Critical Hybrid AMR and AS/RS Systems Help Solve the “New Normal”
This is the New Normal… supply chain disruptions and changing business dynamics impacting all organizations all over the world; Covid, social distancing, new sales patterns—hey, even new products. Notice how many companies have quickly moved into the PPE business with everything from masks to cleansers to respirators. The bottom line is, disruption and change has created a New Normal, and with this transformation, it gives organizations an opportunity to evaluate, modify, grow, and become more profitable… intelligently.
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Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) Goods-to-Person solutions have been around in distribution centers and warehouses for several decades. The major differences today are the flexibility, speeds, efficiencies, and reliability these technologies can provide.
What are the changes for this New Normal business demands on AS/RS and order fulfillment? Below, we explore 9 top considerations sparking renewed interest in AS/RS technologies.
Reasons Modern Businesses Are Thinking About AS/RS
1. Social Distancing
Spacing people to avoid transmission. AS/RS reduces labor and allows you to design workstations which provides isolation and a contamination free environment vs. having aisles of workers who are not safely distanced from one another.
2. Reducing Labor
The efficiencies of AS/RS and automation allows you to reduce total number of people required to operate your facility. This allows for easier social distancing and the ability to keep the best workers which increases your accuracy and productivity.
3. Micro-Fulfillment Highly Efficient Facilities
Using several regional Micro-Fulfillment centers also allows organizations to be closer to their customers (reduced shipping time and costs) and mitigates regional health and general worker availability issues. These centers translate into having an “uber-efficient” automated facility able to pump out orders quickly with minimum labor. Specific models of AS/RS are perfect for high-density storage, 100% inventory accessibility and rapid fulfillment.
4. Evolving Inventory Profile
You may find your organization offering items and products which you might never have imagined carrying and items which were previously top sellers waning in demand. With a change in your SKU profile comes the need for flexibility. AS/RS systems, which use standard totes, partitions, and dividers, are perfect for a rapidly changing world.
5. Increasing Volume (or is it)
People are becoming increasingly accustomed to buying online in record numbers. Most pundits see this Covid-19 as the catalyst that has accelerated ecommerce and omni-channel operations are now engrained as part of everyday life vs. “a stop into the store.” The growth will be sustainable and exponential. Implementing AS/RS systems which are flexible and allow for rapid growth and real time adjustment to change is a must.
6. No Historic Volume Data
Predicting the new highs, lows, and averages isn’t typically clear. AS/RS characteristics such as rapidly changing system capacity and being able to lease additional equipment or components of the system to meet peak demands will be vital.
7. Faster Picking Speeds
The demand to get orders completed faster and out the door to meet cut-off times isn’t negotiable in this new world. Customers look for same day delivery and will settle for next day, so being able to handle daily waves of orders, filling them and shipping them out based on rigid cut-off times is no longer a “nice to have,” but rather a requirement.
8. Larger Orders
The new normal has increased order sizes. Consumers and businesses are filling larger orders to minimize their delivery risk. This trend may not last in all consumer sectors, but in food and supplies it’s almost a guarantee that it will. The solution once again is AS/RS which is flexible and high-density.
9. Less Training
With the past turnover and employee movement, training has been critical in keeping operations functioning, but with a high cost in time, accuracy, and productivity. With social distancing, the ability to implement systems and procedures which are intuitive and simple is now mission critical. Likewise, because AS/RS systems reduce overall labor, you can use your high-performance employees and help eliminate the need for temps and transient help.
AMRs: A New Breed of AS/RS
We’ve outlined all the demands and requirements which have changed in a New Normal environment. Virtually all AS/RS systems provide levels of relief with these new criteria, but the new generation of robotic AS/RS technologies supply even greater benefits.
Hybrid AS/RS that integrate Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) as the engine with simple rack and software provide the flexibility, reliability, and rapid response required to meet the New Normal.
These systems utilize rack and shelving to store standard totes and cases. Totes can be subdivided in up to eight cells/sections. There are several manufacturers of these technologies. The key is understanding your height availability, number of SKU positions and approximate cube requirements and the throughput required. These systems can range from eight to 36-foot-high limitations. The number of totes can range from 100 to over 200,000, translating into 800 to 1,600,000 SKU locations.
Throughput requirements can range all the way up to 550 picks per hour per operator/workstation with the ability to add as many workstations and AMRs as required to meet hourly and daily requirements. System implementation time can be in as little as four months and additional AMR robots are available for leasing to meet peak demand. Workstation configuration can be as simple or complex as required based on additional SKUs, number of zones and value-added services required.
These new hybrid AMR Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems provide the horsepower, speed, worker safety and financial return on investment to meet virtually all business cases pre- and post-pandemic and the New Normal.
This blog post was originally published in the July issue of Workplace Material Handling & Safety.