There are several types of Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) used in distribution and warehousing operations. These automated storage systems are designed to handle various unit loads; such as pallets, cases and totes. Common to each are the benefits gained including reduced staffing, increased productivity, improved accuracy and a higher density of storage or cube utilization.
Automated storage systems like Horizontal Carousels, Vertical Carousels, as well as Mini-Load Systems, are generally tasked with order picking operations for small parts or small item picks. The method for these order fulfillment systems is called “part-to-picker” and results in very high productivity work zones. In the case of carousels, this is usually accomplished by having several carousels nested together. For instance, while an operator picks product from Carousel A, Carousels B & C rotate and stage parts to be picked when the operator is finished with Carousel A. After the system is notified of a completed pick from Carousel A, the operator starts picking the next item from Carousel B, leaving Carousel A to rotate and present the next part or item to be picked from that carousel.
A well designed Mini-Load system also presents the “part-to-picker” method at an order picking station. Mini-Load systems mainly use pans that have adjustable dividers to store the items being picked. This allows for several SKUs to be stored in one pan. After a pan is dropped off at the order picking station, it takes a previously picked pan and returns it to its proper storage location before retrieving the next pan with product to be picked. This efficient design prevents wasted empty trips on the Mini-Load.
AS/RS systems that handle pallet loads are customarily fully automated and require little human intervention. They are controlled by Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) that direct the storage and retrieval of the pallet loads. The cranes used on the pallets in this system are designed to operate at high speeds that far exceed the capability of lift trucks. Typically pallet handling AS/RS systems have better cube utilization, since they operate in very narrow aisles and have more levels of storage than lift truck system designs. Additionally, pallet handling AS/RS can be used to automatically replenish pallet flow rack in a full case pick module.
Carousels and Mini-Load Systems are often installed in existing warehouse and distribution facilities, while pallet handling AS/RS designs are commonly associated with new facility construction due to the nature of their incredibly high storage bays and the requirement of extremely level floors. In fact, the storage rack of the system is usually the method for supporting the building structure, which is often dubbed “rack supported building”.
The design phase is critical to the success of a project with the initial capital costs associated with these types of systems. Product slotting and a needs analysis are musts, as well as system simulations, in order to determine the most cost effective design to meet your specifications.
TriFactor offers facility design layout services for those companies in the new construction planning stages of a storage facility or the reconfiguration of an existing operation. Regardless of the material handling situation, TriFactor has selected to innovate rather than replicate traditional material handling system delivery methods and services. Our unique solution process is called the TriFactor Edge. If you’re looking for an Edge on your competition, discover how TriFactor can make a difference with your automated storage and retrieval material handling systems (AS/RS) call today at 1-800-507-4209.
For additional information on Product Slotting, Distribution Center Planning, Choosing a Conveyor System and related material handling issues visit the TriFactor Learning Center.