Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) are found in nearly every industry in countries throughout the world. From manufacturing and wholesale distribution to warehousing, military, aerospace, vehicle dealerships, retail sales, mining, forestry, and more. Organizations interested in reducing cost and increasing productivity rely on AS/RS material handling equipment. There are three main types of AS/RS machines: automated vertical lifts, automated vertical carousels, and automated horizontal picking systems. Each of these automated storage solutions uses the goods-to-person principle to make inventory and parts storage and retrieval more effective.
How Automatic Parts Retrieval Works Using the Goods-to-Person Principle
Instead of multiple persons walking to multiple locations in a warehouse to pick multiple parts, inventory and parts (up to thousands) are stored in one location, delivered to one operator, and picked by the same operator. Picking operations can also be performed by crane assist or other mechanical manipulators to lift heavy items. Inventory management software directs the AS/RS systems to deliver the item to an operator at an ergonomic height. Picking aids, such as bar code scanners, LED light, pick-to-light, and laser pointers, confirm or visually assist the operator to accurately pick items.
The inventory management software, combined with the AS/RS equipment, significantly increases productivity, improves accuracy, and reduces work related injuries. Employees no longer waste company time looking for inventory, and since items are delivered at an ergonomic level by the AS/RS system, injury occurring while bending, twisting or climbing ladders to retrieve inventory is significantly reduced or eliminated.
Brief Explanation of the Three Different Types of AS/RS Systems
The type of AS/RS system that will best suit you depends on the type of material handling and processes of your facility. It may be that only one, or a combination of all 3 will work best for you.
Automated Vertical Lifts utilize a high speed “elevator” (lift) that goes up and down between two walls of storage shelves that face each other. The system is fully enclosed for safety and security. When directed by software, the lift will retrieve a tray from a shelf containing the desired item and deliver the tray to the operator bay, where the operator then picks the item from the tray. The software instructs the AS/RS system to store shelves/trays dynamically. In other words, sensors will measure the tallest item height on any given tray. The measurements are calculated and the software then instructs the shelves to store as close as 1” above the tallest item. Dynamic storage eliminates unused airspace and optimizes high density storage. Vertical lifts come in varying heights (8’ to 100’ approx.), are deeper than vertical carousels and store about twice as much.
Automated vertical carousels, on the other hand, store shelves in fixed positions on an elliptical track (similar to a ferris wheel). You can choose the amount of space between shelves, but once in place, it is very cumbersome to reposition. The shelves can be rotated forward or backward to bring them at ergonomic level to the operator to retrieve items on shelves. The shelves can further be divided with partitions, bins and boxes. As with vertical lifts, vertical carousels use the air space above traditional storage, and significantly reduce your storage footprint. You can recover up to 75% of your floor space by going vertical with a carousel. Carousels are ideal for small parts and inventory and uniformly sized inventory (such as tires, bankers boxes, etc.)
Horizontal automated picking systems rotate shelves on a horizontal elliptical track to a pick up / delivery workstation. These picking systems provide exceptional throughput capabilities in high volume pick applications such as distribution centers. When the horizontal systems are grouped into pods, batch picking is easy and efficient.