Historically, we talked about warehouses as being manual or highly automated. Manual warehouses are more flexible, they adapt much more easily to change. Highly automated warehouses have much higher throughput, but their cost and lack of flexibility can make them a risky investment. But really, there are automation solutions that are highly flexible as well. Autonomous mobile robots have been getting a lot of press. But I’m also starting to hear more about AutoStore. At the HighJump Elevate conference, I heard about Parts Town’s implementation of this flexible automation technology.
Flexible automation can better handle changes in order volume, but they also have much higher throughput than manual warehouses. AutoStore is one example. AutoStore is essentially an automatic storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) with more intelligence and scalability. Whereas a traditional AS/RS has a set footprint and can’t scale, AutoStore can. And in an AS/RS, if the stacker crane breaks, every picking location in that bay is affected. With AutoStore, there are multiple points of failure. If one robot breaks, the robot can be quickly rolled off the grid, and then the other robots go back to work.
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