Tag Archive for: ASRS

7-automation-solutions-to-support-ecommerce

There is a rapidly growing market for interest in automation solutions, especially in response to the COVID-19 crisis that has reshaped supply chains globally.

Before the crisis began, businesses of all types were slowly shifting to support e-commerce. However, when the pandemic hit, that shift suddenly forced those interested in these solutions to re-evaluate if automation was required to meet customer demand. With the recent acceleration of e-commerce demand, many fulfillment centers need to incorporate automation to a higher degree.

To meet customer demand – where the time between order and delivery expectation is shorter than any time in history – warehouses need to change. Warehouses that are not fully prepared for this rapid rise of e-commerce often rely on an excessive amount of labor (including additional overtime), missing ship dates, and do not meet customer expectations on order accuracy or fulfillment times, all while confronting an ever-increasing volume of SKUs.

The pain points are all building up for those who have not yet adjusted. In those cases, how does one respond?

Some businesses start from scratch by building new facilities, while others are looking to adjust by retrofitting under their current footprint. These companies are looking to increase storage density, reduce time and costs, and achieve higher throughput capabilities by introducing automation into their processes.

Several solutions help warehouses and distribution centers stay competitive and thrive in today’s changing world. Below, we have highlighted seven automation solutions we have seen be useful in these efforts, no matter what level of automation your facility currently has implemented:

Solution 1: Goods-to-Person Picking with HAI Robotics

HAI Robotics ActionHAI Robotics is an intelligent, efficient, and flexible automation solution that utilizes a combination of HAIPICK robots, customizable storage units, software, and workstations to create a robotic goods-to-person picking workflow in a warehouse setting. These robots can handle up to eight cases simultaneously and reach heights up to 33 feet, increasing operational efficiency by up to 4x while also increasing storage density by up to 130%.

This solution replaces the repetitive, time-consuming costs of manual storage and handling and introduces a goods-to-person technology that can drastically improve fulfillment efforts.

Solution 2: Goods-to-Person Tote Handling AS/RS with Opex Perfect Pick

Goods-to-Man Tote Handling AS/RSHigh-speed AS/RS tote handling solutions offer scalable goods-to-person picking that improves the speed with which orders are picked, increases order accuracy, and reduces labor costs related to the picking process. It is a low-risk solution for those looking to introduce automated solutions into their operations. An additional benefit of this solution is that an operator can customize either the software or the system quickly if needed.

These systems offer high-density storage both vertically and horizontally within the system with robots that deliver products to a packing station or workstation for further fulfillment. It utilizes put-to-light technology that offers a high degree of accuracy, even with high volumes of order picking.

Solution 3: Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)AMRs offer a wide variety of benefits, including facilitating complex fulfillment, zone picking, each picking, case picking, maximizes labor, reduces labor costs, and can be designed to be scalable, flexible, and adaptable to nearly any fulfillment process. Because they do not require massive investment or even a WMS, on-demand automation solutions like AMRs are becoming adopted widely, especially for those looking to make low-risk introductions into automation.

Solution 4: Handle Complex Product Mixes with EffiMat® and ClassicMat™

Effimat-in-ActionEffimat® is an ideal solution for fast-moving products and small parts but can also increase fulfillment efficiencies with slow runners. The technology can determine the speed with which to pick the order. However, ClassicMat™ is constructed to be the ideal handler for slow runners and can prevent the parts from lowering the speed of the order.

By combining the two technologies and using their intelligent software system, users are ensured highly efficient storage or production environments that can handle complex product mixes.

Solution 5: Put to Light Tables/Workstations

Put-to-Light TablesPut-to-Light systems are an automated sortation method to break down larger product quantities into smaller individual orders. Known as the “scan and sort method,” this order fulfillment method takes items that are usually batch picked beforehand and transports them to the put station. The operator will scan a bar code on individual items, and the lights will illuminate with any customer order including that product. This technology solution will increase productivity as it reduces the time associated with searching for the put location. By the time the operator is done, the next product is already waiting, meaning it is a nonstop picking environment where workers are never waiting on automation.

Put-to-Light offers the same hardware devices and software as pick to light, meaning you can utilize both systems on one platform. This process will be beneficial when it comes to training new employees to use this technology solution. This system’s primary goal is to give you the ability to pack and ship more orders in less time while reducing errors.

Solution 6: Mixed Use of AMRs, Pick Modules, and Conveyors

AMRs and Conveyor CombosWe’ve touched on the integration of AMRs in conjunction with pick modules in addition to (or in place of) conveyors here. In short, by using this solution, you are shifting the work of your labor force to more valuable tasks. Like many automated solutions, it lessens the pick process’s length and gives you a flexible, scalable solution to adjust as e-commerce continues to grow.  Click here to learn more about this solution.

Solution 7: Introduce Automation without Massive Infrastructure with inVia Robotics

inVia Robotics ActioninVia Robotics offers a “crawl-walk-run” approach to introducing automation with their PickMate, Picker Robots, and PickerWall solutions. Users can integrate robotics at your scale, ultimately improving productivity up to 10x while seeing a return on investment on day one of implementation.

inVia is the only technology that can create a goods-to-person picking environment out of an existing pick module while not requiring massive infrastructure changes within your facility.

Their unique robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription models offer an ideal place to start automation because the subscription model removes the massive capital expenditure from the equation

Which is Right for You?

Which is the right solution for you? Will you need a WES/WMS system? Do you need a partner to help you consider using an engineered solution in the future?
There are several factors distribution centers need to consider, not only to meet today’s demand but also to facilitate growth and adaptability for future unforeseen changes in fulfillment expectations.

We have the design and expertise to partner with you through the decision-making and implementation processes. Give us a call today!

Automation Solutions for Dense Storage

Whether it is time to reconfigure your operations within a warehouse or design a new warehouse, a common goal in the design team is to get the most capacity out of each square foot of the facility. Wasted space – both horizontally and vertically – means lost potential revenue because, by default, you are not able to store as much as you would with dense storage solutions.

Traditionally, facility design engineers would take standard pallet racking – a lot of it – and find ways to slot inventory appropriately to optimize storage. They would look at opportunities to reduce unused space while factoring in order frequency and a few other variables. Occasionally, dense storage options like pushback racking and carton flow get included as well. Others would fill their facility with a sprawl of shelving or a combination of all the above.

But what happens when the supply chain changes? What happens when consumer expectations change? What happens when you need to incorporate more safety stock or turn around orders faster?

When considering the design (or redesign) of a facility, there are great alternatives to increase storage capacity within your footprint by introducing a combination of dense storage and automation solutions at varying degrees.

By introducing automation, warehouses can maximize space utilization with good throughput in the face of labor challenges. Especially as e-commerce continues to rise while traditional full-pallet shipping falls, warehouses are looking to adapt by doing more work with less labor.

So what options are out there for those making these decisions? Let’s take a look.

Semi-Automated Deep Lane Storage Solutions

For those who store products on pallets with large quantities of pallets on hand for specific SKUs, semi-automated deep lane storage solutions – commonly referred to as pallet runners, shuttles, or moles – can add capacity to warehouses by using technology to load, store, and unload pallets. A cart (or runner/shuttle/mole) transports a pallet along a lane with these storage systems and empties it into the first available storage position. These systems are dense in that they can store 12-40 pallets per lane, depending on the configuration. They are adaptable, capable of running continuously and help reduce damage to products and racking structures by staying within their respective lanes.

Example: AutoMHA’s Pallet Runner

Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) for Unit Load Handling

Cart-Based Solutions

In some ways, like the semi-automated deep lane storage, there are cart-based unit load AS/RS pallet handling solutions that can move bi-directionally to store and retrieve pallets and products automatically. These shuttles are highly reliable, easy to install, and adapted and scaled when growth calls for additional throughput needs. Cart-based systems can often provide higher throughput & better storage density than traditional crane-based AS/RS systems.

Examples: Optimus Automation’s Robotic Pallet Shuttles, Advanced Storage’s Rover

Crane-Based Solutions

Crane-based AS/RS technology has been around for some time in warehouses. These cranes can store and retrieve pallets within a storage system that maximizes vertical storage density at high speed. These systems offer improved efficiency, simple operation, and an easy maintenance plan.

Example: Daifuku’s Stacker Cranes

Cart-Crane Combination Solutions

Crane-based AS/RS systems that also incorporate carts provide the cost benefits of crane solutions with the added storage density that can be achieved using carts. These systems can accommodate both deeper lane storage and single or double-deep storage if there is a mix of typical on-hand quantities per SKU.

Example: AutoMHA’s AutosatMover

Dense Storage Solutions for Less-Than-Pallet, Unit Handling Environments

Mini-Load AS/RS Shuttles

Mini-load AS/RS shuttles are excellent in environments in which high throughput rates are required for picking eaches or cases within a distribution center. They significantly increase the storage density, accuracy, and speed with which products are stored and picked, and adapted to different building configurations. As a solution for getting products as quickly as possible from storage to staging, these systems can also serve as a short-term buffer system or act as manufacturing support for production operations.

Example: Dematic’s MiniShuttle

Vertical Lift Machines (VLMs)

VLMs offer warehouses a goods-to-man picking solution, ideal for storage and picking of small-cube and slower-moving items. They are great because they maximize floor space – 5,000 square feet of traditional storage can fit into about 150 square feet because of the machine’s height. VLMs offer high pick rates and can store a large cubic volume of a product. They are typically paired with a pick-to-light batching table and utilize software to allow for picking multiple orders simultaneously.

Example: Kardex’s Vertical Lift Modules

Vertical and Horizontal Carousels

As a high-density storage solution with a small footprint, vertical carousels are ideal for storing small parts. Products are organized by SKU in individualized boxes or totes that are secured to a series of shelves that rotate like a Ferris wheel. They revolve around a track and are accessible to a picker through a pick window. Horizontal carousels rotate similar to a dry cleaning rack, which allows your worker to stay in one area while the products turn to them. This action reduces travel distance and picking time, with multi-window and multi-level configurations available.

Example: Kardex-Remstar’s Vertical Carousels and Horizontal Carousels

Other Robotics-Based Dense Storage Automation Solutions

Ultra-High Density Goods-to-Person Storage and Buffering System

If you are in the market to bring maximum flexibility, scalability, and storage to your operations, ultra-high-density storage and buffering system will get you there. This system brings optimal storage for warehouses with many thousands of SKUs that need to facilitate very small order sizes, particularly in a small footprint warehouse. Ideal for e-commerce, these systems can facilitate multiple simultaneous orders with 3-dimensional automated picking that brings with it highly accurate order picking within an ultra-dense storage grid.

Example: Dematic’s AutoStore

3-Dimensional Automated Order Picking Systems

Automated dense storage solutions can also come in the form of a 3-axis storage system that uses autonomous mobile robots to facilitate storing and picking products. With these goods-to-person systems, an operator will give the AMR an order, which will then travel along a floor path to a specific location. From there, a shelf-climbing robot will lift the AMR to a particular location where it will select the product and deliver it back to the operator for batching. This system saves on labor and increases order speed and accuracy. They can be completely customized to meet your needs and, with quick installation, adaptable to expand as your operations grow.

Example: Exotech’s SkyPod

Which Automation Solution is Right for Your Operation?

These are just a few of the options out there, but there are a lot more that may be the right option for your operation. Sorting through and finding the right choice to meet your needs can be challenging.

We have a team of experts on hand to learn about what set of challenges you are seeing in your warehouse today and learn about what you see down the road. You may only need to invest in entry-level automation, or you may need to evaluate a fully automated facility. In reality, the answer is likely in between. Call us today and speak with a Storage Solutions expert!