What are the types of ASRS Systems & their Applications?

Automated storage and Retrieval Systems enable businesses involved in order fulfilment and warehousing operations to automate their material and inventory handling functions. But there is never a one size fits all. The ASRS solutions available in the market can handle different types, volumes and velocities of inventory at variable speeds to ensure varying throughput demand for efficient material handling.

It can be broadly divided on the following basis:

  • Load based
  • Bot based
  • Carousel based
  • Miscellaneous

Load based Automated storage and retrieval system

Unit-Load ASRS

Unit load ASRS explanation

Unit-Load AS/RS are larger systems that typically store pallet loads. The system can take loads as large as 2500 Kgs and place them on pallets or within a container of that size, to handle odd shaped goods. In a crane-based unit load ASRS, it features one or more narrow aisles of storage rack structures specially designed for pallet racking. The structure can reach up to the height of 30 meters which is more than enough for a typical warehouse. The storage and retrieval machine (SRM) travels between the racking in two dimensions, instructed by software which dictates where and how items are placed in a particular location. Usually, the system contains one SRM per aisle. But in a high throughput system, multiple SRMs can be dedicated to single aisle and in case it is a slower system, one SRM can be allocated to multiple aisles.

Mini-load ASRS

Mini load ASRS explaination

Miniload ASRS are smaller systems that store items in totes, trays or cartons which typically weighs less than 50kgs. Similar to unit loader, miniload ASRS are generally composed of two aisles of narrow racking structure, between which an SRM moves in two dimensions. One of the main benefits of mini-load ASRS is its modularity. The height of the system can range from 8-12 meters, depending upon the requirement and space available.

Micro-load stocker ASRS

Micro-load ASRS are self-contained structures which store products densely into bins, stored and retrieved by an extractor and deliver the item to the operator at a pick face. The pick face of a micro-load stocker often uses a conveyor to bring a queue of items. There are different systems of micro-load stockers available in the market and each model performs the storage and retrieval operation in a distinct way. Micro-load stockers are typically integrated with other ASRS system, which serves to the buffer and stage items which reduce the need for conveyors in the warehouse and eventually increase the available floor space. It is especially suited for industries where picking and kitting operation requires fast throughput.

Bot-based Automated storage and retrieval system

Shuttle based ASRS

Bot based ASRS_Addverb

Shuttle based ASRS technology is suitable for both FIFO and LIFO configurations and deep-lane or shallow-lane storage structures. There are many kinds of shuttle based systems available in the market depending upon the shape, load, size etc and the nature of inventory. In this system, SRM is a shuttle or small robot. When an item is requested, it moves from the workstation to the racking where the items are stored. It retrieves the item and travels back to the workstation. In other systems, manual labor plus conveyors are used to move items from racking to the workstations.

For warehouses with low ceilings or other space restrictions for example cold storage, this type of ASRS solutions is the most suitable choice.

Floor Robots ASRS

Floor Robot Warehouse

Why go to the storage area when the storage area can come to you. Floor robots are self-mobile ASRS solution, store inventory on a portable storage shelving structure. This structure is retrieved and transported an area where the operator needs it and are moved across the facility by using AMRs. The structure returns to its allocated space once the operator selects the required item. The solution is suitable for slow to medium moving inventory. The solution is scalable as the operation can be easily expandable by increasing the number of AMRs into the system. The standard weight capacity for this solution is 500kgs per shelving system.

Carousel based Automated storage and retrieval system

Vertical Carousel

vertical carousal_Blog

The vertical carousel comprised of a series of carriers attached to a chain, which travels in a vertical loop around a track like a Ferris wheel. This solution is suitable for slow to medium moving inventory. On the command of the operator, the items are safely and quickly delivered to the ergonomically positioned workstation. Manufacturers introduce new additions to the solution, but the main concept of the technology remains the same.

The solution can be made scalable with the addition of light or voice-based picking technology that enables picking of multiple orders simultaneously. It typically offers the capacity of 750kg per carrier, the vertical carousel is a cost-effective and reliable solution.

Horizontal Carousel

Horizontal Carousel_Blog

Horizontal carousel is a highly dense storage structure where the bins are mounted on an oval track which rotates horizontally to perform storage and retrieval function. The solution is designed to store slow and medium moving inventory and can handle items and cases weighing up to 100kg. The structure is often installed in groups called pods to generate maximum speed and achieve maximum throughput. The solution can be made scalable with the addition of light or voice-based picking technology that enables picking of multiple orders simultaneously. This structure is also equipped with an automated door system which creates an enclosed solution. Overall, the system allows excellent space utilization and high storage density.


Vertical lift module ASRS

Vertical Lift Module_Blog

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.

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.

Hence, ASRSs can be relatively small but they are one of the most important subsets of equipment within a larger warehouse environment. ASRS systems can provide great value in all sectors but have special significance in Food & Beverages, Consumer Goods, Pharma, Dairy, Cold Store, and Metals. These systems can serve as the primary means of storing and retrieving product in the system. Depending on the system, AS/RSs can handle loads consisting of small parts or large, or multi-ton units.

Musings on the lockdown days

Who would have even imagined that we will be locked down to save not just individual lives but also of the community? But yes, we were dealt this hand by the cruel turn of events that unfolded on COVID 19 – the most dreaded word in the global vocabulary this lockdown.

What a black swan event this has been. Globally all governments are well equipped – meaning armed both with physical arms and ammunition, extending to nuclear weapons even and, not just these – they are ever ready with diplomatic strategies as well to counter threats. What use are these weapons and strategies for destroying the dreaded WMDs – Weapons of Mass Destruction to deal with COVID19. This has proved to be the most dangerous weapon if one were to classify that as one. As it is said, it is very tough to fight an enemy within and an invisible enemy.

Well, we have one lurking at our doorstep in this lockdown or shall we say right under our nose and we have no other choice but to lock ourselves down. Lockdown or not, we should keep the spirits soaring high to not just lift ourselves, our teams at work and our families at home, but also to respect the lives of our neighbors, service providers and the essential services teams that are staying awake to help us fight this and tide over the crisis.

How are we, Addverbians doing? Well not too bad I should say.

The teams at work are energized to keep the morale high and, be as productive and innovative as one could get under these trying times. Addverb’s tribe is rearing to contribute to the wellbeing of society by staying engaged in the lockdown with some of our customers that are operating their warehouses to keep the essential supplies going as mandated. We have even put our AMR to great use to serve the noble cause at a Govt. hospital in Noida to deliver samples, supplies, and essentials to patients in wards without exposing personnel to the risk of contracting the virus. Back in their homes, each member is contributing to the betterment of – a) the society – by following the detailed protocol of lockdown as mandated, b) Ourselves and our families to be responsible members, and c) last but not least to continue to contribute to the company by continuing to work in this lockdown but remotely and training ourselves by gainfully employing and enjoying our time.

How am I doing? Well, again not too bad.

I should say I had a few days of acclimatization to handle and get over the initial resistance to adapt. I got entrapped by watching too much TV on this epidemic and, well and truly the infodemic (the word used these days for the information on the epidemic) hit me. I spent a couple of sleepless nights being overanxious about this as we have two ultra-senior citizens at home – my Mother who is all of 88 and my Mother-in-law who is in early nineties to care for. My thoughts were mainly about what if scenarios. I worked hard to overcome this anxiety. Did I do the right things – thankfully, the answer is – Yes. How did I overcome this? By the tried and tested method of calming the nerves by accepting that I am nobody in the larger scheme of things and have no control on the events that are unfolding. Our best defence is to accept things that we cannot control and stop worrying about them. Gain confidence about the power of collective good that will eventually win over evil forces. I resorted to meditation that I was doing on and off. I am regular at that now. Most importantly, my wife and I chalked out a disciplined schedule in this lockdown. Despite missing out on our regular walks that we would have outside, we decided that we will use the space on our balcony and terrace to good use for walking. So much so, we are clocking a good number – about 5 to 6 Kms everyday by walking at home. A key takeaway for me is, my wife has taken to walking seriously now as prior to COVID 19 she was a very unwilling walker even though she is a yoga buff. Now we are very regular with both walking and Yoga. We are tending to the elders as we should be doing to keep them charged up. We are having good food thanks to variety of dishes being cooked by my wife collaborating with her 92-year-old Mother. Aren’t we blessed and lucky? We also take particular care to share whatever little we can – food, money and such with the service providers – the lady that sweeps our road everyday even in these times, our gardener who drops by occasionally out of love for his job and the plants he tends, and anyone else that contributes to our wellbeing.  I miss my swimming though in this lockdown.

It is so nice to really hear and enjoy the birds chirping as they have also regained their lost space as we have of our balcony. We do not have the unending stream of automobiles racing with their horns blaring all the time. All these nice things are visible and available for us to enjoy. I hear lots of music – classical genre. The ones which I would not have watched otherwise are the Frankfurt and New York philharmonic concerts. What a treat they were. In times like these art gains over many other things and performing arts will give a new sense of high.

Well you must have thought it is all play and no work. No not really – I am engaging as per the need to be active on the professional front to contribute to Addverb in my own way. I read a good lot of reports and articles both technical and managerial in nature and share with my colleagues via the right forums. I blogged on a few topics, participated in a few conference calls with potential customers to keep the flame simmering. I am available to contribute to Addverb in any which way in these troubled times. Keep going team.

Let me close this by quoting a nice one by Owen Arthur – a politician from Barbados:

“For he who has health has hope; and he who has hope, has everything”.