A horizontal carousel is a goods-to-person material handling device that moves shelves with product to an operator. As the name implies, a horizontal carousel moves horizontally, similar to how a merry-go-round spins, and most applications involve multiple units feeding each operator.
Imagine two or three dry cleaning carousels with baskets hanging from them, all bringing goods to the same operator. The operator can pick from multiple baskets simultaneously, usually directed by lights that indicate the right items and quantity. That means operators can pick hundreds of line items an hour and multiple work orders at one time.
Horizontal carousels have a wide range of applications
Horizontal carousels can be used for both internal and external distribution processes. For example, horizontal carousels can improve the efficiency, accuracy, and speed of internal kit making. They are also widely used inside manufacturing facilities for filling orders that are distributed externally to customers.
A brief history of the horizontal carousel
White Systems was founded in 1946 and by the 1960s, it was the world’s leading manufacturer of garment storage conveyors for dry cleaners, laundries, and apparel producers. In fact, most of the horizontal garment storage conveyor systems in use at dry cleaners even today were built by White Systems. Over time, the company evolved to use its conveyor mechanism to drive bins and totes for warehouse storage. These machines were the early versions of what we now know as horizontal carousel storage and distribution systems. The internal mechanisms of today’s horizontal carousels are integrated with computer systems to create sophisticated automated solutions for inventory management and distribution.
Horizontal carousels are in demand as e-commerce applications grow
The technology behind horizontal carousels is tried and true, and over the years, it had been adapted to a variety of new business environments. Most recently, there has been a surge of demand due to the rise of omni-channel distribution centers. These facilities serve as e-commerce hubs, shipping not only to stores, but also directly to customers. That means that at omni-channel distribution centers, the volume of picks is increasing, while the order size is decreasing. At the same time, e-commerce retailers are judged by how fast, and how cost-effectively, they can fulfill orders and ship them out the door. Horizontal carousels are gaining in popularity because they can improve the efficiency, accuracy, and speed of inventory management and distribution.