500% Pick rate rise – Bin-to-person vs Goods-To-Person explained

The possibility of a 500% pick rate rise is not something to be considered lightly. This is why it’s vital that you choose the right technology for the task.

Choosing the right technology can get confusing when terms that mean different things, yet seem very similar, get thrown around in the wider discourse. You might find yourself asking “what’s the difference here?” or “are these different people talking about the same thing?”

Such is the case when the phrase “bin-to-person automation” is seen alongside “Goods-To-Person”. That is why we at OW Robotics want to explain, explore, and make sense of this entire set of questions.


What is “bin-to-person” robotics?

Bin-to-person robotics involves robots moving up and down a fixed and designated ‘robot only’ walkway space, between a set of shelves. The items they are moving are all stored in identical standard sized bins. The robot rolls up the aisle and picks up a bin before carries it to a picking station.


Is this the same as Goods-To-Person?

At first glance, bin-to-person looks very much the same as Goods-To-Person. The automation has taken over the task of the movement, and the goods are being moved to where the picker is stationed. However, because a Goods-To-Person solution is an example of fully flexible robotics, it involves several key differences.


Is “bin-to-person” flexible robotics?

Bin-to-person uses a type of flexible robotics, in that the robots themselves do not require physical infrastructure to move. They are not moving on rails or gantries, and there are no conveyors involved in the process.

However, the racking and storage where the bins are located do not move. The configuration of the aisles the robots need to move up and down remain the same throughout the operation. The shelves can be freestanding, so they can be readjusted, but that would mean a pause to ongoing picking operations.

By contrast, Goods-To-Person systems can be readjusted while picking continues. Though Goods-To-Person does also require space for the robots to move, the walkways can be shifted, compressed, and re-made as the tasks of the work day continue.

From this you can see that while bin-to-person uses flexible robotics, it does not fully commit to the notion of flexibility in the way that OWR’s Goods-To-Person automation solution does. This offers Goods-To-Person several key advantages.


Storage density

A key difference between Goods-To-Person and bin-to-person is that the latter requires static aisles. While these aisles are smaller than the walkways required by manual warehouses, they still take up space.

Goods-To-Person solutions require no fixed walkways. Racks can be stored face-to-face. Robots move underneath freestanding shelves, move an entire shelving unit, and continue on with their work. No space is lost to mobility. Every inch is used to maximum effect.

Given how warehouse floor space is at an extreme premium these days, can you really afford to choose an automation option that doesn’t every last square foot to the fullest extent possible?


Simultaneous selection

With bin-to-person automation, a robot is extremely limited in what it can do in one trip between the shelves and the picking station. Most can only move a single bin in a single journey, and even if they can carry more than one bin at once, that only adds time to seeking the right bin from the right space and then putting it back again.

Because Goods-To-Person solutions do not require a fixed storage system, they can become much more efficient. Combine this with racks that can store a huge variety of products at once, and it is easy to see why Goods-To-Person provides radically more efficient performance than the alternative.


Storage flexibility

Bin-to-person solutions only work in a warehouse environment where you have one size of bin and one size of racking. For any business with a more complex and varied array of SKU sizes and types, bin-to-person cannot handle things efficiently. While some systems like this can move multiple bins at once, all those bins need to be the same size.

Goods-To-Person options have no such drawbacks. The only limitation is the weight of an individual rack. It doesn’t matter what size or shape it is. If it is a rack, and it’s not too heavy, OWR’s robots can move it at speeds of up to two metres per second.


Constrictive containers

Possibly the single biggest disadvantage to bin-to-person robotics is present in its name. Storage bins are not only limited by only being able to store one type of product at once, they are also limited by their very nature. When your products move past the size of something like a shoebox, bins become of very limited use. Very few items can be stored in a single bin, and your warehouse will require more journeys back and forth to accomplish the same goal. The number of tasks possible to accomplish in a single movement is extremely limited.

By contrast, Goods-To-Person solutions offer a far more varied array of solutions. A single rack with up to four pick faces can carry a far more varied array of product shapes and item weights. Without the edges of a bin to constrain and contain their work, the Goods-To-Person solution allows for far greater variety based efficnecy than moving bins back and forth could ever achieve.


Walkway woes

In a bin-to-person solution, while there might be less walking there are still plenty of fixed walkways. As well as impacting storage density, this also slows down operations due to the possibility of congestion. Because the storage shelves are fixed, the aisles between them can only fit a limited number of robots at once. This quickly creates the possibility for blockages and delays, as one robot waits while the other retrieves a bin, and moves it to the picking station.

In Goods-To-Person systems, this kind of problem is avoided. The robots and the racks are both free to move. While space will be needed to let racks move to and fro, fixed walkways are unnecessary. Space can be rearranged as and when needed. Both the robots and the storage system work together in perfect synergy for maximum efficiency.


Adaptive arrangements

In a bin-to-person automation solution, the shelves that the bins are stored on cannot be moved by the robots themselves. Instead, the robots move up to the bins, pick them up, and take them to the pickers. This means that if a particular product suddenly experiences a spike in demand, and needs to be kept nearer the picking stations, the entire operation needs to pause. In a bin-to-person situation, adapting the arrangements cannot be done on the fly.

With Goods-To-Person, everything is in flux, so anything can be changed. If an item type needs to be stored in a different part of the warehouse, a robot can move it there. If a specific section of the warehouse needs to be designated a quarantine zone, that can be accommodated. If particular products become very popular and need to be stored nearer the picking station so they can fly into the hands of couriers much faster, that can be arranged.

Goods-To-Person embraces the concept of flexible robotics in full. When everything is flexible, you get the most efficient system possible.


Maximum efficiency

In a bin-to-person system, the robots can only do one task at once. Moving a singular or small number of bins on the journey from the storage shelves, to the picking station, and back again. That is the only role they do. In this respect, while you have automated the 50-70% of manual pickers’ inter-shelf movement time, you haven’t made that time usage any more efficient. The only change is that movement costs only electricity, not a salary, national insurance, holiday time, health and safety, and all the other staff-related expenses.

With a Goods-To-Person system, the robots can be doing so many different tasks. They can rearrange stock for seasonally adjusted efficiency. They can also be WMS-integrated to respond to demand projections and rearrange the warehouse accordingly. When the warehouse’s picking stations aren’t being manned, Goods-To-Person robots can rearrange the shelves so that everything is stored optimally for the next day’s shift and shipments.

Goods-To-Person offers a wider array of tasks with much less disruption than bin-to-person could ever provide.


Discover the full power of the Goods-To-Person solution

To find out how Goods-To-Person robotics can provide your business with an up to 500% pick rate rise, talk to OW Robotics today. We can arrange a fully socially distanced tour of our demonstration centre, or we can set up a consultation call to discuss this next-generation technology in far more detail.

Whatever your warehouse needs, OWR is ready to bring your business into industry 4.0.

Wise Robotics (UK) Ltd
Newton Court
Saxilby Enterprise Park
Skellingthorpe Road
Saxilby, Lincoln LN1 2LR




Registered in England: Company Reg. No. 12968279 - VAT No. GB362248109









Wise Robotics (UK) Ltd
Newton Court
Saxilby Enterprise Park
Skellingthorpe Road
Saxilby, Lincoln LN1 2LR

Tel: 01522 704083
Email: enquiries@owrobotics.co.uk


Registered in England: Company Reg. No. 12968279 - VAT No. GB362248109 - Terms and Conditions