Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

Warehouses often have fast and efficient picking systems, but with the rising technology and customers ordering online 24/7, you might be wondering: should I upgrade my warehouse to help improve efficiency?

An automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) might be the answer for you. ASRS systems are often used in manufacturing and distribution facilities to save floor space and increase productivity.

Basically, ASRS stores items for employees, and easily receives products when needed. Don’t be afraid of robots in your warehouse!

There are multiple advantages of using automated storage and retrieval systems including:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Increased storage density
  • Improved safety
  • Reduced labor costs
  • Fewer labor constraints
  • Modular design
  • Maximum flexibility
  • Increased order picking accuracy
  • Improved product security

However, there are also a few disadvantages to consider:

  • These systems are large and bulky
  • They require a major investment
  • Changes to your warehouse layout will be needed
  • They take longer to fix if a breakdown occurs
  • They can require special training for employees

Making the Decision

As mentioned above, there are plenty of benefits to implementing an ASRS system in your warehouse. If you’re on the fence, here are some signals to look for within your business that could mean an ASRS could work for you:

  • Employees are replenishing orders as much as they are picking them.
  • Employees are spending a lot of time traveling several miles to access the product.
  • Workers are spending a lot of time visually searching for items and matching their part numbers at a picking destination.
  • There are many picking errors.
  • You are struggling with your throughput and often hiring seasonal workers to keep up with the demand.
  • There are often damaged items.
  • There is often misplaced or missing inventory.
  • Your warehouse is at maximum capacity and has no space left.
  • There are employee injuries and accidents.

If any of these sound like your business…it could be time to automate! Below you’ll find a bit more detail on how an ASRS system could help solve some of these inefficiencies and issues. 

Goods to Person Picking and Prepping

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems work by doing goods-to-person picking, which means the worker does not have to move from the products to the location to pick orders, making the warehouse process smooth, fast and easy.

With ASRS systems, you can have items placed at the bottom of pallets, or the ASRS can organize them to make like-items go together. They can also be programmed to match layouts, cut-off times, shipping zones, or however else you would need your ASRS system to organize.

Delivery time is the most important aspect in your warehouse these days. ASRS helps quickly deliver orders by speeding up shipping processes. It also greatly helps various shipping issues, such as less staff and times/dates with higher delivery fees.

ASRS systems can pick and process the orders continuously and place them in storage. This gives you more freedom, and the job is done way faster!

Managing Buffer Storage & Storage Needs

If your warehouse processes aren’t correctly managed, it can cause your warehouse to slow down, which will in turn hurt your business.

Every warehouse needs a buffering process, and ASRS systems can help. In every production, different processes take different amounts of time to finish, and this needs to be managed properly. This is where the ASRS can come in.

Buffering means preventing warehouse slow-downs by making sure you have enough supplies on hand at every aspect of the warehouse. The ASRS systems can operate as an "assembly line point of use buffering," where it can store products along a production line. Or, it can "order consolidate," where it holds multiple parts of orders picked in different zones and consolidates them for shipping.

The ASRS systems are made to make good use of your space. ASRS systems can automate long-term storage of items, helping you in the future.

If you use ASRS with the Warehouse Execution Software, you can optimize inventory with the "First in First Out, Last in First Out" system, and many other systems. It helps with your storage needs and better optimization.

The Different Types of ASRS Systems

Here are some of the major ASRS technologies you can implement in your warehouse:

  • Unit load ASRS – The unit load systems are for loads ranging from 1,000 to 5,500 pounds, that can extend up to 100 feet using a crane to place pallets.
  • Fixed-aisle unit-load ASRS crane – Pallet racking is arranged with less aisle space, and the crane goes in-between the aisles to access product.
  • Movable-aisle unit load ASRS crane – This is not fixated on a specific aisle, allowing a single piece of equipment to go to many different aisles to pick or place product.
  • Vertical carousels – This is a series of carries that travel in both directions in a loop. It is fixed on a track, delivering items to a certain counter.
  • Horizontal carousels – Storage bins are placed on an oval-shaped track rotating horizontally, delivering items to their storage location.
  • Vertical Lift Modules – These are enclosed systems with two columns of trays. They have an insert-er or extractor in the middle, allowing trays to be delivered to the employee.
  • Crane-based mini load – These are able to handle small parts, cartons, trays or totes.
  • Vertical buffer modules – Tote-handling systems with an enclosed shelving system that have a mobile mast in the middle. They store and pick up totes, delivering them to a station or conveyor.
  • Robotic pallet shuttles – This is a shuttle-style system that delivers items with a “bot” running on a track in-between the racks.
  • Floor robots – Floor robots store items on portable shelving, which is picked up and moved from storage to the employee by automated robots.

ASRS Alternative

If the cons of ASRS systems seem too much for you, and your operation isn’t as huge, consider collaborative mobile robots.

Collaborative mobile robots work among employees to increase productivity, without any changes to your infrastructure. Basically, they help transport merchandise indoors. You can even rent these for peak seasons so you don’t have to make a huge investment compared to an ASRS system.

Who uses ASRS systems?

ASRS systems are useful for any business with a warehouse needing more efficiency and space.

If you are a decent-sized warehouse, a large enterprise, a government entity, or any type of warehouse needing automation and help with your orders, ASRS is useful for you.

If you have any questions about implementing an ASRS system in your warehouse or business, contact us or call 888-558-1830.

February 19, 2020

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