to get product efficiently consolidated for an order. You may see a Put System or Put Walls in a facility that is processing many orders with very few line items on the order. This is common in e-commerce fulfillment. The premise of the Put System is that you will have a relatively small area where you can stage out-bound order containers (boxes) and have the items for that order brought to you. A batch of orders is picked in the pick zones and brought to the Put Area on a conveyor or some other means of transport. The Order Consolidator then sorts the items into the appropriate shipping container for the order. The consolidation is often directed by a Put-To-Light or Put-By-Voice system. Once the order is complete, the container is sealed for shipment and taken to the shipping area by some means of transportation.

Put Systems can also be very effective when filling stock orders for many locations, all receiving the same items. The outbound orders or containers are staged and the items are brought to the Put area in bulk to be sorted into the shipping containers. Much like a mini cross-dock operation.


Robots, such as OTTO Robotics or the Swisslog AutoStore, provide highly automated Goods-To-Person systems and optimize the storage cube of a facility. In these systems, the robot mechanism brings the storage medium directly to the order packer. Items are retrieved from the robot and packed for shipment. All of the travel is done by the machines and the storage locations are dynamic to make the most efficient use of space and time. These systems require more capital investment than the others, but the high-volume, high-velocity capability make the systems very efficient. 

Determine Your Objectives-Select Your Solution...
If your operation is looking to reduce labor, increase throughput, and increase Operating Net Profit, a Goods-To-Person strategy may be the right solution. Determine your goals and objectives, your business strategy, and your budget threshold.