By Caroline White | April 29, 2021
Labor costs are rising, you are running low on space, and your facility is understaffed. These are real challenges almost every company is facing today. Per inbound logistics 65% of a facilities operating costs are employee wages while the cost of rent has increased 28% from 2011 to 2016. With staggering numbers like those, companies are looking for a robust solution that will produce long-term benefits and reduce overall costs. This post will serve as a continuation of previous Bricz robotics blog posts by investigating deeper into the perfect solution fit for your company.
What is an Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)?
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems, also known as ASRS or AS/RS, fully automate the putaway and picking process of your operation. These systems are made of 3 main components:
- Structural grid for storage and transportation lanes
- Delivery robots to putaway and bring inventory to picking stations
- Storage bins to hold inventory
There are 6 types of AS/RS:
- Vertical Lift Modules: This is a form of goods to person technology. This module stores trays in the center of a column. When an associate requests an item, the system will retrieve the tray for picking and then return it to its location.
- Micro-Load Stockers: Micro-loads are is very similar to vertical lift modules but are designed to be utilized with conveyors rather than a pick face for an associate. These are often paired with other AS/RS’s to reduce the number of conveyors required.
- Carousels-Based AS/RS: These are systems that have inventory on rotating carousels that are moving continuously. When associates require specific SKUs’ for picking, the carousals will stop on the correct inventory locations. This system is often utilized by company’s with small SKU’s, raw materials or parts.
- Unit-Load AS/RS Cranes: A unit-load system is the traditional vision of an AS/RS. This system is made up of narrow racks and vertical cranes. These are designed for full or partial pallet moves. These systems are perfect for when quick access to full pallets is critical.
- Mini-Load AS/RS Cranes: A Mini load AS/RS is a system that is designed for smaller loads than the unit load. These are good for cases rather than full pallets. A system like this is ideal for operations that require a large amount of carton SKU’s.
- Shuttle and Bot based AS/RS: Shuttle based AS/RS is another form of goods to person. This is a system that utilizes a bot that runs between a racking structure back to a packer. This is optimal for organizations with smaller SKU sizes and repetitive picking.
Benefits of AS/RS?
- Improved Utilization of Space
- An AS/RS is designed to maximize vertical space while also allow for tighter aisles than human operated forklifts can provide. It will also take advantage of a facilities unused vertical space. The higher you go, the more cost effective your AS/RS will be.
- Improved Pick Accuracy
- The more manual the operation, the more likelihood of human error. Allowing your system to pick for your associate’s can lead to up to 99.99% pick accuracy.
- Increased Throughput
- An AS/RS would handle your putaway, picking, and inventory management. By no longer relying on pallet shuttling, you will be able to increase your ability to pick.
- Reduced Labor Costs and Constraints
- An AS/RS removes the constraints your operation might have by reducing the non-value-added warehouse tasks like pallet shuttling and putaway. This frees your labor for VAS activity.
Drawbacks of AS/RS?
- High Up-front Cost
- An AS/RS implementation can be daunting and depending on your operation the cost can range from $70,000 for a product that can manage a few SKU’s to a full blown unit load that costs $10,000,000 plus to handle up to 80,000 SKU’s. An AS/RS implantation is ideal for green field sites (new construction) or a facility your company owns rather than leases.
- Better Utilized with Predictable Operations
- If your operation is highly variable in the amount of SKU’s you touch week to week your operation might find it difficult to make optimal use of an AS/RS. An AS/RS is much better suited for an operation that is built around predictable tasks.
- If you are a high throughput operation and the system goes down it can cause major delays and potentially create a backlog. Having scheduled maintenance is a good way to mitigate issues like this but could result in further downtime. An AS/RS can be a powerful tool but too much downtime can lead to operational issues.
Is AS/RS Right for You?
As technology has evolved so have AS/RS’s. They are becoming more readily available and are no longer just for bulk distributors with full pallet in full pallet out operations. They are solid option for a wide variety of operations but are not a one size fits all solution. If you are running low on space, dealing with labor constrains or need to add throughput implementing automation might be the best solution fit for your supply chain. Reach out today and learn how Bricz can help guide you towards your true supply chain potential.
Contributor: Phillip Renslow, Supply Chain Consultant at Bricz