US 3786944 A
An article retrieval system includes an operator carrying picking vehicle for batch picking of customer orders in a warehouse. The vehicle includes a labeler supplied with a sequence of individual labels for positioning on each article picked. Each label includes article storage location, quantity and destination information and display means are provided for displaying this label information to the operator. A tape includes sorting information recorded thereon for each article to be picked and is synchronized with the sequence of labels placed in the labeler. A tape playback mechanism controls destination coding apparatus such that an article picked by the operator will leave the vehicle with both a label and sorting indicia thereon. The sorting information on the tape is also displayed to the operator to provide a check for synchronization between the tape and the sequence of labels. The articles are then routed via an accumulation conveyor to a sorting area where the sorting indicia is detected to control the diverting of articles to predetermined destination areas.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent n91 Daigle et al.
[451 Jan. 22, 1974 1 APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR APPLYING LABELS T0 ARTICLES IN A WAREHOUSE SYSTEM  Inventors: Jack R. Daigle, Grand Rapids;
James D. Habegger, Middleville, both of Mich.
 Assignee: Rapistan, Incorporated, Grand Rapids, Mich.
221 Filed: Sept. 28, 1972 21 Appl. No.: 292,958
Primary ExaminerGerald M. Forlenza Assistant Examiner-R. B. Johnson 7 Attorney, Agent, or F irm- Price, Heneveld, Huizenga & Cooper  ABSTRACT An article retrieval system includes an operator carrying picking vehicle for batch picking of customer orders in a warehouse. The vehicle includes a labeler supplied with a sequence of individual labels for positioning on each article picked. Each label includes article storage location, quantity and destination information and display means are provided for displaying this label information to the operator. A tape includes sorting information recorded thereon for each article to be pickedand is synchronized with the sequence of labels placed in the labeler. A tape playback mechanism controls destination coding apparatus such that an article picked by the operator will leave the vehicle with both a label and sorting indicia thereon. The sorting information on the tape is also displayed to the operator to provide a check for synchronization between the tape and the sequence of labels. The articles are then routed via an accumulation conveyor to a sorting area where the sorting indicia is detected to control the diverting of articles to predetermined destination areas.
12 Claims, 9 Drawing Figures PAIENTI-ID 3. 786,944
SHEET 1 or 6 94 9G 4 as CARTON 9a 97 $7 86 I 10 I LABELER CORNER CORNER I WITH TV LA 5 ae x CAMERA I B L I CODERI comma I 0/ 0/ I VEHICLE I 55 DIGITAL 4-4 I DISPLAY I5 I TV so I 8o 4s I 52 f I I I 21 I as I TAPE I. I I READER I I FIGJ TAPE LABELS I SI SORT QTY come I 29 I ZOLS I 32 VIOOE/ I CARTON 2095 6 I IOOD' 'D 51 2on5 o 8I IOOC a 6 I I I o o B\\ 2.0R5 SI I CODERI I I cobERz 3 ,95? 5 I A' I I a I 87654'52I I soRT CODE BAY I LEVEL AISLE SIA SIB FIG. 7
PATENTED JAN 2 2 I974 sum 2 or g IIIIIPIII FIG.2 A
PAIENTEU JAN 22 I974 SHEET 5 BF 6 JAN 221974 Y WENTED 3,786,944
SHEET HF g e5 7 VIDEO TV CRCUlTS MONHOR A SWEEP 1 ovmcs] v SYNC. 62
eeuamo A I2 126 /|aa I 7 I50 SENSOR LABEL 293g CONTR T c T u OF 44 IRCUI STOCK BENSOR- J I45 SENSOR 4o mama. TAPE DISPLAY 7 30 READER CONTROL cmcun. CODER s5 I 1o SENSOR -cooE 9e CODER ELVNEQSLR DIVERTER READER CIRCUIT DWERTER APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR APPLYING LABELS TO ARTICLES IN A WAREHOUSE SYSTEM BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates to an article picking system for use in batch picking of customer orders for articles stored in a warehouse.
In retrieving articles stored in a warehousing system with a plurality of storage locations positioned in various rows and columns, it has long been recognized that batch picking (i.e., the picking of multiple customer orders at the same time) is more efficient than individual order picking. This results since the picking vehicle can remain at a given location and pick several orders before shifting to a new location instead of moving from location to location as required when filling a single order at a time. When, however, batch picking is employed, it becomes necessary to place identifying indicia on each article picked which will identify the destination of the articles so they can later be sorted to different destination areas.
Various systems have been proposed for providing the operator of a picking car with picking information which indicates to the operator the storage bin location of the articles to be picked, as well as the number of articles to be picked from that location. Additionally, picking cars have included labelers thereon for labeling a carton as it is picked. US. Pat. No. 3,379,321 issued Apr. 23, 1968 to S. M. Weir is representative of such systems. In some of these systems, sorting information is placed directly on the relatively small label and is also relied upon to provide sorting indicia for actuating sorting controls used to divert batch picked articles to their predetermined destination points. Such systems, however, have not proven reliable in use with picking and sorting sytems which handle relatively large volumes of articles and have large through-put capacities. One reason for the difficulties with prior systems which combine sorting and label information is that if a single link in the chain of applicating or detecting unit fails, the entire system may be disabled causing a back-up of articles which must then be manually labeled and/or sorted until the equipment is repaired. The system of the present invention separates the labeling and sorting processes with components less likely to fail, and provides back-up units which can maintain the throughput of articles in the event of a breakdown of one of the components.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Apparatus embodying the present invention includes a picking vehicle adapted to be movably positioned within a warehouse for carrying an operator thereon to various storage locations for manually picking stored articles and placing them on a conveyor bed of the picking vehicle. A labeling apparatus including display means provides the operator with picking location information and number of articles to be picked information and applies a label to each article. Tape reading apparatus is provided with a tape programmed with sorting information for each article which is synchronized with the sequence of labels employed with the labeling apparatus. The tape information controls coding apparatus positioned on the picking vehicle such that each article will receive destination code indicia as it leaves the picking car and is transferred to a sorting area.
The sorting area includes means for identifying the destination indicia on each article and for diverting each article to a preassigned destination chute corresponding to the unique destination code thereon.
It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved batch picking system employing a labeler and destination coder means positioned on a picking vehicle.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a picking vehicle with prerecorded sorting destination information which is synchronized with a sequence of article labels employed with a labeling apparatus positioned on the picking vehicle and which controls sorting indicia applying means also positioned on the vehicle.
An additional object of the present invention is to provide a picking vehicle with automatic sort coding means thereon and a semi-automatic back-up system.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a picking vehicle with labeler and sort coding means thereon and to display article label information including article picking location, quantity to be picked, and destination information for each article to be picked.
These and other objects of the present invention will become apparent upon reading the following specification together with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of the article picking apparatus of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a picking vehicle embodying the present invention. FIG. 2 is divided into a segment ZA showing the main body of the picking vehicle and a segment 28 showing an output conveyor associated therewith;
FIG. 3 is an enlarged perspective view of the picking vehicle showing the relative position of the various components;
FIG. 4 is an enlarged perspective view of the automatic labeling mechanism employed with the apparatus of the present invention;
FIG. 5 is an enlarged perspective view of the sort destination code applying apparatus employed with the picking vehicle embodying the present invention;
FIG. 6 is a schematic view of the portion of the labels which is displayed to the operator and corresponding synchronized segments of a prerecorded tape employed with the apparatus of the present invention;
FIG. 7 is a schematic view of a carton with one of the several possible sort destination code combinations thereon; and
FIG. 8 is an electrical circuit diagram in block form showing the control circuits for the apparatus embodying the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring now in detail to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, the preferred embodiment of this system includes a warehousing area indicated generally by the reference numeral 10. A series of aisles 11 extend therethrough bounded on either side by article receiving racks 12. The racks are divided into individual bays 13 into which the articles are placed for storage and picking in palatized units. Each of the bays or select grouping of bays will contain cartons of a specific product and the location of that product within the warehouse may be referred to by bay number, level, and aisle side. Thus, an operator of a picking vehicle such as unit can locate a given article once given this information.
The picking vehicle 15 comprises a wheeled base member 16 powered by suitable reversible motor and drive unit 17. Ordinarily, the picking vehicle will be guided along the aisles of the warehousing system by tracks or the like (not shown). A verticle column 18 extends upwardly from the base 16 and supports a vertically movable picking car 20 including an operator platform 21 having a protective cage 22 thereover. Lifting mechanism 24 including a reversible motor is provided for raising and lowering the picking car on the vertical column such that the operator can position the picking platform with respect to any desiredstorage bay in the warehouse. Operator control of the vehicle 15 is provided by means of a suitable control panel 26 positioned on the picking car.
Also positioned on the picking car 20 is a receiving platform 28 which comprises a plurality of freewheeling rollers which permits the operator to transfer a carton 29 manually removed from a predetermined storage bin and momentarily rest the carton on the receiving platform. Extending adjacent and perpendicular to the receiving platform is a conveyor 30 which includes powered roller or belt sections for transferring the cartons along the conveyor past a labeling unit 40, a vertically movable case stop 60, and a pair of corner coding units 7.0, 70 which are reflective tape applicators, and finally onto an inclined output conveyor 80.
The conveyor 30 includes a skewed powered roller section 32 which, once the operator has positioned a carton from the receiving platform onto the input end 31 of the conveyor 30, shifts the carton into abutment against a front surface 42 of the labeling unit 40. The case stop 60, which is normally in its raised position, holds the carton in alignment with the labeler until, as described below, a label is applied to the carton at which time the case stop retracts thereby permitting the powered conveyor 30 to transport the carton along the conveyor line and into contact with the first and second code applicators 70 and 70' respectively. Suitable support brackets 34 support the end of the conveyor 30 remote from the picking car 20 in a cantilevered fashion and drive means (not shown) is positioned within the conveyor bed 36 to power the movable conveyor during the use of the picking vehicle.
The output conveyor 80 (FIG. 2) is an elevated conveyor including a powered belt section 82 having an input end 81 pivotally coupled at 83 to the remote end 38 of conveyor 30. The opposite end of section 82 couples to a powered curve 84 which transfers articles onto an accumulation conveyor 86 shown schematically in FIG. 2B. The pivotable elevator conveyor 80 and curve 84 are movably supported on overhead tracks 85 (shown schematically in FIG. 28), by means of a trolley assembly 87. The discharge end 89 of the powered section 84 is therefore free to move along the aisle 1 l with the picking vehicle, the height variations of the picking car being accommodated by the pivotable coupling of the elevator conveyor 80 to conveyor 30.
Once on the accumulation conveyor 86, cartons from the picking vehicle shown, as well as other picking vehicles, illustrated in block form as 15 in FIG. 1, enter a sorting area 90 (FIG. 1) which includes a sliding belt conveyor 92 having a code indicia reader 94 at the input end 93 thereof. The reader 94, as described below, detects the unique sort code positioned on each carton and actuates a plurality of diverters 96 positioned downstream conveyor 92 from the reader 94. The diverters actuate gate means 97 for diverting the cartons to preselected output chutes 98 whereupon the cartons for an individual shipment are gathered together for shipment.
The sorting area 90 may include a plurality of diverters 96, eight being employed in the preferred embodiment, although only two are shown in FIG. 1. Additionally, several picking vehicles 15 can be employed with a single accumulation conveyor 80 such that the entire warehousing system can be serviced with a single accumulation conveyor extending through the warehouse and communicating with an output conveyor of each of the picking vehicles to transport labeled and coded cartons therefrom to the sorting area. The conveyors maintain the aligned relationship of the cartons such that the applied sort code will be generally properly oriented when the cartons enter the sorting area and can thereby be detected by the reader 94.
In addition to the labeler and the corner coding apparatus 70 and 70, the picking car includes thereon a tape reader positioned to be easily accessible by an operator so that tapes 51 with prerecorded sort code information can be placed in the reader 50. A television monitor 45 is also positioned at eye level on the picking car 20 and, as described below, displays to the operator information from a pair of adjacent labels before their application to a carton. Also mounted on the picking car adjacent the TV. monitor 45 is a digital dis play adapted to display sorting code information from the tape reader 50 as described in detail below.
A pair of photoelectric sensors 43 and 44 are positioned above the labeler 40 to detect the aligned presence of a carton against surface 42 of the labeler and provide signals for actuating the labeler once a carton is so positioned. A photoelectric carton sensor 62 is also positioned on the conveyor downstream from the case stop to provide signals indicative of the release by the case stop of a carton and the movement of a carton from the labeling area to the coding area. The function of these sensors will be explained in greater detail below together with a description of the overall operation of the system.
The labeler employed with the apparatus of the present invention is shown in detail in FIG. 4 and comprises a modified Tuck Automatic Labeler, Model No. A-2 unit which is commercially available from the W. Ralston Company, Inc. Basically, the labeler comprises a label holding and dispensing chute 46 adapted to receive a plurality of preprinted labels 100 which are releaseably affixed to a strip of backing material 110. The labels and strip are folded in convolutions and placed in the chute 46 with the leading edge of the tape structure threaded around a plurality of guide rollers 48 and then downwardly to the label applicating area 49. It is noted that the front surface 42 of the cover for the labeler 40 includes an aperture 41 therein which permits a label applicating pad 52 to extend through wall 42 and contact a carton. Pad 52 includes a plurality of apertures therein (not shown) which are coupled to a vacuum pump 54 which operates to hold a label on the applicating pad once the label is peeled from the backing material 1 10. The separation of the label takes place as the backing material is returned upwardly to a take-up reel 59 over a knife edge 53.
The label applicating pad 52 is attached to an electrically operated ram 54 comprising a rod which is slidably mounted within a sleeve block 56 mounted to the frame of the labeler. Ram 54 is actuated by means of an electrical solenoid 58 coupled to an end of the rod remote from pad 52. Positioned on the labeler 40 adjacent and slightly above the pad 52 is a label detecting switch 57 which detects the gap 102 between individual labels and provides a control signal utilized as explained below.
In addition to the conventional label applicating structure of labeler 40, the labeler includes a television camera 65 positioned on the labeler such that the lens 66 of the camera scans the left portion of a pair of labels (A and B in FIG. 4) which are adjacent labels to be successively applied to the next and the succeeding carton positioned adjacent the labeler. A sweep and sync pulse generator 62(FIG. 8) supplies the camera with these necessary drive signals. A light source 68 is positioned to illuminate the labels to provide sufficient light for the camera operation. By using the camera, in-
formation printed on the left portion of the label can be displayed by means of the T.V. monitor 45 coupled to the camera 65 via conventional video processing circuits 63 (FIG. 8) to indicate to the operator information relating to the next two cartons to be picked including their location within the warehouse, the quantity to be picked, and the sort destination of each. The labels are printed such that similar items for different shipments will be on adjacent label sequences to effectively utilize the batch picking process.
One of the identical corner coders employed for providing sort destination indicia which is applied to the carton on-the-fly as it travels along the conveyor past the coders is shown in FIG. 5. The corner coders 70 and 70 are commercially available units manufactured by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, Model No. RP 303 with digital elevator mechanisms. Each coder comprises a head assembly 72 vertically movable on a pair of shafts 74 mounted to a base structure 75 which is attached to the side of the conveyor bed 36. The head assembly 72 includes an applicating arm 73 extending outwardly thereof for applying a strip of reflective tape 76 threaded over the arm and having an adhesive outer surface to a carton. The applicating arm extends over the conveyor to contact a carton as it passes thereby and when actuated, will automatically position a piece of the reflective tape 76 on a predetermined vertical position on the carton as it passes the corner coder.
The head assembly 72 is vertically moved by means of a cylinder 78 which is actuated by valves 79 for shifting the head assembly between discrete upper and lower positions. With the two corner coders therefore, four unique vertically spaced coding areas are available on the cartons. By selectively programming the two corner coding units to provide one or two strips of reflective tape on the four available positions, eight unique sorting codes are provided as seen in FIG. 7. By
' adding additional coding units, this number can be expanded as required in particular installations.
OPERATION Having described the various structural components of the system, a description of the overall operation of the system is now presented. The operator places a roll of preprinted labels 100(FIG. 4) and a corresponding roll of prepunched tape 51 (FIG. 6) with the sorting code information thereon into the labeling apparatus and the tape reader respectively. As seen in FIG. 6, each of the discrete tape locations corresponds to an individual label. The labels and tape are printed and punched respectively in a sequential manner such that the corresponding labels and tape positions will be in the same sequence as they are fed through the labeler and reader respectively. 1
The labeler and tape reader are advanced to a position at which information on the first two labels is displayed on the television monitor 45 while simultaneously the digital display 55 displays the corresponding sort location information from the tape. The television display provides the operator with information, as seen in FIG. 6, as to the storage location of the item being picked, the quantity of the items to be picked, and the sort location or destination for the items. The digital display provides sort location information from the tape and is used as an operator check to insure that the tapes and labels are synchronized. The primary function of the tape reader, however, is to program the corner coders and 70.
FIG. 6 shows the portions of the labels which are displayed by the T.V. monitor and the corresponding sort location information which can be apertures punched into'the paper tape 51. It is seen that the portion of label A displayed relates to an article or carton stored in bay 20 and the operator is to pick from the right side of the picking car at level 5. Two items remain to be picked and they are to be sorted to a destination chute identified as number 3. Once the operator has picked one of these articles and positioned it on the conveyor 30 for automatic labeling and coding, and the label has been applied to the article, the labels and the tape are synchronously advanced to the next position, as described below, and portions of labels 1008 and 100C are displayed by the T.V. monitor while the digital display indicates the sort location.
Label 100B is the last carton of the shipment to destination 3 while label 100C represents the initiation of a two-unit shipment of the same articles to a destination 6. After the two articles for destination 6 have been picked, labeled, and coded, a portion of labels 100E and the subsequent labels (not shown) will be advanced and displayed on the T.V. monitor. At this point, the operator is to begin picking a different article which is located on the left side of the aisle and is destined for sort location 1. It is seen that there are six articles in this shipment to be picked by the operator.
Tape 51 includes left and right sides 51A and 51B respectively for storing the sort code information which is punched in side 51A and new location information which is punched in the side 518. Thus, when the operator is to move to a new location for picking, an aperture such as 510 in the section 51B of the tape and in alignment with the destination code information for label 100E, is detected by the tape reader 50 and actuates an indicator light '65 on the picking car thereby providing an additional signal to the operator which indicates that the picking location has changed.
Returning now to the overall description of the operation of the system, the operator will, having the necessary picking information for the first article to be picked, control the picking vehicle to move to the desired picking location indicated on the T.V. monitor. The operator then begins picking the number of cartons indicated. Once the operator places a carton on the conveyor 30, it is fed to the label area and abuts the normally raised casev stop 60. Photocell detectors 43 and 44 detect the presence of the carton and apply control signals to the label control circuit 120 (FIG. 8) when the two detectors sense the carton. Two detectors are employed to insure the label receiving face 29' (FIG. 7) of the carton 29 is flush against the surface 42 (FIG. 3) of the labeler before actuating the labeler.
Upon the coincident interruption of light beams associated with the detectors 43, 44; control circuit 120 develops a control signal which is applied to the labeler solenoid 58 (FIGS. 4 and 8) via conductor 122 and to a label advancing unit 125 via conductor 126 to advance the first label onto pad 52 and then actuate ram 54 to supply a label to the carton. Upon the return stroke of the ram, a limit switch 127 (FIG. 8) on the labeler provides a signal to the label control circuit 120 via conductor 128. The label control circuit responds to the signal from switch 127 to generate a signal applied to the case stop 60 by means of conductor 130 to actuate the stop to release the labeled carton.
It is noted here that the label advance unit 125 is automatically turned off by means of sensor 57 which is coupled to the label control circuit 120 to inactivate the advance signal on line 126 once the label gap 102 has been detected. As the label is applied, the label control circuit 120 applies a control signal to the tape reader 50 by means of conductor 132 to advance the tape 51 within the reader to the next location corresponding to the next or second label.
During the time when the labeler is being actuated, the tape reader 50 applies a signal to the corner coder control circuit 140 to program the corner coders 70 and 70', as well as providing a signal to the digital display unit 55 which indicates the sort code information to the operator. Since the tape 1 advances with the actuation of labeler 40, and the carton passes the coders when the label and tape information being read is for the next carton, control circuit 140 includes storage means which operates to delay the new information from programming the coders until the preceding carton has been coded. This insures that the applied coding will always correspond to the label applied to the carton. Thus, the coders are programmed from.the stored information while new information is being read into the storage circuit. A photodetector 68 (FIGS. 1 and 8) positioned at the end of the conveyor 30 (i.e., downstream from the coders) is employed to clear the old coding information and shift the new programming information into use once the carton has cleared the picking car.
In the event that the articles to be picked are out of stock, the operator will actuate an out of stock switch 145 which is located on the picking car (FIG. 3) and which applies a signal to the label control circuit 120 and the coder control circuit 140 to accomplish two functions. First, the labeler and tape reader are actuated to clear the labels from the labeler and advance the tape to the next different article to be picked. The operator manually removes the articles from the pad 52 as the labeler is actuated and places the out of stock labels on a suitable storage area such as a scroll 146 (FIG. 3) on the picking vehicle for later use for restocking the articles. During this period of time, the
second function performed by actuating the out of stock switch is to inhibit the programming of the comer coders'70 and and the actuation of case stop 60 thereby eliminating needless motion of these devices.
When a carton is present in storage and has been picked and automatically labeled and released by the case stop 60, conveyor 30 transports the carton from the labeling area to the coding area. The case stop 60 is designed to automatically return to the raised position as soon as a carton has cleared the stop. After clearing the case stop 60, a carton travels down the conveyor line 30 and past the programmed corner coders 70 and 70 to receive a sort code. As indicated above, the coders are programmed by tape reader 50 and can be at different vertical levels and can be activated or inactivated so that either one or two strips of reflective tape are applied to the carton to provide eight possible unique codes. I
As a back-up to the tape reader 50, a keyboard 150 is provided on the picking vehicle (FIGS. 3 and 8),'and in the event of the breakdown of the tape reader 50, can be coupled to the control circuit 140 by means of switch to control the programming of coders 70 and 70'.
When a carton has reached the output conveyor 80, it has received a label and sort code information and is then transferred to the remote sorting area 90 (FIG. 1). The reader 94 (FIGS. 1 and 8) on the input end of the sorting area can be any one of several commercially available units which read the corner code placed on each of the cartons and controls divert gates 96 by means of a control circuit 95. Thus, as the carton moves along the conveyor 92, it is automatically diverted to a shipping area for shipment to the particular destination indicated by the sorting code.
In the event that the corner coders on the picking cars become inoperative or the reader at the sorting area becomes inoperative, the divert control system includes a back-up keyboard 99 which can be switched into operation to provide divert control signals by changing the position of a switch 99. The operator will, under this mode of operation, visually check the destination information on the label and key the sort code into control 95 by means of the keyboard. Thus, the use of the sort key, both on the labels and on the prepunched tape, permits the operator on the picking car to occasionally check the synchronism of the label and tape, as well as provides a back-up destination code in the event the tape reader, corner coders or code readers become inoperative during a breakdown.
In addition to the equipment already described, the system may include a label detector (shown in phantom form in FIG. I) mounted on the picking car downstream the conveyor from the labeler and having a sensor positioned to detect the presence or absence of a label which may include a reflective area thereon. In the event a label is not detected, the corner coders are programmed to apply a predetermined code which automatically causes the diverting mechanism to divert the unlabeled carton to an area assigned for receiving such cartons for later restocking. These and other modifications to the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art and can be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the present invention as defined in the appended claims.
What is claimed is:
1. For use in a warehouse for storing predetermined articles at preselected storage locations, a system for batch picking articles and labeling and sorting the articles by destination, said system including a mobile picking vehicle comprising:
a vehicle movable to desired storage locations within said warehouse;
labeling means positioned on said vehicle for sequentially applying labels to articles, said labels including article location and quantity to be picked information thereon;
means for displaying said information on a label to be applied to the next article to be picked;
tape playback means positioned on said vehicle for reproducing article sort location information recorded on a tape in a sequence corresponding to the sequence of labels to be applied to articles retrieved from storage;
coding means programmed by said tape playback means for applying a sort code to each article;
conveying means positioned on said vehicle for receiving an article from storage and transferring said article into position to receive a label and a separate sort code from said labeling means and said coding means respectively; and I control means for synchronizing the application of labels and sort codes to articles such that labeled articles receive corresponding sort code information.
2. The apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein said labels include sort location information displayed by said display means, and wherein said picking vehicle further includes additional display means for displaying corresponding sort location information reproduced by said tape playback means.
3. The apparatus as defined in claim 1 and further including manually operable data generating means selectively coupled to said coding means to provide sort location programming information thereto.
4.The apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein said system further includes a sorting area for receiving labeled and coded articles, and an accumulation conveyor for transferring articles from a plurality of picking vehicles to said sorting area.
5. The apparatus as defined in claim 4 wherein said sorting area includes:
a plurality of discharge chutes for articles having different destinations, said chutes identified by unique sorting codes assigned to each chute;
a sort code detector for detecting the sort code information on each article transferred to said sorting area;
conveying means transferring articles from said sort code detector to said discharge chutes; and
divert means controlled by said sort code reader for diverting articles to a discharge chute corresponding to the sort code information on the article.
6. A method of batch picking articles stored in a warehouse and applying sort code indicia thereon comprising the steps of:
providing a plurality of labels for individual articles to be picked;
displaying information from preselected ones of said labels indicative of the storage location and quantity to be picked of each article;
providing prerecorded sort location information corresponding to-each label;
applying labels to articles retrieved from storage;
applying code indicia to each article retrieved from storage in accordance with the prerecorded sort location information;
synchronizing the label applying and code applying steps such that a labeled article receives corresponding code indicia thereon. 7. The method of claim 6 and further including the additional step of sequentially displaying sort location information corresponding to one of said preselected labels.
8. A warehouse article picking vehicle for carrying an operator to preselected storage locations within the warehouse and positioning the operator for manually transferring articles from storage onto the picking vehicle, said picking vehicle including:
labeling means receiving a sequence of individual preprinted labels corresponding to articles to be picked for applying a label onto each article;
means for displaying preselected label information prior to the application of the displayed label onto an article;
tape means including article sorting information programmed therein in a sequence corresponding to the sequence of labels to be applied by said labeler;
tape playback means adapted to receive said tape and provide signals representative of the information thereon;
coding means programmed by said tape playback means for separately applying sort code indicia to an article; and
control means for synchronizing the application of labels and sort code indicia such that labeled articles receive corresponding code information.
9. The apparatus as defined in claim 8 and further in-. cluding a digital display for displaying to an operator on said picking vehicle, the sort code information on said tape.
10. The apparatus as defined in claim 9 wherein said labels include article location, quantity to be picked, and sort location information; and wherein said first named display means includes a television camera positioned to scan this information on adjacent labels and a television monitor positioned to display this information to an operator on said picking vehicle.
11. The apparatus as defined in claim 10 and further including an electrical data keyboard, and means coupling one of said keyboard and tape playback means to said coding means.
12. The apparatus as defined in claim 11 wherein said coding means includes a control circuit receiving data from said tape or keyboard, and at least one indicia applicating device positioned on said picking vehicle and movably programmed by said control circuit to apply sort indicia on an article.