Automatic consolidation buffers are frequently used for the shipment consolidation of totes, especially in zone-to-zone picking systems. As realized at Winkler or Brütsch-Rüegger, totes with completed orders are collected to transport them to the shipping department later. Reasons for this are on the one hand orders comprising several totes which shall be packed together, but are picked independently of each other (due to volume calculation or decentralized order start) and on the other hand orders which extend over several storage areas (e.g. parts from a shelf storage system and parts from a pallet storage system) and thus the system parts have to wait for each other. In addition to the temporary storage, the consolidation buffer thus represents a waiting position as well. The management and control of an automatic consolidation buffer is the same as for the aisle of an automatic small parts warehouse. A multiple load handling device used in most cases is able to accommodate several totes simultaneously and thus make available very quickly an order when removing products from the stock. With the multiple-deep storage, the order totes are held together by orders such that actually several totes can be made available by one single load handling device cycle. Sometimes automatic consolidation buffers are equipped with an additional processing position to be able to make additions to already existing totes - e.g. if goods missing for an order arrive in the goods receiving area. This reduces warehouse movements and saves time.
The automatic consolidation buffer balances up peaks
A positive side effect of the automatic consolidation buffer consists also in levelling out the supply of totes to the packing stations. If, at certain times, order picking delivers more totes than can be processed in the packaging area (even orders consisting of one tote), these totes are stored in the automatic consolidation buffer until the corresponding capacities become available. This way, the packing station control system balances out and smoothes waves. Furthermore, automatic consolidation buffers allow pre-picking orders, i.e. preparing large orders or orders with still missing material already in advance which are waiting for completion or additions. This requires, of course, a corresponding buffer capacity. This way, orders not yet due can fill gaps in the order picking process and be picked in a distributed way to make them available just in time.