What is an ASRS?
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS or AS/RS) is a kind of warehouse technology wherein technology is used to place goods in storage as well as retrieve goods out of storage, automatically by using machines. This is attainable by pairing the technology with Warehouse Execution Software (WES). A WES manages the process which in turn leads to order fulfilment and customer satisfaction.
An AS/RS helps in speeding up the storing and retrieving of materials, improving efficiency and throughput of the Warehouse picking operation. Furthermore, an AS/RS is capable of moving vertically, horizontally or laterally thereby covering several levels in the same storage aisle.
Types of ASRS Systems
On the basis of an AS/RS system’s direction of movement, mobility and design, there are different categories of an AS/RS systems:
Fixed-aisle unit-load AS/RS systems: This system is in use when the storage area has limits and there is a critical need for quick retrieval of huge and heavy goods. These systems work with loads weighing up to 5500 lbs. Furthermore, they can reach heights more than a 100 ft in the narrow aisles within the pallet racks.
Movable-Aisle Unit-Load AS/RS Cranes: These cranes are very similar to the Fixed-aisle Unit-load AS/RS cranes as they also move between narrow aisles of the pallet. The difference is, these cranes are not fixed to any aisle.
Mini-Load AS/RS Crane: The difference between an AS/RS Crane and the unit-load AS/RS is, the former handles loads of 1000 pounds or less. Even more, the mini-load AS/RS Crane covers distances ranging from 6 to 72 ft.
Mini-Load AS/RS Shuttles: AS/RS Shuttles deliver products via a shuttle running on a track in between a racking structure. Both mini-load AS/RS types (Shuttles and Cranes) handle totes, cartons, or trays but not pallets.
Carousel-based AS/RS: These horizontal carousels are an assemblage of a series of bins rotating horizontally along a track.
Vertical Lift Module (VLM): This module differs from horizontal carousels in their rotation, which is, similar to a Ferris Wheel. However, recent models are capable of holding a large inventory at a vertical height. In this way, valuable floor space is saved in a warehouse and this space can be available for use for other operations or storing materials.
Reasons for a warehouse to adopt an AS/RS system
- For an increase in storage capacity. This is so as, AS/RS systems are in use for storing and retrieving items that are usually in higher and tighter spaces where manual operations are hard.
- Recovering factory floor space currently in use for WIP because AS/RS helps in increasing storage density.
- Improving security and reducing pilferage.
- Reducing labour cost and/or increasing productivity. For example, while storing and retrieving large loads or accessing bins which are in a higher location.
- Increasing inventory control.
- Stock rotation improvement
- Attaining good and efficient customer service
- Ensuring throughput increases.
By incorporating one or more of the automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) described above, in your warehouse or order fulfillment operation, you achieve a significant boost in efficiency, cost-savings and productivity.
While evaluating and choosing the AS/RS, take into consideration important factors like turnover, rate, typical order size, the type/size/weight of the product you are handling etc. Supply Chain Simulation is available for your use. You can utilize a Simulation engineer, who may simulate the operations and generate the metrics for you to to make an informed decision before finalizing the purchase.
To know more about AS/RS systems, check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automated_storage_and_retrieval_system
Please follow this blog for my next post on how to model an AS/RS using FlexSim Simulation software.