The Various Automated Storage Systems and How They Work
Just as automation has led to marked changes within the manufacturing industry, it has also been responsible for transforming how many warehouses and distribution centres now manage their stored goods. Rather than relying on workers to pick and pack items by hand or on forklift drivers to handle heavy pallets, instead, many have implemented an automated storage system that requires far less human input.
As well as serving to reduce a company’s workforce needs, automating the storage and retrieval processes can dispense with the need for access aisles. In turn, eliminating them has the potential to increase utilisation of the existing available floor space by as much as 50% or more. In practice, the nature and extent of the potential benefits will depend on the level of automation the company may choose to implement. The available systems range from remote-controlled pallet moles to a near-autonomous automated storage system for which the only remaining roles of a human operator are to input requests and provide oversight.
The Pallet Mole
This aptly-named device’s role is to “burrow” its way through the racking and to either deposit or retrieve a palletised load. The mole runs on rails located beneath the stored pallets and when in position, it’s upper portion can be raised to lift a pallet free of the racking to transport it as directed. An operator provides the directions with the aid of a hand-held remote control. In its simplest form, this type of automated storage system may only be suitable for use in a single level. However, the addition of a vertical transfer unit (VTU) will then enable the pallet mole to operate on multiple levels.
Automatic Handling of Non-Palletised Items
Not all storage solutions depend on the use of pallets. Particularly in high-throughput environments, goods are often stored in trays, cartons, or totes. In such cases, a pallet mole would be of no use and, instead, installing a one-level shuttle (OLS) is likely to be the best means to provide a suitable automated storage and retrieval system. The shuttle operates in two dimensions, allowing it to move along an aisle and sideways into or out of storage. Using one or more shuttles will enable one to manage multiple lanes, each with onboard vehicle controls and data transmission capabilities using Wi-Fi.
Given the dramatic growth in online purchasing and the resulting increased demand for one-off items, the one-level shuttle provides a goods-to-man approach that reduces picking time, enabling operators to fulfil more orders in the time available. The OLS also offers several other benefits. These include low energy consumption, the ability to handle diverse load types and an extended service life, positioning it as an automated storage system of choice for managing non-palletised loads.
A Solution for High Bay Warehouses
In a location where unit loads or pallets are often stored at heights of up to 24 metres, there is a need for a more specialised means to pack and pick goods. The answer is a remote-controlled load handling device with telescopic forks. Like the other systems described above, this innovative storage and retrieval crane technology is available from Storage Management Solutions, a global leader in the field of automated storage systems.