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Automated Storage & Retrieval System (ASRS)

Moving pallets and packages around your warehouse is not always easy. We know that managing a warehouse has many challenges for distribution center managers like you. Some of these challenges include high labor costs, low productivity and efficiency, and high safety risks for employees.

To overcome these challenges, our clients have success with automated storage and retrieval systems or ASRS. Currently, more than 10% of warehouses in the US use automated warehousing equipment. What about yours?

But does your warehouse really need an automated warehouse system? How can they help your warehouse optimization efforts? Well, let’s learn what ASRS is, its use cases, its benefits, and more.

Automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS)

Automated storage and retrieval system

Automated Storage & Retrieval System (ASRS) Overview

ASRS systems are designed for automated storage and retrieval of parts and items in manufacturing, distribution, retail, wholesale and institutions. They first originated in the 1960s, initially focusing on heavy pallet loads but with the evolution of the technology the handled loads have become smaller. The systems operate under computerized control, maintaining an inventory of stored items. Retrieval of items is accomplished by specifying the item type and quantity to be retrieved. The computer determines where in the storage area the item can be retrieved from and schedules the retrieval. It directs the proper automated storage and retrieval machine (SRM) to the location where the item is stored and directs the machine to deposit the item at a location where it is to be picked up. A system of conveyors and or automated guided vehicles is sometimes part of the ASRS system. These take loads into and out of the storage area and move them to the manufacturing floor or loading docks. To store items, the pallet or tray is placed at an input station for the system, the information for inventory is entered into a computer terminal and the ASRS system moves the load to the storage area, determines a suitable location for the item, and stores the load. As items are stored into or retrieved from the racks, the computer updates its inventory accordingly.

Different Types of ASRS

What are the types of ASRS? We’ve already stated that ASRS depends on the technology it uses to automate load transportation.

Here are the most often used types of these systems:

  • Unit-load ASRS – they are used for large loads such as cases of items or pallets. Unit-load AS/RS is used for loads often weighing several thousand pounds. It uses fixed-aisle and moveable-aisle cranes;
  • Mini-load ASRS – they are smaller than unit-load AS/RS solutions. They are used for handling lighter loads. Mini-load AS/RS use shuttles and cranes, which makes them suitable for warehouses with narrow aisles;
  • Horizontal carousels – they are used for sorting small pieces and parts. Horizontal carousels leverage bins and rotate them horizontally to deliver goods;
  • Vertical carousels – they are similar to horizontal carousels. They rotate vertically, which helps maximize the use of storage space;
  • Vertical lift modules – or VLMs, are automatic inserters or extractors placed in the center of a column of trays. They help retrieve and store items in the trays.
  • Cube-based storage – this is a cutting-edge robotic picking system designed to operate in a cubical storage grid;
  • Shuttles – shuttles are often found in warehousing and manufacturing facilities that handle cartons, trays, and totes.

How to Know That You Need ASRS

First of all, you need to assess your warehouse operation to identify major pain points. Every warehouse is different, so you will discover various things that may or may not reflect the situation in other warehouses. Yet, there are specific challenges that only ASRS can help you overcome and future-proof your operation:

  • High upkeep costs (labor costs make 65% of the expenses of running a warehouse)
  • Consistent errors in product or parts storage and retrieval operations
  • Frequent employee injuries
  • Low productivity and efficiency
  • Too hot or cold work conditions
  • Minimal use of vertical storage space
  • Losing track of items in a warehouse

Advantage of Automated Storage & Retrieval System

An effective automated storage and retrieval system provides several benefits for supply chain management

  • An efficient AS/RS system helps companies cut expenses by minimizing the amount of unnecessary parts and products in storage, and improving organization of the contents of a warehouse. Due to automated processes, it also allows for more storage space due to high-density storage, narrower aisles, etc.
  • Automation reduces labor costs while lowering workforce requirements and increasing safety.
  • Modeling and managing the logical representation of the physical storage facilities (e.g. racking, etc.). For example, if certain products are often sold together or are more popular than others, those products can be grouped together or placed near the delivery area to speed up the process of picking, packing and shipping to customers.
  • Enabling a seamless link to order processing and logistics management in order to pick, pack, and ship product out of the facility.
  • Tracking where products are stocked, which suppliers they come from, and the length of time they are stored. By analyzing such data, companies can control inventory levels and maximize the use of warehouse space. Furthermore, firms are more prepared for the demands and supplies of the market, especially during special circumstances such as a peak season on a particular month. Through the reports generated by an ASRS system, firms are also able to gather important data that may be put in a model for it to be analyzed.

Implementing an ASRS

While deciding whether you need an ASRS or not, implementing one is not as challenging as you might’ve imagined. Professionals handle the installation of an automated warehouse system. It is not done ad-hoc but only after a thorough inspection of your facilities.

Generally speaking, every automated warehouse racking system consists of two major components:

  • Computer management system – it allows operators to schedule storage or retrieval processes and track inventory details (location, storage duration, items origin)
  • Storage and retrieval equipment – the hardware that does the job of loading and off-loading items

Modern ASRS can be installed very fast. They occupy a small footprint, thus allowing you to maximize the floor space in your warehouse. In addition, they are not too complicated to use, which minimizes the onboarding and training time.

Where to Find Professional Help for Your Warehouse Optimization

As you can see, whether or not to have an ASRS installed in your warehouse is not a straightforward decision. If you have limited experience with internal logistics automation, it can be hard to assess the needs of your warehousing operation.

There are a lot of factors in play. It would be best if you considered getting a professional consultation to make an informed decision.

DNC Automation can help you discover if an ASRS would boost your warehouse efficiency. Request a professional FREE consultation or contact us online or by phone.

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