Picking Lab

Picklist, MDE, Voice & Co.: Evaluation of picking technologies and logistics IT for warehouse management

What is the Picking Lab?

The Picking Lab is a miniature warehouse for order picking that was built up in research project »Center of Excellence Logistics and IT« at Fraunhofer IML in Dortmund. It is used to evaluate picking technologies and warehouse management systems, focusing on the person-to-goods picking principle and process-related workflows. Using real-world scenarios, the lab enables a comparison of technologies in a standardised hands-on environment. Since picking activities can be carried out with different information technologies, such as pick list and scanner, pick-by-voice or smart glasses, the Picking Lab is intended to support technology selection in companies. The Picking Lab's target group includes both companies that use and offer technologies and logistics IT systems.

How is the Picking Lab set up?

In order to create realistic and standardised test conditions for the simulation of typical intralogistics areas such as e-commerce, small parts picking or load handling, shelves have been set up with various small load carriers and cartons to represent a wide range of items. In the Picking Lab, lightweight small parts, such as screws, can be picked with the picking trolley or heavy, rather voluminous items, such as tool cases, can be picked onto a pallet. All items on the shelves are stored in small carriers, hangers, or compartments according to their characteristics. Electronic labels on the shelves are used to identify the shelves and allow for future development to the pick-by-light system. The Picking Lab is equipped with a cloud-based warehouse management system (WMS) to which the IT of the picking technologies are connected via an interface. The lab is designed to evaluate the picking technologies and warehouse management systems regarding ergonomic and objective performance criteria.

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Which picking technologies are available?

Based on the enterprise network of Fraunhofer IML, various picking technologies have been implemented. In addition to pick-by-voice and various pick-by-scan systems, pick lists, tablet PC, and other mobile devices are available. The partners of the Picking Lab are: the WMS provider Logistics Reply GmbH, the WMS and pick-by-voice provider proLogistik GmbH + Co KG, the ePaper and pick-by-light provider ekko GmbH and the provider of storage and operational equipment BITO-Lagertechnik Bittmann GmbH, which has also set up a similar testing center. The Chair of Materials Handling and Warehousing at TU Dortmund is also a project partner for exchanging ideas on order picking topics. One goal is to integrate additional technologies and logistics IT. 

What is the objective of the picking lab?

The slogan of the Picking Lab is »Technology, Transfer and Training« and it addresses the three project goals. For example, classic picking lists, scanners and mobile devices are compared with modern technologies such as smart glasses, pick-by-voice systems or pick-by- light technology. In addition, mechanical assistance systems aimed at reducing the physical stress of workers- the so-called passive and active exoskeletons are tested regardless of the manufacturer. Both research and industry benefit from the use of the Picking Lab. In cooperation with the Chair of Materials Handling and Warehousing at TU Dortmund, an evaluation model for different picking technologies is being created. In order to ensure that the results of the studies carried out are directly incorporated into research, Fraunhofer IML also cooperates with various research institutes in the region. Finally, the Picking Lab operates as a transfer platform for all kinds of target groups and is open to the general public in the form of guided tours or transfer days.

Who should be addressed by the Picking Lab?

In addition to research, the industry also benefits from the Picking Lab and the research results. Together with the Fraunhofer IML, hardware and software manufacturers can test and further develop the suitability of their hardware as well as the functions and capabilities of their software. Companies also have the opportunity to test the development of the research partners or their own development and get a decision-making basis for suitable hardware and software in their picking warehouse. Besides, businesses can organize visit and customer days or workshops on site in the Picking Lab and exhibit their products. After all, the Picking Lab also offers interested people from the industry the chance to try out different technologies and enables »further education for everyday users«. Training sessions with employees are an additional opportunity to learn about the processing and use of picking technologies. 

What characterises the Picking Lab?

The Picking Lab enables a holistic view of picking and both cognitive and physical ergonomics as well as organisational ergonomics, the study of picking in different areas of intralogistics, hardware and software testing and finally combines research results with practical experience in the industry. The Picking Lab which was opened as part of the »Center of Excellence Logistics and IT« project, is part of a test course in the Exoskeleton lab.

Publications on the subject

Hirsch-Kreinsen, H., ten Hompel, M. & Kretschmer, V. (2019). Digitalisierung industrieller Arbeit. In: ten Hompel, M., Vogel-Heuser, B., Bauernhansl, T. (eds) Handbuch Industrie 4.0. Springer Reference Technik. Springer Vieweg, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-45537-1_21-2
Kretschmer, V.; Wings, L.; Kinne, S. (2023). Das Picking Lab – Technologie, Transfer und Training für die Kommissionierung. 69. Frühjahrskongress der Gesellschaft für Arbeitswissenschaft e. V. (GfA) 2022 „Nachhaltig Arbeiten und Lernen - Analyse und Gestaltung lernförderlicher und nachhaltiger Arbeitssysteme und Arbeits- und Lernprozesse“, 1.-3. März 2023, Dortmund: GfA-Press.
Kretschmer, V. (2020). Die Rolle des Menschen in der digitalen Arbeitswelt: Erkenntnisse industrienaher Forschungsprojekte am Beispiel der Logistik. In: Herbstkonferenz der Gesellschaft für Arbeitswissenschaft e. V. (GfA) 2020 »Stellenwert menschlicher Arbeit im Zeitalter der digitalen Transformation«, 17.-18. September 2020, Dortmund: GfA-Press.
Rinkenauer, G., Reiser, J.E., Renker, J. & Kretschmer, V. (2021) Intralogistik im Zeitalter des digitalen Wandels: Arbeitsanforderungen und psychische Beanspruchung in der Kommissionierung am Beispiel eines Unternehmens aus dem E-Commerce-Bereich. Zeitschrift für Arbeitswissenschaft 75, 266–281. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41449-021-00285-4
Spee, D. & Kretschmer, V. (2018). Kognitive Ergonomie: Der Mensch - eingebunden in die Logistik 4.0. HUSS-VERLAG GmbH. https://www.huss-shop.de/item/Kognitive-Ergonomie.html
Wings, L. M., von Preetzmann, T. & Kretschmer, V. (2021). Markt- und Anwendungsstudie zum Digitalisierungsgrad der personellen Ressourcenplanung in der Intralogistik. Logistics Journal: Proceedings. https://doi.org/10.2195/lj_Proc_wings _de_202112_01
Wings, L. M., von Preetzmann, T. & Rapatz, V. (2021). RPS-Studie – Softwaregestützte Planung personeller Ressourcen im Lager. https://doi.org/10.24406/iml-n-642366

Cognitive Ergnomics

Logistic IT-Systems

Exoskeletons - Helpful
Equipments in the
Logistics 4.0