Semi-Automated Storage Solutions

As the supply chain industry continues to evolve, workers are challenged with finding new and innovative methods to implement technology to reduce disruptions and increase operational efficiency in each facility. Warehouse managers in need of a dynamic yet straightforward solution should evaluate implementing semi-automated pallet carts with deep lane storage systems.

Semi-automated storage solutions – sometimes referred to as pallet runners, pallet shuttles, or pallet moles – allow for efficient organization of a warehouse because they can store, load, and retrieve full pallets. They are fast, easy-to-use, and adaptable enough for more inventory systems (First-In, First Out; Last-In, First-Out, etc.).

Essentially, the system centers around a cart that travels along pre-determined lanes within deep storage structures within a warehouse. While there may be some level of fully automated programming available, the carts typically are controlled via remote. An operator can control up to four carts simultaneously.

How Do Semi-Automated Deep Lane Storage Systems Work?

The functionality of a semi-automated deep lane storage system is relatively easy to understand. Once a pallet is placed onto the load position in the pallet rack by a forklift, the cart transfers it based on the direction of an operator with a remote control. From there, there are three main functions of a pallet runner:

  • Loading/Storing: After the pallet is loaded onto the rack, a cart will position the pallet for storage in the first available storage position in that lane. Semi-automated deep lane storage systems allow for very dense storage, with systems typically being 12-40 pallets deep per lane.
  • Unloading: Like the loading function, an operator can use a pallet runner as an unloading mechanism. The cart travels the lane until the first available pallet is located. Once located, the cart picks up the pallet and moves it to the unload end position in the rack where a forklift driver picks it up & loads it for shipment.
  • Continuous Loading/Unloading: This is like the manual loading/unloading function; however, the runner can be programmed to return to retrieve the next available pallet automatically.

What Are Other Benefits of Semi-Automated Storage Systems?

Semi-automated deep lane storage systems help maximize space in a warehouse while creating optimal storage density by using technology to load, store, and unload full pallets. This system comes as a benefit to your forklifts by moving wear-and-tear from those more expensive-to-replace capital expenses and onto this more versatile option. They also help reduce damage to both product and racking structure by keeping products within a lane and minimally exposed to hazards within the warehouse.

You can further outfit these semi-automated carts with additional features that may suit your operational needs, including integration in cold environments (from 30 degrees to -22 degrees Fahrenheit), wi-fi enablement, remote control charging capabilities, and more.

Want to Learn More?

If you have an interest in implementing dynamic solutions like semi-automated deep lane storage, we should talk. Storage Solutions experts are ready to share their knowledge, experience, and guidance in the installation and maintenance of these semi-automated storage solutions. We are one of the few United States-based integrators who can offer support and service 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact us today to start developing your semi-automated deep lane storage project!

Storage Solutions Vincennes Partnership 1

As of 2018, Plainfield, Indiana, boasted 50% of all warehouse jobs in Central Indiana, including employers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Foxconn. As the supply chain and logistics industries continue to grow in Central Indiana – and Hendricks County in particular – there is a high demand for training and education to maximize employment for skilled labor.

To support that educational demand, Storage Solutions has partnered with Vincennes University’s Logistics Training and Education Center (VULTEC) to introduce students to on-demand automation and its increasing role in warehouse operations.

Storage Solutions has loaned Fetch Robotics’ HMIShelf robot, a picking transportation solution, to the Vincennes center for training purposes. The robot works alongside warehouse associates to carry a wide range of bins, totes, and packages from multiple pick zones or locations to a packing area. The HMIShelf is designed to reduce associate travel time, increasing productivity, and lessening the hardship of employees who would otherwise be carrying the loads.

“As a Fetch Solutions Certified Provider, we can be at the forefront of implementing on-demand automation in warehouse environments,” explained Nathan Storey, Vice President of Operations at Storage Solutions. “Our partnership with Vincennes allows us to help students of all ages learn about how warehouses currently operate, but also be prepared to adjust to technological advances.”

For the next two years, students and visitors to the VULTEC can obtain first-hand experience with the autonomous mobile robot and see how it can assist in real-world applications in the supply chain industry. Whether it comes to programming or picking, students in the programs will likely be working with elements of warehouse automation in some form in their next jobs.

“We are thrilled to have Storage Solutions exhibiting their automated mobile robots at our training and education center,” explained Debbie Furnish, Warehouse Technician at Vincennes’ Logistics Training and Education Center.

“Partnerships like these help us put premium value to the educational opportunities we give to our students. These AMRs are part of the future of the industry, so it gives our students a leg-up to have that first-hand knowledge of how they work and how to work with them.”

THE VULTEC is a 30,000 square foot warehouse that combines a hands-on learning environment with classroom instructions. Students gain the knowledge base that makes them attractive to potential employers while providing the opportunity to apply their education using the latest equipment and technology.

For more information on the VULTEC, visit www.vulogistics.com.

autonomous mobile robots-social-distancing

If there is one thing every person can agree on, it is that we do not know what our world will look like after the COVID-19 crisis finally concludes. As a society, we will likely re-evaluate social practices. As people, we may re-think how we go about our daily lives. As warehouse managers, we may look at this disruption as an opportunity to automate processes where we can.

In the age of social distancing – where we are asking humans to stay anywhere from six to 27 feet away from one another – we have seen an increase of interest in technology solutions like autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).

In the current environment, AMRs also enhance safety by allowing simple automated methods to transfer work from one person in the operation to another while eliminating the need for direct human contact. This allows your team to maintain or increase productivity, while also enhancing personal safety for your employees.

In short, an AMR is a warehouse manager’s dream. They are powered by sensors and on-board computers and programmed explicitly to carry out repeatable tasks within an operation. They are capable of reacting to their environment and avoid things like people, forklifts, and pallets while carrying products from one place to another.

AMRs Can Reduce Labor Disruptions

Right now, you do not have to look too far to see industries impacted by labor disruptions. Labor disruptions can result in anything from a flat tire to a worldwide pandemic – and everything in between. AMRs are just one of many technology solutions that can reduce labor disruptions. They are ideal because they are flexible and cost-effective and can be programmed without the need for substantial additional investment in facility infrastructure or IT.

Autonomous Mobile Robots Can Work Alongside Your Team

Warehouse associates can benefit from the integration of AMRs, especially in the realm of health and safety. For instance, in the picking process, one a product is picked and placed upon a robot such as Fetch Robotics’ HMIShelf, the robot can then take the package to a pre-determined place in your warehouse. This process saves the associate the trouble of lifting and carrying the product, reducing the stress on back, knees, feet, and overall wear-and-tear.

By shortening the distance traveled by humans in your warehouse, you are also reducing the risk of forklift accidents and injuries. These collaborative work scenarios then allow your humans to focus on higher-level tasks and let the robots do the heavy lifting. Literally.

AMRs Can Optimize Efficiency

Every percentage of the laborious, monotonous, and physically exerting labor done by humans that you can transfer to an AMR pays off. Pick times get reduced. Turnover becomes lessened. And, not only will employees be more appreciative of their jobs being safer, easier, and more fulfilling, the work they can do now becomes a better return on your investment in valuable human capital.

Evaluate, Then Evolve

As we continue to re-evaluate all of our practices, it may be a perfect time to re-evaluate the inclusion of technology solutions like AMRs or other systems that allow you to continue to operate at maximum capacity and efficiency, even during challenges times.

If you would like more information or would like to discuss the challenges you see with your workforce or operation, contact one of our Storage Solutions experts. We would love to connect and provide customized solutions that are suited to fit your needs.

Delivery Expectation Changes

Some call the “Amazon Effect” a disruption. Some recognize it as an evolution of the retail market. While both may be true, one thing we all can agree on is how consumers are changing their expectations on delivery – both in terms of timing and specificity.

However, the “Amazon Effect” is not changing the retail industry alone. Shipping, wholesalers, warehouses, and other sectors that branch off the retail industry are all undergoing seismic changes in how to meet customers’ new levels of expediency. Essentially, consumer behavior & service expectations are proliferating through the business world as well. When people buy, they want their product as soon as possible. In order to meet these new delivery expectations, every point on the supply chain needs to adjust accordingly.

According to Forbes’ Insights Team:

Customer demands for ever more rapid fulfillment are forcing businesses of all kinds to warehouse their goods ever closer to intermediate and end-customers… Getting goods to consumers faster means “seven, eight or nine touches moving the freight to a network of warehouses and forward positions.” In short, says the executive, “that final mile is being redefined almost every day.”

When change is happening as quickly as it is, decision-makers who are “forward-thinking” are getting ahead of the curve.

Being “forward-thinking” means evaluating all aspects of your operations to maximize efficiencies — either by reducing inefficiencies or by introducing new technologies to meet your customers where demand is shifting. In a sense, you know changes in your clients’ expectations are coming if you have not already experienced them.

What Are Your Options?

  1. You could be proactive and adjust your operations now. Get ahead of your clients and provide a seamless experience in catering to their needs.
  2. You could be reactive and wait until your clients require you to change. Run the risk of your clients having a disruption of service when their needs change.
  3. You could never adjust to changes in your industry. Good luck with that.

When you are ready to explore your options to adjust to changes in delivery expectations, we are here to help. Storage Solutions has decades of combined experience in working with our clients and partners to optimize – not just for today’s needs, but for tomorrow’s growth as well.

essential solutions storage needs

As the COVID-19 crisis continues its lifecycle, businesses deemed non-essential are closing down across the country. Because our company serves many necessary logistics, construction, and supply chain industries, Storage Solutions is continuing to operate unless circumstances change. We were early to establish a COVID-19 Task Force and shift to a remote workplace, wherever applicable.

We also know that we are not alone in our essential role in our economy. Companies in the material handling industry are working safely to ensure deadlines are being met, and progress continues as well as it can, given the circumstances. We are seeing many businesses responding to a change in demand. Now more than ever, companies are seeing the need for flexible, dynamic operations and are adjusting how they work to meet those challenges head-on.

Our experts are always ready to learn about how the challenges are causing pain in operations. As our company is continuing to evolve, we have the expertise in providing essential solutions and so much more.

Let us know what we can do to help. Below are a few ways we are supporting companies who are running to the best of their ability to meet changing patterns in demand at a rate they may never have before.

We Are Buying and Selling Used Warehouse Equipment

We are here to help make sure your business and storage space has what it needs to operate as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Sometimes that means having an affordable solution. We hunt for the best-used equipment and thoroughly inspect every piece to ensure it’s 100% safe and ready to use.

If you are getting rid of your equipment, reconfiguring your warehouse to meet new demands, or relocating your operations, we are also here to help you solve the issues that naturally arise. Whether it’s tools, lighting, logistics, or anything else the job requires, Storage Solutions’ experience and integrated services approach creates truly effortless teardowns that don’t need your constant attention.

Plan Projects with Turnkey Solutions

Because we take an integrated supply and service approach, we can manage projects of any scale to meet your timeline and budget. Need to get permits signed off? We can do that. Need an installation schedule developed? That’s our bread and butter. Need to handle logistics? Why rely on another vendor when we can do that in-house. Our Project Managers assume the unexpected and work with you closely to give you a single point of contact and peace of mind with better command and more control.

Determining the Right Course with Design and Dynamic Solutions

We know that the best solutions start with the best designs (link to blog), and we are ready and capable to get started in providing Design Solutions to develop the optimal storage layout and pick process custom developed for your operation. We can address issues like SKU proliferation, the impact of e-commerce, anticipated changes in demand, and factor in costs associated with labor. We want to give you a flexible and scalable solution based on data and expertise.

We can also talk about how adding dynamic solutions like automation to your operation no make it more technology-driven, no matter what level of automation currently exists (if at all). Many companies are looking for creative ways to stay competitive in an ever-changing economy, and one of the most cost-effective forms of changing the way your warehouse works is to introduce these solutions.

Let’s Talk About Essential Solutions!

Whatever your needs may be during this time, we are here for you. We are interested in learning about the challenges you may face. Whether those challenges arose before, during, or after the crisis, we are ready. Give us a call at 800-474-2001, and our experts would love to connect.

We are here to serve you with the essential solutions that are necessary to keep your business optimally running. And, we are here to do so in the highest degree.

slowdown-growth-potential

Whether it comes as a result of an impossible-to-predict natural disaster or a regular component of a business cycle, a slowdown is going to happen every so often. Few industries are not susceptible.

Slowdowns do not necessarily mean that the business has stopped. In the current situation that affects the entire world, we are still operating at full steam. However, we are subject to regulations and restrictions that affect different cities, states, and regions throughout the country, and we adhere to the authorities there. While some projects are on pause or slowed because of external forces beyond our control, others are continuing per usual.

For those experiencing slowdowns due to external forces, there is a silver lining. During times like these, business owners and distribution center managers can take advantage of these rare slowdowns by taking a proactive approach to evaluating their operations.

What Works for Your Business? Let’s Do More.

The most natural place to start in evaluating your business is to look at what is successful. You have spent the time, resources, and investment in people and processes that led you down a path to success. After all, you have been in business for a reason. However, now is a great time to see what you can do about throwing more gas on that fire.

Are there new hires you can make in an area of your business? Can you bring someone’s problem-solving ability or mindset from one area of the company to another? For example, are there lessons you can apply from a recent win in one area of the business to another? Take a look at your past few years of reports, examine the peaks, and evaluate what it took to achieve those results. Then, do more.

What Isn’t Working for You? Can You Stop Doing Those Things?

It can seem simplistic to say, “We should stop doing the things that aren’t working for us.” However, you will rarely find a more productive time to investigate all of the areas of your business. What are those processes, partnerships, or procedures that can be removed or replaced?

Taking an accurate evaluation of your business also means you need to recognize what doesn’t work for you. It can be a difficult task because an honest assessment requires decision-makers to be humble and own up to actions that are not working the way they initially were intended. It forces action on shortcomings. However, turning those negative habits into positive ones allow your business to avoid any lags when the slowdowns stop, and your business is ready to speed up.

What Are Successful Programs You Can Adopt?

Slowdowns are also a great time to look at processes that competitors or partners have adopted recently. Would a new approach benefit your business? Would now be a good time to look at implementing something new that has worked elsewhere?

This step bears the fruit from building out your network. Is there someone you talked to at a recent conference or whom you interacted with on LinkedIn that may have some insight into something new for your business?

There’s never been a better time to stop, listen, and think about what others are doing and saying about successes in their business. How can you benefit from the lessons they’ve already learned?

It’s Time to Make the Lemonade.

Slow times can cause stress, headaches, and hardships. However, proactive businesses can stem the tide by taking the additional time afforded to them by evaluating their processes. When it is time to put the pedal to the metal, these decisions can pay off in real ways because you’ve done the leg work to put yourself in the best situation to succeed.

If you are looking for a place to start, we would love to help. Our teams are working safely and remotely during the COVID-19 crisis, and we are here to learn about the challenges you face. We are here to provide you with solutions for every square foot!

dynamic-solutions-labor-costs

With wages projected to rise nationwide, along with costs associated with employee safety, warehouse managers are experiencing an uncomfortable environment of increasing labor costs. Labor cost issues are not unique to those in the material handling industry. The cost of labor in this industry is especially affected by variance when it comes to maintaining the high levels of service expected by customers today.

No one can predict the future. Accidents are avoidable but happen. Weather delays are not unavoidable. Production delays, changes in regulations, and “the human element” all factor into these variances in labor costs. So, how does one accurately forecast? Can you avoid any of these variances with the addition of automation?

Thankfully, the answer is yes. Our experts know how to solve these issues by introducing dynamic solutions to your operations.

Dynamic solutions like vertical lift machines, conveyors, or any of Fetch Robotics’ On-Demand Automation Solutions supplement your current labor force. These solutions allow for growth for your employees. Rather than having your team carrying items back and forth, dynamic solutions assist with the mundane, repetitive aspects of picking. With dynamic solutions in place, your team can focus its attention on more rewarding – and profitable – tasks and initiatives.

How Dynamic Solutions Help Your Business:

  • Cost Certainty: Adding dynamic solutions can help add cost certainty to your budgeting process. We create efficiencies by automating processes that typically are done by manual labor. With investments into automated solutions, you can streamline variable costs that come with human labor – salary, vacation, benefits, insurance, and more.
  • Right-Sized Investments: When it comes to investing in automated solutions, there is a typical misconception around the size of investment a business needs to make. When you work with a Storage Solutions expert, we will work with your team to address your needs and find the right solution, with an investment that matches your budget and fits within your current operation. Every client has unique challenges. However, we solve these challenges by eliminating unnecessary costs.
  • The “Human Element”: Let’s face it. There is a “human element” that comes with labor that often goes understated and underreported. For example, managers account for sick days, underperformance, and other indirect factors that come with employment. By introducing dynamic solutions, you can account for those lost costs and remove some overhead in the process, adding to your overall efficiency.
  • Maximize Potential – While the “human element” is real, your co-workers are still your co-workers. Now that mundane tasks are automated, what kind of work will your employees do next? How will additional attention toward safety, execution, and optimization improve your warehouse and workflow?

What is Next?

Dynamic Solutions are available to help you run your operations smoother. With a higher level of certainty and quality, where can you see your business in just a few months?

Our experts often see returns on our dynamic solutions within two years or less, because we put the right solution in front of our clients. We pay attention to the details so we can customize a solution to satisfy the exact needs of your operations.

Contact us today to learn more about our Dynamic Solutions and how these solutions can support your bottom line.

Fetch Robotics Webinar CartConnect

We would love for you to join us next Tuesday, August 27th for our latest Fetch Robotics webinar on CartConnect. This dynamic solution can speed up your facility, therefore, increasing ROI in the long-run.

Many leaders in the manufacturing and supply chain industry agree that robotics and automation are the most effective ways to stay competitive in a dynamic marketplace. However, not all automation mediums are created equal. This technology can transform the way you go about your material handling solutions and can double productivity within your facility.

This new technology is called CartConnect. CartConnect is an autonomous material handling solution that picks up, transports, and drops off warehouse carts to any location, within any warehouse, factory, or distribution center. During the webinar, we will show how CartConnect can be used for multiple picking strategies and other applications such as put away, replenishment & retail stocking. In short, this Fetch AMR solution can give you a competitive edge in your operation.

Want to learn more? Join us on Tuesday, August 27th at 2:00 PM EST to learn how to launch your facility into the future. Sign up for the webinar today!

Workplace Productivity Increase with Ergonomics

We often examine the positive effects an efficient warehouse design can have on your operation, but what does it mean for your employees? When it comes to warehouse productivity, one of the main components of keeping your facility moving is keeping employees safe. Taking small adjustments into account when setting up your warehouse can be huge for your employees in the long run.

Warehouse Ergonomics

Part of keeping your employees safe is keeping them comfortable. One way to do this is by storing items at the optimal level to reduce strain on pickers. Along with keeping items at a certain level, another aspect of warehouse ergonomics is keeping highly selected items around the same area to lower foot traffic in the facility.

Another way to keep your employees in good health is to integrate some type of automation within your facility. Automation will help you decrease the foot traffic needed to transport goods to all parts of your warehouse. Less exertion means fewer ergonomic issues down the line, helping you keep your staff healthy and comfortable. This will also assist with your overall warehouse productivity as well, which makes it an all-around win.

How We Can Help?

When it comes to keeping high pick volume items in the same area, we offer our newest service, Smart Slotting. This inventory slotting tool takes all of the data provided, such as picking and replenishment rates for different SKUs, and will give you the blueprint to optimize your space and help cut down on unnecessary movement around your facility.

Another way to support ergonomics is through automation. We offer a variety of dynamic solutions that can help with cutting down strenuous movement and wasted time. This includes powered conveyor to move items with ease throughout the facility, and Vertical Lift Machines (VLMs) to allow for fast and ergonomic picking with almost no walking being required.

Another dynamic solution we offer is Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). AMRs give your employees the ability to stay in one area to work as opposed to moving around the facility. This keeps employees out of the way off forklifts and other machinery moving throughout the warehouse.

Want to learn more about how we can help you keep your facility safe and productive? Click here for more information on our Dynamic Solutions.

AMR vs. AGV

Due to market conditions such as labor challenges and increasing customer service demands, warehouse automation is a hot topic lately. Companies both large and small are looking into resources to move items throughout their operation more efficiently. If you’ve been following this trend, you’ve most likely heard the buzz around using AMR vs. AGV.

AGVs, or Automated Guided Vehicles, have been familiar in warehouses for quite some time now. AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) on the other hand are a little newer to the scene. It’s important to understand what you’re getting with each of these solutions.

AMR vs. AGV: What’s the Difference?

While on the surface the two may seem very similar, there are several key factors that set an AGV and an AMR apart. The most fundamental difference between the two comes down to how they move through a facility. A guided vehicle is just what the name implies, a vehicle that operates on a fixed and guided route. Usually AGVs run along some sort of path, such as embedded magnets or wires. With this set path, an AGV does not have the ability to make quick changes on the fly, and does not always have the intelligence to stop when something comes in its path. This can lead to expensive upgrades down the road as your operational needs change. It could also put you at risk for more work-related accidents to occur.

An AMR is an autonomously navigating robot designed to work collaboratively with humans. Therefore it offers a much smarter solution. With an AMR, you get a flexible solution that offers easy adjustments as your operational needs change. In addition, the implementation for an AMR is much simpler. There is no need to make costly facility adjustments to get started. Finally, another key point that sets an AMR apart is the safety factors. AMRs use vision systems and laser sensors to ensure that accidents are avoided in any environment.

Cost Standpoint When Addressing AMRs vs AGVs

When you hear the value that an AMR can bring your operation you probably assume that the cost must be much higher than an AGV, but that is not the case. Since AMRs help you avoid costly modifications, getting started with one is fast and relatively inexpensive.

Storage Solutions is proud to partner with Fetch Robotics as a Fetch Certified Solutions Provider. Through this partnership we offer a variety of AMR solutions that can be customized to meet your needs. Want to find out how a Fetch AMR solution can assist you in achieving optimal efficiency in your facility? Click here to learn more about the products or to schedule a free consultation with one of our Fetch experts today.