Automated filling of shelves in retail

In warehouses or in large logistics companies, automated shelving systems in which the distribution of goods is carried out fully automatically are frequently used. Until now it has not been possible to automatically fill or sort shelves automatically in retail.

At the Institute for Materials Handling and Logistics at the University of Stuttgart, a storage and retrieval system has now been developed that makes it possible to automatically place and rearrange goods in retail businesses. This means that shelf stocking can take place outside opening hours without affecting customers.

Until now, automated shelving systems, which either maneuver on rails on the floor or with vertical rails on the selves themselves, were mainly used. Prof. Karl-Heinz Wehking and his team have now developed a storage and retrieval system, which is fixed horizontally under the ceiling out of the way during shop opening hours and can then be used outside of the opening hours to rearrange and sort the goods. The invention consists of the newly developed picker and a tray with precisely fitting recesses for the picking equipment.

The picking system is automatically pivoted to the vertical operating position in front of the shelves. The goods are made available on special trays and placed on pallets or wire mesh carts next to the respective shelves. The picker identifies the products using reader equipment and sorts them at the respective place on the shelves.

Handling foods is made possible using special goods trays whose recesses on the underside are formed complementarily to the receiving elements of the picking equipment. The trays have a honeycomb structure, which provide a high degree of stability despite their lightweight construction. They can be made cost-effectively from paper or paper-composite materials. They are light, durable and recyclable.

The pickers take up the trays, secure them from falling down, for example with fixable rollers or extendable bolts and loosen the securement again after the goods have been placed on the shelf. Using the reader device, the goods are then sorted, for example according to shelf life.

After filling the shelf, the picker system pivots back up to its starting position and is brought to the next shelf via its resting position under the ceiling.

As the rearranging and commissioning of goods using the storage and retrieval system is also possible during the night, meaning that customers are not disturbed, the picking equipment has already aroused the interest of several companies. Another advantage: Expensive manual commissioning is no longer required, something which reduces logistics costs at the individual branches.

The storage and retrieval system is particularly suitable for commissioning and shelf stocking in retail as well as in distribution centers.

The developments have been internationally patented. European patent has been granted. Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovation. TLB has been commissioned by the university with the global business implementation of this pioneering technology and offers companies possibilities to cooperate and license the patents.

For more detailed information, please contact Dr.-Ing. Hubert Siller (hsiller(at), Innovation Manager, TLB GmbH.