Mini Load ASRS Makes for Reliable Warehouse Automation in the Medical Device Industry
Over the past decade we have seen an unprecedented explosion of medical breakthroughs. The Medical Device Industry has become increasingly relied upon to provide newer, more complex devices, faster delivery times, and with more trace ability than ever before. Consolidation in the industry has also caused increased competition between larger firms who struggle to buy up market share and increase bottom line profits. In short, it has been challenging for these companies, both abroad and in the US, to increase the bottom line and keep up with demand.
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The Medical Device Industry is constantly being shaped and controlled by only a few major players. When there is this much change in any industry, the supply chain has to adapt and grow quickly with minimal impact on current business operations. Agile Warehouse Automation is the Key to these players adapting so quickly and efficiently. Below are some of the challenges:
- Unique Device Identification (UDI)
- Absolute trace ability of the device as it leaves the Distribution Center
- Return process of unused items and accountability
- Less inventory space within the facility ordering the product
- Faster order turnaround of orders placed after return
Hospitals are ordering several different types and sizes of devices to assist with the surgery, knowing that will need to return the unused items. Health networks are holding less and less inventory, meaning manufacturers need to be able to turn around more orders quicker. How do companies handle this in their distribution network? More and more they are turning to an automated process that can solve all the issues above; while attempting to increase margin levels. These companies are looking towards Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS).
AS/RS, and particularly Mini-Load Systems is a rack (storage) and robot (retrieval) operation. A case or tote picker travels on large mast, this mast is located in a row of rack. The mast runs up and down the rack aisle, and the robot moves up and down the mast. The robot will travel to a specific destination, pick a case or tote, and deliver it to a drop off point. This drop off point can look very differently depending on the operation required. Some Mini-Load AS/RS end points are conveyors, which take the case away to be processed and shipped. Others can be Goods-to-Person stations, where order pickers can achieve rates of up to 1,000 pieces per hour!
The system can also feed a combination of both fulfillment types if necessary. The storage of the system is being accessed by a robot, the rack is incredibly dense, the racks can be on X foot aisles, and up to 80’-0” tall; often the buildings can be built on the racks themselves, saving building costs. The robotics of the operations ensure that minimal amounts of labor is used to be as efficient, accurate and traceable as possible.
Key Benefits of the Mini-Load AS/RS are:
- Accuracy: The robotics are designated to go to a specific location.
- Speed: Automation equipment can fill thousands of orders per hour. Mini-Load AS/RS can organize inventory during off hours to make the next day more productive, for both picking and returns.
- Trace Ability: Inventory interaction with operators is minimal keeping inventory accurate, and up to date in the system providing accurate stocks for customers. Logs can be kept for absolute chain of command control.
- Space: The density of storage is greater than with any picking operation run with fork lifts. Add the ability to go 80 feet in the air for storage to maximize your utilization per square foot of your warehouse.