AS/RS for Garments Boosts Throughput by Factor of 10
The GOH Hive from Planiform stores and picks clothing items with multiple robots while relying on powerful, space-saving automation technologies from Beckhoff
Montreal is a North American fashion capital. For more than a century, the Garment District established the city as a hub of innovation in design, manufacturing and handling of textiles. Planiform was founded in the 1970s to deliver solutions for demanding garment manufacturing and dry-cleaning applications. Just as styles have changed over the past 50 years, Planiform’s conveyance and garment-on-hangar (GOH) systems continued to evolve, increasing automation capabilities to meet new requirements for industrial laundry services and distribution centers.
Planiform’s latest innovation, the GOH Hive™, enables fashion retailers to boost e-commerce efficiencies, according to Charlotte Girod, Director of Sales. In the past, these companies would have one DC for store replenishment and another for e-commerce, but those facilities – and their inventories – are being combined now to support omnichannel retail solutions. The GOH Hive™ is an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) for hanging garments with smart robots for picking, helping operations overcome labor market challenges and seasonal scalability.
“Because of the lack of systems to capably automate garment-on-hanger storage on the market, we designed GOH Hive™ to help distribution centers meet today’s demands,” Girod says. “Most DCs are still working with traditional, one-level racking systems while trying to handle millions of garments. The ideal user is likely processing 100,000-150,000 units per day over three shifts. In these environments, automating the process uses space more efficiently and requires less labor.”
Trendsetting AS/RS efficiency
Traditionally, workers would have to hunt through large warehouses or move entire trolleys to the pick station to induct garments into inventory and go through the process again to retrieve garment for order fulfillment. This can be particularly cumbersome for fashion resale or rental operations, where every item has a different SKU.
With Planiform’s AS/RS, an on-premise server communicates between the warehouse execution system (WES) and the robots via Wi-Fi, according to the Head of the Automation Department at Planiform. The GOH Hive™ uses two types of robots: one to navigate through the racking and a second that receives up to 30 hangers before moving to the operator workstation. The pick stations can work in conjunction with a pouch sorter or other system for the intermediary steps.
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GOH Hive throughput gets rave reviews
The Planiform engineers worked closely with the local Beckhoff Canada team, including Regional Sales Manager Ted Sarazin and Application Specialist Yan Letourneau. From an engineering perspective, the GOH Hive™ required flexible controls and networking technologies, and Beckhoff control hardware, TwinCAT automation software and the EtherCAT industrial Ethernet system helped Planiform optimize the equipment. The hardware needed to be extremely compact to fit the required functionality into small enclosures on the robots.
“We have built an incredibly efficient system that is 10 times faster than traditional methods,” Girod says. “An operator walking aisles and manually picking garments can typically handle 100 units per hour on a traditional system. With assistance from the robotic capabilities of GOH Hive™, that operator can manage about 1,000 units per hour.” This helps distribution centers not only increase throughput, but also scale to accommodate higher demand during peak seasons. Planiform’s first installation was for a major fashion retailer with both an e-commerce and brick-and-mortar presence.
A complete suite of New Automation Technology from Beckhoff assisted in this success. Faster communication and greater functionality in a smaller footprint were just starting points in terms of the advantages. Based on the success of GOH Hive™, Planiform is working to further leverage Beckhoff solutions. The company also plans to upgrade their existing automated carousel solutions using Beckhoff tech to reduce cabling effort and minimize control cabinet requirements.
Fashions change and technologies advance, but as the working relationship between the Planiform and Beckhoff teams proves, great collaboration never goes out of style. Beyond technology, Beckhoff provided responsive automation experts who offered timely assistance, according to the Head of the Automation Department at Planiform: “The engineering support we received from Ted and Yan was incredibly helpful. Beckhoff visited our facilities to help us with development and troubleshooting as needed, so that really gave us the upper hand.”
Interested in boosting performance with flexible automation, networking and motion control tech? Download our brochure on automated storage and retrieval systems.
Chris Bladek is the Marketing Manager for Beckhoff Automation Ltd.