Global Material Handling System Integrators
 
 

Finding the Perfect Automated Storage and Retrieval System

 
Automated Storage and Retrieval ASRS RenderingLast month a colleague of mine, Derek Cribley, wrote a blog article about the evolution of Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) since he first started working with them 15 years ago.  To give you an appreciation for the breadth of solutions available, I thought I could share my experience from a recent project I worked on involving an ASRS system for pallet storage. In the process of figuring out which was the best ASRS for this project, I was able to learn firsthand how ASRS technology is changing and how a project's requirements help dictate the appropriate solution. Inevitably, some ASRS technologies fell short of the project requirements, while others exceeded expectations; however, in the end, a solution was created that perfectly met our project goals. To give you some background information, let me quickly run through the project details: The Project Requirements:
  • Pallet locations: 16,000
  • Number of SKU's: 1,750
  • Dual Cycle Requirements: 50 per hour
* Dual Cycle means the shuttle (or other vehicle) handles at least two pallets/products during its trip--a product is retrieved and deposited, then another product is retrieved and deposited as the vehicle returns to home position. Basic system functionality:
  • Receive and stores pallets during the day
  • Retrieve and replenish pallets for a pickings system during the night
The solution required for this project needed to offer a relatively large amount of pallet locations, but also required a relatively high number of dual cycles per hour, especially during the replenishing operation.

Option 1: Ineffective Storage

In my first attempt, I designed a solution with a standard ASRS crane system.  Using seven cranes, I was able to get the dual cycle rate I needed, but because the cranes could only pull pallets from a one- or two-deep racking system (cranes with a satellite car system did not meet the dual cycle per hour rate), I needed very long aisles to get my required pallet storage.  Creating these long aisles was not an optimal solution for the client, so we began looking at the next option.

Option 2: Dual Cycle Rate TOO High

Next, I looked at a relatively new multi-shuttle technology from P|A|S Americas .   The P-A-S Americas system placed a shuttle car with a pallet runner (satellite car) on each level of the deep storage racking with a lift at the end of each aisle to move the pallets vertically. This system offered both a large number of pallet locations (using deep storage pallet racking) and a very high dual cycle rate per hour.  However, the dual cycle rate available from a shuttle on every level was much higher than the project required.

Option 3: The Perfect Solution

Finally, I reviewed a new technology from Italy, Smoov ASRV.  This system uses vehicles similar to AGVs (automated guided vehicles) to independently navigate through a specially-designed racking system with lifts located throughout the racking to move the pallets and vehicles vertically. This system was able to give me both my required number of pallet locations and dual-cycle throughput. Plus, this system provided greater flexibility.  Pallet storage and the dual cycle per hour rate could easily be expanded by simply adding more vehicles or racking, and since the number of vehicles was fully scalable, the budget costs of the Smoov solution fell below the $350-$450 price range (per pallet position) obtained from the less scalable ASRS technologies.

Summary:

The latest ASRS technologies are creating the need to carefully scrutinize a project's storage and throughput requirements to find the best solution, and in your search for the best ASRS, you are bound to find solutions that will go beyond your project requirements or even fall short.  Nevertheless, with the growing number of ASRS options, you will eventually find the solution that fits your project perfectly.  It just takes time and patience to sort through them all. If you need help finding the right system to meet your needs, please feel free to contact me. What are some recent ASRS innovations you find interesting or impressive?  Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Author: Rick Sills

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