Companies across all industries face the challenges of keeping up with ever-changing customers’ demands. One particular sector has to endure massive pressure to ensure the supply chain doesn’t get broken – storage.
This is where new technologies have emerged to automate as many warehouse processes as possible and optimize the usage of all businesses’ resources for better effectiveness.
In this article, we will talk about automated storage, current trends to follow, and what to expect from it in the future. Finally, we will explain what benefits you can anticipate from automating your storage facilities.
What is automated storage and retrieval system?
Automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) are computer-controlled systems that streamline a high volume of inventory in and out of the warehouse facilities. The six most used types of these systems include:
- Unit-load AR/RS uses fixed-aisle and movable-aisle cranes to move heavy and large loads.
- Mini-load AR/RS uses shuttles and cranes for carrying smaller loads.
- Cube-based storage is a robotic packing system used for cubical storage grid operations.
- A horizontal carousel uses horizontal rotation to sort small pieces and parts.
- The vertical carousel operates on vertical rotation for optimal usage of storage space.
- Vertical lift modules (VLMs) retrieve and store items in the trays.
What type of AR/RS you should use depends on the weight and size of your items, available storage space, and specific characteristics of your operating environment.
What are the trends in digital automation?
A big part of digital storage automation is the warehouse management system (WMS). This system operates on software that keeps track of every operation in the warehouse, including available inventory, direct packing, shipping, and so on.
Other important parts of digital automation are artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms. Automated systems that use AI and ML can optimize the use of your resources and improve demand forecasting by gathering and analyzing valuable data from your operational machines and computers.
What are the trends in physical automation?
The main components of physical storage automation are as follows:
- Wearables are items like GPS tracking bracelets or augmented reality (AU) glasses, that give direct information to warehouse workers about what needs to be done.
- Autonomous vehicles include guided vehicles that are operated by humans and autonomous mobile robots that are pre-programmed and work independently. Both are used for moving items from one place to another.
- Collaborative robots work together with human assistance in picking and retrieving heavy items. These robots can reduce leg work significantly.
- Drones are primarily used to scan packages in huge warehouses in a matter of seconds.
Both digital and physical components will continue to find new uses to make storage management even more efficient. AI will become a part of intralogistics. Algorithms will be able to calculate when and what orders to process to flatten the peaks out.
Automated picking will help be able to work independently at night and on weekends making warehouse processes even more efficient. At the same time, sensor technology will get a much bigger role in monitoring conditions and optimizing machines’ performances.
More problems will be solved as robotic technology continues to evolve. We are not far away from the possibility of fully automated storage facilities. This is confirmed in 2016 when Amazon acquired 45,000 robots for 20 of its distribution centers. This resulted in replacing 75% of warehouse jobs.
While we wait for the future to bring more innovations, here are some of the benefits you can expect from present-day automated storage.
What are the benefits of automated storage?
Besides optimizing all warehouse-related operations for better efficiency, automated storage also comes with these four benefits:
- Better usage of the floor space. Automated storage will help you reduce wasted aisle space and increase your storage capacity.
- Fewer labor requirements. Not only will you need fewer people to run your warehouse, but the ones that can’t be replaced will spend much less time walking and searching for the needed items.
- Enhanced pick accuracy. AR/RS systems come with many light-directed picking technologies that communicate to massage centers which ultimately transfer information to the floor operator. This will help you reduce common human errors in the picking process.
- Advanced inventory control. When you integrate your warehouse management system with machines, you can monitor your stock levels in real time.
There is no doubt that automated storage brings more efficiency to your everyday warehouse operations. When we consider that more than 80% of warehouses lack any form of automation, it becomes clear that implementing effective storage systems can give you the competitive edge.
Get onboard with the latest technologies and elevate your warehouse facilities to a higher level. In the words of Haresh Sippy, founder and CEO of Thema India Ltd.:” Automation is cost cutting by tightening the corners and not cutting them”.
We hope our article helped you understand the key principles of automated storage and gave you enough information to decide if this approach is the right choice for your warehouse operations.