Businesses evolve… or else; and so must the tools that make your business successful. It may come as a surprise that one of the most evolved warehousing tools of today is carton flow rack, but in fact, carton flow is being used to solve a multitude of warehousing needs. It has evolved into a multi-functional, super-product to better equip facilities to meet the changing and ever-growing demands such as, e-commerce, just-in-time inventory, and SKU proliferation, to name just a few.
The carton flow of the past was individual lanes of relatively generic wheeled track. In concept, carton flow hasn’t changed much… it’s still a dynamic inventory storage method with rear aisle loading that flows product to a front pick-face… but, the manufacturing, materials and accessories that comprise this product line have come a long way. Today, carton flow rack can be designed to meet very specific needs for carton, case and tote inventory, and configured around picking methods and warehousing climate.
There are several major manufacturers of carton flow racking and each has their own nuanced product lines, but the two major product offerings are carton flow rails and full-bad carton flow.
Types of Carton Flow:
- Carton Flow Rails are Individual lanes of carton flow comprised of either wheels or rollers that attach to the carton flow shelf frame or pallet rack beam.
- Wheeled carton flow can have steel or heavy-duty composite wheels depending on intended use, warehousing climate, and inventory weight.
- Full roller carton flow comes in a variety of widths and roller centers to accommodate light, medium and heavy inventory.
- Roller track carton flow is comprised of wheeled tracks mounted on a bed as opposed to directly on the rack or shelf beam. Roller track is a quick, economical solution for stand-alone carton flow or in-rack solutions.
- Full-bed Carton Flow turns a pallet rack bay into carton storage for full, split-case or each picking. It’s all made easy with drop-in wheeled tracks that create a full shelf bed. Shelves are designed to sit raised or flush depending on your inventory needs. Full-bed carton flow is an excellent option for changing inventory shapes, sizes and configurations.
Carton Flow Rack Applications:
- Pick modules – where pallet racking is transformed into multi-level, ergonomic picking stations. The separate load and pick aisles are a benefit for most picking operations to reduce travel and minimize traffic in busy zones. With the reserve storage right in the lane, the pick face is automatically replenished which increases pick rates and aides in faster cycle times. Pick modules can be found on ground floors or mezzanine
- Floor level, in-rack carton flow can eliminate expensive dead space taken up by partially full pallets. The added benefit is an increase in the number of pick locations. This is a great solution for partial pick or slow-moving inventory.
- Stand-alone carton flow can be setup as static or even mobile units to handle temporary inventory such as seasonal SKU fulfillment. It’s easy to assemble and/or reconfigure making it an economical solution to using more expensive pallet space.
Now at the beginning we called carton flow a “super product” and just like any super hero… carton flow is only made better with creative and useful accessories. The carton flow manufacturers have put a lot of effort and engineering behind ways to adapt carton flow for nearly any type of racking, packaging, picking methods and technologies, etc. Here are a few of the more common accessories:
Customized Carton Flow Accessories:
- Load-side “impact” trays protect wheels or rollers from the initial drop of the inventory onto the carton flow (see image above right). The inventory is loaded onto the impact tray then slid onto the rollers for a gentler impact which will prolong the use of your carton flow and minimize any downtime for damaged part replacement.
- Pick-side trays pair with the carton flow rack so that the inventory simply slides forward onto the tray. Trays can be flat or knuckled (angled) to enable better ergonomic picking, and to make cartons easier to see which then improves pick rates and accuracy.
- Layback frames are designed to provide greater access to front cartons for easier each picking. The slanted frame allows the shelves to gently slope back exposing the front carton position on all levels. Take a look at the drawing and photo below – both show the slanted frame design with staggered shelves on all levels.
- Entry Guides and Lane Dividers – a variety of entry guides and lane dividers are available for load or pick-side use to help define inventory lanes and make SKUs faster to load and/or easier to identify quickly. Full-length dividers are useful for tall or awkward products or when 100% product separation is required such as in pharmaceuticals or medical devices.
There’s a lot of information here, we know. But, do you have a warehousing need that just might be smarter, faster and better handled with the addition of carton flow? The Apex Team is familiar with the many aspects of carton flow and we work with the best, most trusted manufacturers. We’d be happy to talk with you to see if we can use this super tool to help fulfill your inventory needs, just give us a call today.