A well organised and automated warehouse enables the company to manage demand and order fulfilment needs efficiently. With the evolving technologies, Automated storage and Retrieval Systems allow warehouses to maintain a required level of inventory of products ranging between large and heavy to exponentially small material to store. Rise of ecommerce sector into the ecosystem has increased the demand for ASRS more than any thing as it has increased the order fulfilment requirements per day and now the manual operation cannot keep up with the today’s demand needs.
Today the organisations are eager to pick a system that addresses their sweet spot. To determine that sweet spot, the objectives to go for ASRS come into the discussion; and that covers the enhanced storage capacity and the picking throughputs that ASRS infuses into a warehouse. It further goes onto defining the inventory that needs to be handled in the warehouse, redundancy in the current operation and other constraints. Once this discussion ends, it counts the cherries coming with the cake. ASRS can introduce several benefits into the warehouse such as controlled access to your valuable inventory, increased accuracy of operation, increased workers’ productivity and the most important their safety.
Now, when ASRS has become the norm, let’s consider the checklist below before starting the process.
Data is the king and Analysis is the queen:
Successful implementation of ASRS requires extensive physical data of all your inventory. The order data includes both historical and required projections. The complete information of the inventory levels, SKU velocity classification is also taken into due consideration before going for an ergonomic design. Specifically, the data must be modelled to predict the required size and throughput capabilities of the system in the future. The optimal tools for efficient operations are dictated by product mix, order rate, minimum order quantities and type of fulfilment process, all of which differ by facility.
It must be decided what type configuration the system will have. First, there are the electrical and software setup of the system to functionally run and keep up with the high demand of the manufacturing process. Second, the physical input and output points of the system must be setup to be in a central location for all storage and retrieval requests.
Material to be handled in full pallets, mixed pallets, cases or cartons, kitting operations etc, all have different attributes in their storage and retrieval operations. It is imperative to determine how the new ASRS will impact the entire fulfilment process, including upstream manufacturing processes and downstream shipping operations.
Usage of other materials:
It is important to pre-determine the use of carrier boards, slip sheets, totes, and pallets. Also, it should be noted whether they are captive in the system or will they be induced at some other point in the process.
If your ASRS requires a new building or a building modification, one must have the knowledge of and experience with various regulations influencing the project. This is especially true when considering modifications that are needed to incorporate a new storage system within an existing facility.
If your solution is customised, then it should include a combination of products that are most appropriate for your application. All the options must be properly weighed of whether to opt for unit load ASRS crane or Unit load shuttle system. It must be evaluated AGVs will be considered for movement or it will be done in combination of manual and conveyors. Picking operation and technologies selection also has an eminent role in the process.
A fool-proof existing software or altogether new software integration is required into the system. It will include Software integration with warehouse management (WMS), warehouse control (WCS), warehouse execution (WES) and any enterprise resource management (ERP) systems.
What to skip?
It is important to call out the vulnerabilities of the system that might pop up while implementing ASRS. Light-duty storage systems are particularly unfortified which fails to deliver well-engineered equipment and software. Such system requires a high level of maintenance and experience an entangled web of mechanical, electrical and software problems.
The impact of the same can be shattering to small and medium sized businesses. Interrupted ASRS service extends from bearing the toll of measurable losses such as lost production, shipping revenue, increased costs of repair etc, to intangible losses such as diminished workforce confidence in the company’s operation.
Hence it is advisable to knock it out from the field on time.
Get set Go!
If the above check-list is up to the mark and you have dealt with all the vulnerabilities that might crumble down the operation, you can go-ahead with the implementation of ASRS into your system. Hence the basic rule for setting the pre-requisition for businesses looking at using technology and automation, is to identify the functions that need tech intervention, the efficiencies and results it can provide and the level of disruption the transition process is likely to create. Once these three variables are accounted for, a business should not hesitate to embrace technology and automation.