4 Benefits of Exotec High-Density Goods-to-Person AS/RS
Most of today’s retailers, warehouses, and distribution centers face the same challenges day in and day out: Labor, space, and throughput.
Customers’ increasing desire for choice has led to increased SKU proliferation and the need to keep a greater variety of products on hand. This fact, paired with rising costs of warehouse space, means that operations are storing more product in less space —driving a need for high-density storage.
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A constrained labor market, whether driven by low unemployment or social-distancing measures, has made it difficult for many businesses to expand their operations to the extent that they could if labor was cheap and available. In order to address this challenge, many operations would like to make a transition to full or partial automation, but do not have the ability to tie up valuable capital into expensive systems designed around the future growth of a three- or five-year forecast.
If any of these challenges sound like ones that you face in your operation, then the Exotec Skypod system may be a solution to your problem.
What is the Exotec Skypod system?
The Exotec Skypod system is a high-density AMR-based AS/RS goods-to-person technology designed to help order fulfillment operations optimize their workflow and throughput. The system consists of the following components, or modules:
- The Skypod Robot: This AMR forms the base module of the system. Capable of three-axis movement, the robot travels vertically up and down the storage rack in order to retrieve a tote of product, which it then delivers to the required workstation so that a worker can pick product as necessary. Once the pick is complete, the tote is stored and the next tote retrieved.
- Storage: Storage consists of simple racking and bins, which provides extremely high density storage. All bins are accessible at all times, and can be subdivided into either two, three, four, six, or eight locations each. The Skybot ascends and descends the rack to reach the required location, at which point an inserter/extractor mechanism retrieves or places it.
- Software: The central dispatch for the entire system uses algorithms and redundant databases to synchronize the individual robots, human workers, and bins in order to maximize throughput.
- Pick Stations: This is where the worker interacts with the individual robots, picking items as necessary from bins as they are delivered and placing them in required order totes. The station can batch pick or put up to four orders simultaneously.
- Automatic Tote Induction and Extractor: Totes are automatically inducted into the manual station for fulfillment, and then extracted and routed to another zone or to be packed and shipped.
- Consolidation Stations: If a bin contains only a few items, it may be diverted to a consolidation station, where items can be consolidated into smaller cells or existing totes in order to increase the system’s overall density.
Benefits of the Exotec Skypod System
By implementing the Exotec Skypod system, it’s possible for many warehouses, distribution centers, and order fulfillment facilities to realize a number of powerful benefits directly related to the challenges discussed below. These include:
1. Rapid Order Fulfillment
The system was designed to maximize throughput so that facilities can process more orders more quickly. It’s possible to achieve a picking speed of up to 400 totes or cases per hour. Orders are typically assembled in as little as five minutes.
2. Flexibility & Modularity
The system was designed for maximum flexibility, allowing an operation to easily grow, shrink, or move the system as required to meet current and future business needs. Because of the modular design, it’s also possible to scale the system quickly and easily. An operation can add additional robots and pick stations in order to scale flow and accommodate increased demand, and can add additional racks to increase storage—without downtime.
This means that you are buying the system you need today—instead of trying to forecast the system that you might need in two, three or five years—allowing you to invest only as much capital as is absolutely necessary, knowing that you can expand easily if it is required.
3. High-Density Storage
One of the major benefits of this system is that it maximizes your facility’s cube. Rack can be utilized from the floor to the ceiling and uses robots, not humans to store and retrieve inventory. This eliminates the need for less efficient mezzanines, cranes, high lifts, reach trucks and other technologies.
This allows for increased storage density so that your operation can make better use of its existing space without needing to expand or relocate.
As mentioned above, additional racks can be added as necessary to expand the system as additional inventory locations are required, without shutting down the system.
4. No Single Point of Failure
The system is built with redundancy in mind to mitigate the risk of a single point of failure. Each Skybot unit is designed to be extremely durable. In the rare occasion that an issue does arise with a unit, the system will automatically alter its recharging pattern to accommodate the repair, if it is simple. For more complex repairs, a backup robot can be activated while the repair takes place.
The obvious benefit here is that the operation realizes maximum uptime compared to most other types of automation which usually requires the system to be shut down to address the maintenance issue which can range from hours to days.
High-Density AMR-Based AS/RS Solutions
If you’re considering an AS/RS, Goods-to-Person or AMR solution, you need to evaluate the Exotec Skypod system.
Consider the following questions:
- Does your operation have a large number of SKUs, or have plans to add a substantial number of SKUs?
- Does your operation have high-density storage needs or limited floor space?
- Does your operation require high throughput?
- Do you need to lower your labor costs, or break your reliance on an undependable labor supply?
- Do you want to minimize your CAPEX on automation?
- Does the solution you choose need to be flexible and agile to meet business requirements?
- Is down time a killer? Can you afford to lose minutes, hours, or days waiting for maintenance and repairs on a system?