Published by: Emma Lande

Modular A-Frame Piece Picking: Grow your Automation as Business Grows

Image Credit: Nejron Photo /

Order picking isn’t just one of the prime operations in a warehouse, it is the most closely linked to customer satisfaction.  

Late deliveries, wrong picks, damaged orders … are just a few ramifications of a poorly executed order fulfillment system (OFS) that could cost you your clients. For that reason, the fulfillment method you select will be critical to the success of your business. 

If you are just starting out in the supply-chain industry, you most likely lack sufficient longitudinal data to inform your demand forecasting.  Furthermore, you are experiences away from understanding and reacting to the real-time changes in consumer demand.  In such a situation, the combination of capacity planning and a modular OFS is worth its weight in gold.   

While capacity planning drives you to take preemptive actions towards potential bottlenecks, a modular order fulfillment solution positions you to reshape your workspace to accommodate demand fluctuations without the need to make complex infrastructural changes. 

A modular or scalable infrastructure allows you to add, modify or remove modules without disrupting your system’s core functionalities. 

Think of it in terms of a parallel circuit layout, where each bulb represents a module.  

This layout is superior because of the independent functionality of each bulb; one burning out doesn’t break the circuit. Furthermore, the brightness of the bulbs remains approximately constant even with a load increase. 

In the same manner, order fulfillment solutions designed to be horizontally scaled out, like the SI Systems’ Mobile-Matic, provide a fault tolerant environment where modules can be removed for repair, alteration or added without any downtime to the remaining units. Even better, a combination of modular solutions such as the Tompkins Robotics’ sortation t-Sort and the Mobile-Matic can yield a creative versatility that not only introduces new levels of efficiency but also expands capacity utilization to any operation.

Other Advantages of a Scaled-Out Order-Picking System

Efficiencies of Scale:

The modularity of these systems eliminates the possibilities of ‘over- automation’ since units are deployed, when, and only when the sales volumes dictate. Thus, they are handy during promotional and peak demand seasons. They can also be loaned out to busier centers reduce the inefficiencies caused by idling equipment.

Continuity of Operations:
Maintenance downtime is not an issue with OFS architecturally designed to scale-out. You can modify, extend, or remove sections of a modular system without halting production.

Tight Workspaces:
Without much room to play, idle modules can be stored away to make room for other essential operations.  

Since they can be acquired in units, modular systems provide an affordable entry into automation.  Furthermore, they allow you to grow your units as your business grows or budget allows – you can therefore reallocate funds towards value-adding services instead of automation tools that you are not ready for. 

Emma Lande is the marketing and business development manager at SI Systems.

This is a revised version of an article that first appeared in THOMAS


Are you ready to automate your order picking?

With more than 60 years of automating warehousing, product assembly and distribution centers, SI Systems has the expertise and foresight to help you plan your facility. 

Our A-Frame order fulfillment solutions remain an integral component of the supply-chain systems for pharmaceutical and CPG giants such as Revlon, CVS, Rite Aid, Humana, and Kaiser Permanente.   

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