Leveraging AS/RS to Optimize Warehouse Storage Space
A lack of space is a common challenge faced by warehouses, distribution centers, and order fulfillment operations, and an issue that can have serious repercussions for the business. The size of your warehouse storage space and forward pick zones will determine just how much inventory or SKUs (stock keeping units) you can keep on hand, but can also limit the processes that you implement or the automation technologies that you utilize.
In most warehouses, storage (racks) take up the largest amount of space. Therefore, optimizing your storage space will allow you to free up room in your facility for other activities, which can help you process a higher volume of orders more efficiently. At a minimum, optimizing your warehouse storage space and forward pick zones can enable you to eliminate or put off an expensive move or expansion for a number of years, allowing you to invest that capital into more productive areas.
Are you looking to make better use of your warehouse storage space? We can help you determine your best path forward.
When it comes to optimizing your warehouse storage space, there are a number of potential routes you can take. You might, for example, evaluate your current racking and adjust shelf heights to be more efficient. Alternatively, you might invest in technology such as AS/RS which is specifically designed to consolidate your inventory while empowering high-speed fulfillment.
Below is a look at the benefits of leveraging AS/RS, as well as the different types that you might consider.
Benefits of AS/RS
Leveraging AS/RS in your order fulfillment operation can help you realize a number of potential benefits for your warehouse storage space (including, yes, space savings):
- Increased productivity: Because AS/RS serves as a form of goods-to-person tech, walking and travel time is drastically reduced. This allows a picker to fulfill more orders in less time. Likewise, most AS/RS systems lend themselves to batch picking which increases an operator’s efficiency.
- Increased accuracy: Again, because the exact correct inventory is delivered to the picker (goods-to-person) implementing AS/RS leads to fewer mistakes. Accuracy rates close to 99% can be reached, especially when paired with other technology such as pick-to-light.
- Improved ergonomics: AS/RS solutions very often integrate with workstations, which offer better ergonomics for workers and lead to less strain, fewer workplace injuries, and less turnover.
- More efficient use of space: Because storage and retrieval is automated, product can very often be stored much closer together than would be possible if humans were responsible for the same task. This can lead to ultra high density storage in many cases. AS/RS can also allow you to reclaim vertical space which would otherwise be wasted and unused in your facility.
AS/RS Solutions to Consider
There are many different types of AS/RS that you might leverage in different ways in your operation. When it comes to leveraging AS/RS for space optimization, you should start by considering the options below. These are broken into two main camps: Traditional AS/RS and Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) or Robotic-Based AS/RS.
Automated Storage & Retrieval systems such as: Shuttles, crane-and-aisle (mini-load) units, micro-loads, horizontal carousels, vertical carousels and vertical lift modules (VLMs) can all be considered “traditional” styles of AS/RS.
Depending on the model and style, these goods-to-person systems can often maximize floor to ceiling height, providing an efficient use of space, high-density warehouse storage space, and high throughputs. These units are especially well-suited to reclaiming unused vertical space. Automated storage and retrieval systems provide high-density storage often ranging from 75 to 90% depending on available height.
Traditional AS/RS are ideal for operations that need to fill orders in a very timely fashion and operate two to three shifts per day. Determining the best traditional AS/RS system for your operation entails understanding your: Available floor space, column and obstruction locations, clear ceiling heights, fire code requirements, inventory space requirements, order profiles, labor and throughput requirements. With these systems you need to determine your immediate and medium term requirements to make sure you have enough equipment. Each technology has requirements and restrictions on growing and changing the system in the future.
Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) and Robotic-Based AS/RS
Robotic-based AS/RS refers to any form of automated storage and retrieval that utilizes robots or AMRs. This includes AMR models such as the Stacker-Bot and the Go-Fer Bot, the Exotec Skypod system and cube storage systems.
Both traditional and robotic-based AS/RS are powerful in their own ways. That being said, the robotic options often provide quicker deployment times (in terms of getting the system online within a facility) and greater levels of flexibility and scalability.
Most robotic based AS/RS systems allow organizations to start with the system they need, reducing initial acquisitions costs. Then add robots, rack and workstations as your operational requirements grow. This robotic scalability and flexibility allows organizations to be agile and responsive.
Which option is right for you?
Deploying AS/RS in your operation is an excellent way of optimizing your warehouse storage space. Not only can this mean that you will be able to avoid the expensive process of moving to a larger facility, but it will also bring additional benefits such as productivity and accuracy improvements.
The question, naturally, becomes: Which solution is right for you to optimize your warehouse storage space?
To answer that question, it’s important to consider a number of factors, including the types of inventory you will be storing and handling; the available space; your deployment timeline; your required throughputs; the level of flexibility you need, and more. A trusted systems integrator can help you select the best possible path forward. Contact us today to speak with a member of the Conveyco Team.