The Automated Storage and Retrieval System Explained
Warehouses and distribution centres have become as crucial to today’s society as hospitals and schools. In most cases, they perform the role of intermediaries in an extensive consumer supply chain. As such, their combined task is to act as the all-important bridge between producers and retailers. In practice, many of these facilities still depend upon trained personnel to perform the picking and packing of stock items. With the challenges of union labour and trying to mitigate various risks,a growing number of companies are now moving to an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) to streamline their operations.
The introduction of forklifts or reach trucks, as they are often known, coupled with the invention of the pallet represented a significant advance for the storage industry. Using pallets, forklifts, and specially-designed racking, enabled warehouse employees to stack palletised items to heights that would previously not have been possible. However, while the increased capacity may have been a welcome bonus, the picking and packing processes lacked the flexibility and efficiency of a modern automated storage and retrieval system.
When a new and slimmer version of the lift truck, namely a VNA truck, appeared on the scene, warehouses were free to reduce the width of their aisles, almost doubling the usable floor space in the process. Thanks to these and similar advances, warehouses have vastly increased their storage capacity without renting or purchasing more space. More stock, however, means more effort is necessary to manage it unless, of course, you are fortunate enough to have an automated storage and retrieval system.
Let’s take a look at how these systems work. For anyone wishing to automate their warehousing operation, the minimum requirement will be a type of remote-controlled, self-powered cart, commonly known as a Pallet Mole®. These carts run on tracks located just below and clear of the stored pallets, and each has a mechanical platform that raises and lowers when depositing or retrieving pallets. When positioned beneath a pallet, raising the platform lifts the load clear of the racking, ready to transport via the access tracks in the storage lane. In an automated storage and retrieval system, these lanes occupy the spaces usually allocated to aisles for forklift trucks, in a manual setup, thus resulting in space optimization.
In a partially automated setup, pallets can be loaded or unloaded, and pallet loads moved between levels with a forklift. However, to eliminate any need for manual intervention in these processes, the more sophisticated automated storage and retrieval system, namely the Omni-Mole® system, can automate it by means of resources like vertical transfer units, Omni-Mole® shuttles, in-and outbound conveyors, and automated guided vehicles (AGV’s).
The Omni-Mole® automated storage and retrieval system, is controlled by a Warehouse Execution System (WES), which comprises of an Inventory Management System (Track-IT®), a Warehouse Control System (Control-IT®), and a routing modules (Map-IT®), where an operator will only enter a pick/order request, which will be executed automatically. Many companies have already benefitted hugely by automating their operations. If you’re ready to join them or would like to learn more, contact Storage Management Systems.