Do you want to spend hours searching for the items you need in your warehouse or storage facility? Well, say hello to automated storage and retrieval systems, or ASRS.
In the past, they were considered premium fulfillment operations and retail warehouses because not everyone could afford them. As the economy and technology developed over time, you now have a variety of sizes, speeds, and costs to consider when upgrading to ASRS tech.
These technologies are practical investments available to operations facilities worldwide. Check out our article to learn some essential information about AS/RS and why it is suitable for your business!
What Is ASRS (Automated Storage & Retrieval System)?
ASRS is an automated storage and retrieval system that stores items as compactly as possible and allows people to retrieve items upon request.
An ASRS holds, retrieves, and manages inventories using computer-controlled technologies. Several companies build various sizes and types of self-contained automated storage and retrieval systems.
So, how exactly does it work?
An ASRS is often made up of a series of inventory-holding shelves, racks, or containers. Robotic cranes or shuttles move up and down, left and right, forward and backward, to remove objects from their specified storage spot. A computer system controls the cranes or shuttles by tracking inventory levels, positions, and movements.
Types of ASRS
There are many types of ASRS technologies on the market. You can break them down into three main categories:
- Shelf-based – they use shelves or trays to deliver products to operators,
- Bin-based – they deliver products using individual bins or totes,
- Robotic – robots deliver products to human operators.
Shelf-based ASRS technologies are further categorized into:
- Vertical carousel modules – Carriers attached to a chain drive with motors travel bi-directionally in a vertical loop, like a Ferris wheel. They are reliable and cost-effective solutions.
- Horizontal carousel modules – Bins are mounted on oval tracks that rotate horizontally to deliver products to operators. They are usually installed in pods to optimize product manipulation and storage further.
- Vertical lift modules – They are flexible and adjust when you change inventory. They use an inserter/extractor at the center to locate and retrieve stored trays from its two columns.
Bin delivery technologies are further divided into:
- Crane-based mini systems – One crane-mounted load handling device that travels on rails or wheels is dedicated to each rack aisle.
- Vertical buffer modules – This bin handling system is designed for smaller, cost-effective applications. It uses a shelving system with a center aisle and a movable mast that picks and stores totes.
There are three main types of robotic ASRS technologies:
- Shuttle systems – They are a dynamic storage solution with automated shuttles that travel from one level to another and retrieve items. You can modify and expand these structures based on your needs.
- Cube storage – It’s a newer ASRS technology that places inventory in bins stacked on top of each other in a cube. Robots at the top of the cube sort and retrieve bins, delivering them to the required workstations.
- Floor robots – Mobile autonomous robots retrieve and transport inventory from storage to operator access areas. There are automated guided vehicles ideal for repetitive tasks and autonomous mobile robots which navigate through entire warehouses using maps.
The Benefits of ASRS
Automating repeatable and heavy-duty tasks related to item storage and retrieval can benefit your work and your warehouse’s morale.
Let’s take note of a few benefits of using ASRS technologies:
- Efficient use of floor space
- Enhanced throughput
- Improved storage density
- Reclaimed unused space
- Increased safety and ergonomics
- Modular designs used for optimal versatility
- Reduced labor and associated expenditure
- Improved order-picking precision
- Increased visibility and security.
ASRS Uses and Applications
Automated storage and retrieval systems are ideal for warehouses where the main daily activities are picking, storing, and processing items. They offer an alternative goods-to-person order-picking technology meant to optimize warehouse time management.
In goods-to-person order picking systems, ASRS technologies retrieve stock and deliver it to a worker, so they don’t have to move from their station.
Depending on specific scenarios, ASRS can structure actions to make as much logistical sense as possible.
Customers can place orders around the clock, but your operations facility may not be working 24/7 to process them. You can place operations to pick and process orders using ASRS in buffer storage. There, you stage them until the shipping window opens for the day.
It saves time and improves order accuracy, allowing your production operations to keep going even when your business shipping window is closed and orders can’t physically leave your warehouse.
ASRS helps your operations avoid blockages by employing buffers. That happens when you have enough inventory on hand at all stages of your operation to keep it going as usual. You can put buffer management in place at different stages of your operational workflow to avoid logistical nightmares.
A final ASRS application worth mentioning is its ability to store products optimally. Warehouse operations can automate storage and retrieval, ensuring efficient use of warehouse space and human labor.
Of course, ASRS, like any technology, has limitations. Implementing an ASRS can be expensive and may only be practicable for some firms. The initial investment is one of the most challenging obstacles.
Furthermore, ASRS systems can be sophisticated, necessitating specialized training to operate and maintain them.
Finally, ASRS is a game-changing technology that has the potential to change how we handle stocks and storage.
Unsurprisingly, an increasing number of businesses are turning to AS/RS to satisfy their storage and retrieval needs, given its ability to save space, increase efficiency, and improve accuracy.
Whether ASRS is the solution you’ve been looking for depends on the specifics of your operation.
It’s a great idea to talk to a warehouse design consultant to determine if it makes sense to you based on factors like your operational goals and levels of growth, as well as your available investment capital.