ProSKU WMS has added new system functionality to handle ‘pick up and drop’ pallet handling, a common requirement for warehouse operators using a ‘narrow aisle’ racking configuration.  

Operation of narrow aisle racking, also sometimes called VNA (very narrow aisle) is usually managed using a specialised type of mechanical handling equipment (MHE), a narrow aisle truck, to service the locations within the aisle. This requires pallets moving to and from the aisle to be collected or delivered at a dedicated aisle end location, known as a ‘P&D’ – pick up and drop station.

The chief benefit of a narrow aisle storage solution is increased density of storage that takes full advantage of the footprint and height of a building. Typically this can reduce the aisle width by up to half compared with a traditional wide aisle racking solution. Narrow aisle storage is mainly used for full pallet storage and retrieval but can also be used for item picking using specialist ‘man-up’ trucks.

Because of the space constraints imposed, narrow aisle trucks are usually automatically ‘guided’. This is done either by means of installed metal rails,  which restrict the truck movement, or by ‘wire’ which centralises the movement of the vehicle by electrical contact. The MHE type that feeds the P&D station will be a standard truck type e.g. counterbalance or pedestrian operated truck.

Although more space-efficient, the main challenge with narrow aisle is to achieve handling efficiency levels akin to those of wide aisle operation. This requires a WMS that can issue instructions in real time to ensure the correct flow of pallets into and out of the racking. Just as important is being able to identify pallets in transit by barcode scan to ensure rapid processing of instructions.

The new ProSKU features have been introduced to provide a paperless real time solution to manage this type of operation. The system handles each movement stage separately, issuing consecutive instructions. For example, a receiver will scan and identify a pallet before receiving an instruction to deliver to a designated P&D station. The aisle truck operator then receives a subsequent instruction to place the pallet in the allocated rack space. For outgoing pallets this process is reversed.

Following its introduction, the new functionality has been tested in FMCG warehouses with varying levels of narrow aisle storage capacity. To cater for operations with partial usage of narrow aisle racking, the functions can be applied only to relevant areas of the operation. This also means that unsuitable equipment types can be easily restricted from performing tasks within these areas.