Choosing the Right Automated Storage System
Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are becoming more and more popular in Canada and across the globe. The impact of Covid-19 has ramped up demand across many industries that rely heavily on warehousing and distribution operations. Therefore, companies are now turning to automated storage systems to deal with this increased demand, while simultaneously mitigating the risk that the pandemic has had on human-labour intensive operations.
There are two basic automated storage systems to choose from: Vertical Lift Modules and Horizontal Carousels. Although both systems offer similar benefits; space optimization and increased productivity, in this article, we will assess 4 factors to help you determine what system is best for your operations.
1. What height is available in your warehouse facility?
If you have a lot of height to work with (i.e. 12’ +) then Vertical Lift Modules will likely be the best option for you. This is because Vertical Lift Modules are able to economize space from floor to ceiling. VLMs are also equipped with an internal height detection system that enables it to measure the height of products inside the unit, and place them efficiently throughout the system - further maximizing its storage density capabilities.
2. Does your product mix fluctuate, and is it diverse?
Determining the best-automated storage system for you depends on what it is you will be storing in the system. For example, if your product mix constantly changes in numbers, sizes and weights, then VLMs are most efficient compared to Horizontal Carousels. When you have a diverse product mix, this can cause challenges in storing your diverse product line in the most efficient way possible. This is a challenge that VLMs are designed to overcome. VLMs are able to be configured and adjusted at any time to accommodate inventory of varying weights and sizes. Furthermore, the system is able to calculate the best location for each product to be stored, for maximum space efficiency.
3. Is maximum throughput a priority?
If you answered yes to this question, then Horizontal Carousels is the best option for you. While Vertical Lift Modules offer an impressive throughput of up to 130 trays per hour, Horizontal Carousels in comparison can be arranged to deliver a throughput of up to 550 lines per hour. These throughput rates are achieved when the Horizontal Carousels are used in pods. Therefore, when one operator is picking from one carousel, the next operator is pre-positioning the next pick. This greatly increases throughput time, while decreasing worker downtime.
4. What is your budget?
Automated systems offer tremendous ROI in a relatively short period of time (as early as 6 months), due to reduced labour costs, increased order picking accuracy, improved inventory control and efficiencies of space. With that being said, if you are looking to save money on the initial investment, horizontal carousels tend to be the more economical option compared to vertical lift modules.
Evaluating your storage handling needs is very important when considering what automated storage system you would like to move forward with. Many times, Vertical Lift Modules and Horizontal Carousels are used together to cover all bases.
All in all, both Horizontal Carousels and Vertical Lift Modules offer tremendous benefits such as enhanced floor space utilization, reduction in labour costs, improved picking accuracy, and superior inventory control. As the future is increasingly headed towards automation, these advantages will ensure that your operations can stay ahead of the competition.