An Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS or AS/RS) constitutes a diverse range of computer-controlled systems for automatically allocating and retrieving loads from designated storage locations. They are designed to maximise picking processes for greater efficiencies. ASRS technology is vastly used in warehouses and distribution centres for material movement and inventory management purposes. These systems are typically used in automotive, cold storage, food and beverage, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and e-commerce applications. However, what contributions does ASRS make towards improving operations? What are the benefits of automated storage and retrieval systems over conventional rack and shelving?
Benefits of ASRS: Maximise Efficiency, Productivity and Storage
Better utilisation of floor space
Shelving and proper classification of items are important in warehouses and distribution centres. Raw materials, incomplete and finished goods inventories are required to be replenished consistently to keep processes running without interruption. Warehouses and distribution centres rely on efficient utilisation of space to ensure a healthy bottom line.
Most ASRS solutions need narrower aisles in comparison to facilities that need adequate aisle space for the human workforce and tools such as forklifts to pass through, often with traffic coming from both sides. Narrower aisles allow greater storage space for materials and goods, enabling warehouses and distribution centres to store more products without the need for expanding the facility. Facilities can also make smart use of vertical space, as automated storage and retrieval systems can easily reach higher storage locations compared to human workers.
Minimised labour requirements and costs
ASRS units transfer the required item directly to the operator following the “goods-to-person” concept, drastically decreasing operator search and walk time. Usually, workers must travel miles during a shift and that ends up wasting a lot of time. On the other hand, when you have ASRS technology by your side, the workers can stay back within the assigned work area and the machines transfer goods to the operators based on the requirements. Pick-to-light illuminates the location of the items and picks the required quantity, reducing the operator time spent looking for a particular item.
Additionally, the automated solution also integrates with order management and inventory management software, so the picks are organised in a way that the machine's movement is optimised to match the necessary picks. This increases pick time by allowing all objects to be chosen in one rotation, or cycle, of the machine's storage bins or trays.
As many as two-thirds of your manual picking labour can be reassigned to other, non-picking duties without affecting throughput, thanks to the ability of one worker utilising ASRS to manage the picking assignments of several operators in a manual system. Alternatively, using these automated storage solutions can make up for a labour shortage or unstable performance.
Increased picking accuracy
Each step within the process of picking creates room for human error. The more work is dependent on human efforts, the greater the possibility of error.
For high pick accuracy, ASRS systems integrate with several light-directed picking technologies and integrated messaging centres which send pick information to the operator. Together, these systems locate the exact location of the item to be picked within the carrier, display the part number or description, direct pickup (or storage for replenishment), and provide the desired quantity. These visual picking aids improve accuracy and decrease picking errors by up to 99.9%.
Improved pick throughput
In operations that are carried out manually, pickers often manage to fill just one order at a time. ASRS technologies work on the goods-to-person concept to remove walk and search time to double throughput. Combining pick-to-light systems that guide the operator to the destination location of the pick also contributes to increasing the throughput rates.
Greater Inventory Control
ASRS solutions keep inventory within a completely enclosed system, offering secure, safe, and controlled inventory management. The system can be programmed to allow only authorised personnel access to stored inventory through a password. This facilitates tracking of missed or misplaced goods. This advanced level of security removes inventory shrinking and its undesirable impact on the bottom line.
Moreover, products are housed in a clean and protected environment. Not only does this help in increasing their useful life but also decreases the amount of components or items that must be discarded due to damage.
Every item kept in an ASRS can be delivered to the user in the "Golden Zone," which is the height between the user's shoulder and knees. Items are displayed on shelves, trays, or bins that are within easy reach, minimising the need to bend or stretch over to get something that is stored too low or too high, respectively. To obtain this ergonomic benefit with some ASRS machines, a raised table could be required. As a result, there is a significantly lower chances of worker accidents, absenteeism, insurance costs, and worker's compensation claims.
Components of ASRS: Choosing the Right Automated Storage and Retrieval System
To keep up with customer demands, maintain a competitive edge and sustain a robust bottom line, businesses must make use of every square inch of warehouse space optimally, maximise utilisation of assets and improve the efficiency of labour. To make sure, businesses should get their hands on the right ASRS systems and look into one of the most important key components, i.e., the software it contains.
ASRS systems are made up of four major components:
- Storage and retrieval (S/R) equipment
- Input/Output system
- Storage rack
- Computer management system
The computer management system looks after the loading and unloading of SKUs in an ASRS system through dedicated software that tracks inventory details such as:
- The specific location of products
- How long they were stored
- Source of these items
The relevant ASRS should come equipped with vigorous and well-designed software to ensure smooth scheduling of retrieval and storage operations. All instructions to the ASRS system go through this software, so it must be ensured that it is reliable, easy to use and free of technical glitches.
Challenges and Limitations of ASRS
Despite their several benefits, there are a few drawbacks of ASRS solutions. The equipment is usually bulky and large, which requires substantial initial investment and significant changes to the warehouse layout and infrastructure. Let us take an in-depth look into some of its disadvantages:
Large upfront investment
Installation and deployment of automated storage and retrieval systems are expensive. For businesses, especially smaller ones that are looking for faster return on their investment, ASRS may not be a desirable solution.
Maintenance and repair
These systems call for continuous maintenance and recurring repairs. Moreover, repairing ASRS may need special expertise, meaning repairs may be costlier compared to traditional warehouse equipment.
Not suitable for diverse tasks
ASRS equipment moves in pre-determined paths and is ideal for predictable, regular, and repetitive tasks. They are not suitable for applications where different products are handled at different times.
For performing storage and retrieval tasks with minimal involvement of humans, ASRS solutions are required to be programmed for following the designated paths and retrieve and store the correct products in the right locations. Employees need to be trained to work around the system effectively.
Based on the market research report by Meticulous Research, the automated storage and retrieval systems market is estimated to go up to $10.3 billion by 2027. Looking at the benefits of an automated storage and retrieval system, we can say that it can revolutionise the way a warehouse functions. It has the power to add value to the entire production chain.
Thus, if your business is looking for strategic warehouse automation, you need a material handling solutions provider that deploys automation tactfully into your facility.
Addverb, one of the leading robotics and automation companies for maintaining efficiency, reliability, and accuracy in your supply chain, offers the power-packed range of ASRS that provides the efficiency and speed required for the supply chain management environment of today. Our solutions include a carton shuttle for streamlining order picking, a mother-child shuttle for multi-deep pallet storage requirements and a pallet shuttle that increases storage density multifold. Addverb’s ASRS can be tailored to fit your specific load profile and weight, building capacity and operating surroundings. All solutions feature premium-quality drives for smooth, fast, and reliable performance. To know more about our automated storage and retrieval system, click here!