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What are vertical lift modules and how can they fit your warehouse?

Surbhi Aggarwal

13th Apr, 2020

vertical lift modules

Have you ever imagined your cupboard to be automatic? An automatic storage space where you just need to press a button and Voila! you have your required item served before you. But why do you need an automatic cupboard at the first place? May be not. But automation matters when there are a number of items to store and you need them in your hand really quick. A warehouse or a factory is a place where the above utopia will become a hysteria.  A vertical lift module is the technology that makes the above system possible. You must have seen elevators with doors that open on both the front and rear side. Similarly, VLM consists of two columns of trays, parallelly facing each other and a mechanical extractor between them like the elevator. The mechanical extractor travels up and down between the columns automatically retrieving and storing the items from these trays stored on the columns. In warehouses, inventory is stored in these columns and by entering the tray number on the built-in control pad, the extractor triggers and retrieves the items from the columns by intelligently detecting the location of that item. This operation is applicable for extraction as well as replenishment of material inside the vertical storage module.

Necessity and Invention, an old lore!

Manufacturers across the globe supply a wide range of products and hence manage the inventory of these wide range of product profiles. From slow movers to fast and from small items to large, material handling approaches vary if these manufacturers are to maintain efficiency. There are various technologies available for fast moving items but medium and slow movers also required a technology to sync with the level of operation.

Some of the leading manufacturing industries including automotive, metals and heavy machinery, semiconductors and electronics, and aviation started using VLMs for the storage and retrieval of components and raw materials which are either slow or medium movers. At present, almost 18% of the VLM is used by automotive end-user sector. Suppliers in this industry focus on managing large inventory effectively and also seek to reduce additional cost incurred due to damages in parts. They also intend to improve the storage capacity within the available floor space. These factors lead to the increase in adoption of VLMs in the automotive industry.

Is it your cup of tea?

Although designed primarily for storing and retrieving slow to medium-moving products, VLMs (Vertical Lift Modules) are important components on the system side of supply chain flow. It is one of the best solutions for the facilities where the ceiling height goes up to 100 feet and have heavy items that require lifting assistance for the operator to handle them safely.

Those industries where the inventory mix changes very frequently, and the stored parts record highly variable sizes and weights.

VLMs are used most often for order picking, consolidation, kitting, parts handling, buffering, inventory storage, buffer storage, and numerous other similar operations.

How does it make an impact?

Over the next five years the Vertical Lift Module (VLM) market will register a 7.9% CAGR in terms of revenue. The global market size will reach US$ 474.1 million by 2024, from US$ 350.2 million in 2019. The usage of VLM is industry agnostic but at the same time process specific. It is basically developed to optimise the picking operations of a workspace. The innovative automated storage technologies and vertical module will save your team both time and resources in your picking operations. Below are some brownie points which can deliver the ergonomics to operations with a touch of a button on a control device:

  • Vertical space utilisation: In order to match storage requirement in a facility, these VLMs can be built as high as the available y-axis overhead space, which otherwise be wasted. It is ideal for reducing the floor space requirements for stored materials. This reduction of valuable square feet can be as much as 90% compared to the traditional shelving system.
  • Enhanced Productivity: VLM reduces the wait time after a pick. Once the picker completes one picking operation, the next closest required item gets delivered. This eliminates the requirement of memorising the location of an item by a picker and makes the operation many times faster and approximately 200-400% more productive.
  • Safety: It tremendously reduces operators’ risk as everything inside is automatic. The obstacle detecting sensor mechanism makes it a complete safe technology to be used for a picking and overall order fulfilment operation.
  • Seamless Integration: VLMs can be used stand-alone or with the existing WMS software to manage the space and utilization of units, which allows you to easily manage the automatic vertical warehouse and all the information systems in one simple, convenient location.
  • Minimise Damages: The system ensures almost zero damages, caused while handling the items in a picking process while maintaining a smooth traceability of each and every item inside the vertical storage system.

Considering the benefits mentioned above on a quite macroscopic level, VLM is the best technology or tool to meet each organization specific business and warehouse requirements. With its compact size, it is ideal for storing and picking items such as electronic components, pharmaceuticals, and tools. It is best applicable for slow to medium moving order fulfilment applications as part of a facility and organization which is emerging in its industry in terms of scale and trying to hit the “benchmark” level performances!

Automotive sector Goods to person picking Picking Vertical Lift Modules

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