Traditional warehousing is typically pained by two challenges: wasted space and inefficient picking. Space solutions like vertical storage require dangerous and time-consuming tools like ladders and lifts. Picking solutions that make inventory easy to find often sprawl across valuable floor space.
AS/RS pallet storage solves both problems.
Contact us and a member of our team of experts will find a custom solution to fit your specific needs.
What is AS\RS Pallet Storage?
AS/RS stands for “automated storage and retrieval system.” AS/RS racking condenses storage into a compact footprint. Then automation technology like shuttles, carousels, and conveyors pick, move, and restock inventory with minimal human intervention.
Maximizing space efficiency
AS/RS racking allows your warehouse to take advantage of vertical space. Because you’re not relying on humans to access the inventory, you can make racks taller.
To further maximize your square footage, you can increase storage density by placing AS/RS racking close together. Aisles between racks can be narrower than usual because you don’t need to allow space for forklifts to maneuver.
Automated systems track inventory in real time and configure shelves to keep storage compact and avoid wasted space.
Maximizing picking efficiency
Labor accounts for more than half of a typical warehouse’s expenses. Automation technologies make sure your employees’ hours are spent on high-value work, not on repetitive, routine tasks.
The amount of time warehouse workers spend walking can add up to hours every shift. Traveling between storage locations and fulfillment stations eats up valuable time. Human pickers lose more time scanning shelves and matching up SKUs or parts numbers to make sure the right item is picked.
AS/RS pallet software tells the automated picker exactly where to find the item it needs. Picked items are transported to workers who never need to leave their fulfillment stations to look for an order component.
The system can be timed so people always have the parts they need right at hand, dramatically improving throughput without putting any additional demands on workers.
For many warehouse managers, solving the twin pains of space and efficiency would be reason enough to investigate automated pallet storage. But the benefits of AS/RS don’t stop there.
The Benefits of AS/RS Racking
Not so long ago, automation was out of reach for many warehouses. Earlier systems were costly or hard to configure around legacy floorplans. Today, rapid advancements in warehouse technology make it possible for businesses of all sizes to take advantage of what automated pallet storage has to offer. Modern systems are more affordable than ever before. Their flexibility makes it easy to fit them into difficult spaces and to integrate them with existing warehouse tools such as AGVs.
AS/RS racking improves picking accuracy
From time to time, even the best warehouse worker will stock an item one bay over from where it’s supposed to go, or will confuse a 1 with a 7 and pick the wrong SKU.
Machines aren’t prone to that type of error. AS/RS machines pick orders with more than 99% accuracy.
The big-picture impact of accuracy is huge. Every mispicked order creates a possibility of expensive returns and unhappy customers. Accurate picking has a direct effect on your warehouse’s bottom line.
AS/RS racking improves worker safety
A study by insurer Liberty Mutual indicates serious, non-fatal injuries cause the transportation and warehousing industry more than $84 million per week. Warehouse pickers can fall from ladders or scissor lifts. They can strain themselves moving heavy inventory. Or they could be injured by forklifts and other material handling equipment.
Automated storage and retrieval systems keep humans out of harm’s way. They can even protect people from overexertion, the leading cause of injury in the Liberty Mutual study. Every item stored in the AS/RS can be delivered to workers in what’s known as the Golden Zone – the optimal ergonomic height to prevent repetitive bending or stretching.
AS/RS racking improves inventory storage
When humans pick an item, you’re counting on them to take the necessary action to update inventory in your WMS. But as we already established, humans make mistakes.
Integrating AS/RS pallet storage with your WMS keeps the two constantly in sync. Get an accurate snapshot of inventory at any point in time and improve inventory control without losing time to physical inspections.
AS/RS racking reduces lost and damaged inventory
AS/RS racking is fully enclosed and controlled, protecting inventory from theft, accidents, and environmental damage.
Theft and accidental loss
Only authorized people can access the items stored in the AS/RS, and they do so with a personal login. Loss prevention personnel can track inventory back to the specific time it went missing and can see who last accessed the AS/RS before the item was lost.
Machines moving inventory between storage and workstations are tightly balanced and programmed. As long as your equipment is in good repair, it should be able to avoid mishaps like dropping delicate products.
The enclosed environment of AS/RS racking protects delicate inventory from dirt, moisture, and other environmental contaminants. This is especially important for warehouses handling sensitive items like electronics components or items for consumption like food and pharmaceuticals.
Integrating your automated pallet storage system with your WMS can prevent losses due to expired product as well. Before picking an order, the AS/RS can check the WMS and pick items based on their expiration dates or based on a “first-in, first-out” methodology.
Types of AS/RS Pallet Storage
AS/RS pallet storage follows the goods-to-person principle. Rather than warehouse workers traveling to storage, retrieving an item, and carrying it back to their workstation, AS/RS delivers items to the workstations that need them using either storage retrieval machines or shuttles.
Storing and picking items
AS/RS pallet storage organizes inventory to maximize storage capacity. Depending on the size and shape of the inventory, it might be stored in bins, totes, or other containers.
- - In shelf-based picking, the AS/RS presents the operator with a tray or shelf of product.
- - In bin-based picking, the operator is presented with product stored in a bin or tote.
- - In robotic picking, robots travel the warehouse, pulling product from storage racks and carrying it to the operator.
Some warehouses use cranes to pull product from storage. Cranes move through aisles too narrow for a forklift, stop at the preprogrammed position, pull the product and place it on a shuttle or in a storage retrieval machine. That machine then carries the inventory to the workstation that needs it.
Mini load AS/RS pallet storage is ideal for small loads of 75 pounds or less that can be stored at high density in cases, totes, or trays. In this system, the crane usually delivers items right to the workstation at the end of the aisle.
Unit load AS/RS pallet storage is intended for pallets weighing 1,000 pounds or more. These crane-based systems work well in warehouses with limited pallet-level storage because they only need narrow aisles to function.
AS/RS shuttle systems include a rack, a lift, and shuttle cars. This form of AS/RS pallet storage features narrow tracks the shuttle uses to access aisles. The lift then allows the machine to reach inventory at all the rack’s vertical levels. Finally, the shuttle car carries the item retrieved from the rack to the waiting workstation.
Vertical carousels are ideal for kitting. Items are stored on trays or in bins that travel through the machine on a vertical loop, like the cars on a Ferris wheel.
Horizontal carousels operate on a similar principle to vertical carousels except in this case, the bins are on a track moving in a horizontal loop, like a merry-go-round.
Vertical lift modules
A vertical lift module is a more complex version of a vertical carousel. A VLM is an enclosed machine with two vertical carousels moving side-by-side. An inserter/extractor in the center delivers the operator just the tray they need.
This is a flexible solution ideal for a variety of inventory.
Vertical buffer modules
Vertical buffer modules are a cost-effective solution for smaller applications of fewer than 25,000 SKUs. In a VBM, a moving center mast stores and retrieves totes, putting them on an outbound conveyor or delivering them directly to picking stations. A VBM is always working one step ahead of the human workers, queuing up the next pick so it’s available as soon as the operator is ready for it.
Robotic cube storage
In robotic cube storage, inventory is stored in bins that are stacked into cubes. Autonomous robots shuffle, sort, and retrieve bins as they are needed. Cube storage is the most easily scalable form of AS/RS pallet storage. As your need for throughput rises and falls, you can simply add or subtract active robots.
Is AS/RS Pallet Storage Right for You?
Modern automated pallet storage solutions are extremely flexible. They can be successfully integrated into older warehouses as well as new builds.
Are you running out of space?
An AS/RS can delay the need to relocate or expand by making the most of your available space. AS/RS racking can put unused vertical space to work. Compact machinery and storage cubes can fit into a legacy footprint more easily than large-scale equipment like conveyors.
Are you looking for a phased approach to automation?
The flexible, modular nature of AS/RS pallet storage makes it easy to take a phased approach to its implementation. You may choose to automate a few high-priority areas first and expand the technology to new areas as the machines realize ROI.
Is productivity a concern?
AS/RS can move workers off mundane, mind-numbing tasks like receiving, picking, and inventory storage, freeing up their time for more valuable activities. Fast, reliable automated picking reduces the boredom and frustration of worker downtime.
Implementing an AS/RS can also protect your workers from dangerous situations. Automated systems can reduce the likelihood of worker injuries from falls, overexertion, and run-ins with heavy machinery. An AS/RS can also safely store and retrieve products in challenging environments like freezers that could be dangerous to humans.
Common uses for AS/RS pallet storage
AS/RS is a flexible solution that can be applied in a tremendous variety of warehouse environments. Some of the most common applications for this technology include:
- - High-density storage
- - Fast, accurate order fulfillment
- - Kitting
- - Order consolidation
- - Inventory and process buffering
- - Work-in-process or subassembly
- - Ergonomic handling of heavy tools, dies, and molds in automated manufacturing processes
What Does Automated Pallet Storage Cost?
There are several up-front costs involved in implementing AS/RS into your facility. In addition to the cost of the equipment, you should budget for the cost of equipment installation, software installation and integration, and controls systems integration.
The cost of the equipment is affected by several factors:
- System size – The cost per cubic foot typically decreases as the static storage area increases.
- Environment – Implementing equipment in a specialized environment such as a clean room or cold room may cost more than in a standard warehouse.
- Inventory – Inventory that requires special handling may need machines with additional features. Such inventory might include heavy or oversized products, hazardous materials, or delicate items like electronics.
- Technology – The type of controls technology you choose will influence the cost of your system, as will your required throughput speed. The faster the machine, the more it will cost.
- Software features – Additional features in your inventory storage software may come at an additional cost.
How to Implement AS/RS Pallet Storage?
Reach out to our experts for answers to all your questions about implementing AS/RS in your facility. We’ll walk you through your options and guide you to the most effective plan for your unique circumstance.
Once you’ve chosen your system, we’ll carry away any old equipment you’re replacing and fully install your new AS/RS units. Once installed, we’ll help you integrate the AS/RS with your facility’s existing tech and workflow.
We have professional material handling equipment assembly and installation crews available to all of our customers. Our crews are ready to get your AS/RS system up and running. We can work with you and your company, no matter your location and project size.
Contact ISS Material Handling for a Free Consultation
Do you think an AS/RS system could benefit your operations? Contact us and we can merge our experience and expertise to come up with a solution together. Tell us about your potential project and submit the form below or give us a call at 833-754-2164.
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