How to Use AS/RS for WIP Buffer Storage
Buffering your work-in-progress (WIP) goods can be an excellent means of increasing the productivity of your facility, as it ensures that you’ve always got the necessary inventory and kits at exactly the time they are needed. This means that one zone within your facility is never waiting on any other zone; as long as you have a clear sense of your expected velocity and how many parts/pieces are needed per hour, you can ensure that the correct amount is at the ready when it is needed.
Unfortunately, despite this benefit, buffering comes at a cost: Namely, in the form of floor space. You are, after all, storing your WIP so that it is available in the future—historically, on racking or high-density shelving, though some operations may buffer directly onto carts as well. Depending on how large of a buffer you are generating at any given time, this can take up a significant amount of space in your facility.
Less floor space means you may have less room for technologies, workstations, inventory, or processes that could make your facility more efficient.
Are you thinking about different ways of buffering WIP in your operation? We can help you think through your options.
There is, however, good news if your facility has a limited footprint and you still want or need to implement buffering. By buffering your WIP with AS/RS, you can realize significant space savings while still enjoying the benefits of buffering.
Benefits of Buffer Storage with AS/RS
By buffering your WIP with AS/RS instead of on traditional racking or shelving, it’s possible to realize a number of benefits. These include:
- Less wasted time: AS/RS delivers product, materials, or inventory to the exact workstation at the exact time they are needed, reducing travel and search time.
- Lower labor costs: Less wasted time translates into more efficient workers, who can achieve more in less time. This will translate into a more effective use of labor.
- More efficient use of storage space: AS/RS reduces the need for shelving and mezzanine for storage, freeing up room in your facility for other uses.
Potential Technologies to Leverage
Mini-loads and vertical lift modules (VLMs) have historically been leveraged as WIP buffering solutions. This is due in part to the fact that they perform the job well, but also in part to the fact that they are among the oldest options. There are, however, other AS/RS solutions that you can leverage for WIP buffering.
Newer options include AMR-based solutions, such as the Stacker-Bot or the Go-Fer Bot, both of which are a form of goods-to-person technology designed to transport items within a facility. They can easily be leveraged to transport WIP. Likewise, a Vertical Sequencing Module (VSM) and micro-loads provide the benefits of vertical storageWI, but the ability to store, retrieve and sequence totes in a precise sequence. Exotec and cube storage solutions which rely on robots to place and retrieve inventory provide tremendous density, high velocity, and pieces/parts per hour.
How To Choose the Right System For You
At the end of the day, if you are looking to leverage AS/RS for storing WIP buffer, you’ve got a number of options to choose from. This is great because it means you can select the best possible solution for your needs.
Ultimately, which AS/RS solution makes sense for you will depend on:
- The material’s physical characteristics: What are the size, weight, weight distribution, and dimensions of the material being buffered? Each solution has its own weight capacities and ideal dimensions, so this will impact your final selection.
- Velocity requirements: How fast do you need the system to go? How many cycles do you expect to be completed over the course of a day, a shift, or even an hour?
- Your facility’s characteristics: How much floor space is available? How high or low is your ceiling? Where are support beams placed? Each of these may impact which systems can be leveraged in your facility.
- Deployment schedule: Some solutions will take longer to design, deploy, and get online than others. If you have a condensed deployment schedule, an option like robotic-based AS/RS could be right for you.
A trusted systems integrator can guide you to the right solution by asking these and other questions, and by designing the perfect system for your needs. Contact us today to speak with a member of the Conveyco Team.