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The New Age of High-Density Warehouses

After years of stagnation, a new era of distribution automation is upon us. Supply chain automation is now taking centerstage and promises to be more efficient and productive. Corporate management are now fixated on new systems designed to improve throughput and enhance logistical speed of distribution center automation, but you may wonder where to begin: new automated equipment or better software systems? The answer is both, simultaneously. Automated equipment and software systems are not independent. To be successful, automation project managers consider them integrated components to be evaluated and considered in concert with one another.

Humble Beginnings

Conceptually, the great grandfather of automated storage and retrieval systems began as carousels for dry-cleaning and garment handling. The tasks of order-picking operations for an ever expanding number of industries eventually led to more sophisticated mechanical carousels with conveyer belts controlled by digital systems for industrial applications that move a variety of stored stock for retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, aerospace and more. The industries that have experienced the fastest rate of automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) adoption are food and beverage, retail, and automotive. Many supermarket chains, pharmacies, and distribution centers are beginning to explore these technologies for e-Commerce and online order (micro) fulfillment. 

Precision, Accuracy, Safety and Speed

Software controls the movement of cases, cartons, totes or pallets on a conveyor, sortation or ASRS. Access to real-time data allows managers to make decisions quickly and anticipate challenges. Facilities managers are increasingly turning to smart warehouse solutions to synchronize existing software and hardware to manage inventory distribution with a higher degree of efficiency and productivity. 

Typically, ASRS systems have four major components: the storage rack, the input/output system, the storage and retrieval (S/R) equipment, and the computer management system.  

As companies increase production and expand, storage needs begin to exceed the existing capacity. ASRSs are the most effective solution when it comes to increasing storage capacity vertically.  

The benefits of these newfangled scalable solutions are increased efficiencies, accuracy, cost reductions, floor space savings and high throughput. ASRSs are the most effective solution when it comes to increasing storage capacity vertically. ASRSs  achieve high levels of volumetric efficiency or ratio of storage capacity versus square footage. For this reason, they are also commonly referred to as high-density warehouses. 

ASRS Benefits

  • Improved Floor Space Utilization (65% to 85% space savings) 
  • Reduced Labor Requirements and Costs 
  • Increased Picking Accuracy (Reduced Picking Errors) 
  • Improved Picking Throughput (Speed) 
  • Tighter Inventory Control  
  • Improved Ergonomics 

Think Ahead

During the design phase consider everything by taking a comprehensive approach to your current and future needs. Although ASRSs are modular and scalable, they are typically built to perform a single type of task. Once the storage/retrieval structure is built, it would be very costly to make changes. The automation moving inside the ASRS is rigid, meaning that the stacker cranes can only move in a certain way along each axis for example. Introducing a new product that exceeds one or more of the constraints of the storage locations could be costly to incorporate. Your plans should include future projections of production volume and product lines.

As you may have guessed, there is a variety of high-density and robotic storage solutions to consider: 

  • Horizontal Carousels Modules 
  • Vertical Carousels Modules 
  • Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) 
  • Crane-Based Mini-Load AS/RS 
  • Vertical Buffer Modules (VBMs) 
  • Robotic Shuttle Systems 
  • Robotic Cube Storage 
  • Floor Robots (AGVs/AMRs) 

Not surprisingly, there’s competition for your automation dollar. Here’s a few companies that are worth consideration: 

These investments made in a manufacturing or warehousing facility are transformative and expensive. Installing an ASRS to replace a traditional storage and product handling operation using forklifts significantly increases throughput, accuracy, and safety, while also reducing product damages and human error. Due to the high initial investment of ASRS systems, hybrid solutions that retain traditional equipment are not uncommon.  

Traditional solutions: 

Funding Your Growth

Companies looking to invest in ASRS technology must conduct a careful financial analysis, considering the relatively high initial costs. Whether you’re considering ASRS or traditional equipment, when you’re ready to invest in your future, Commercial Capital Company has a financial solution to help you grow your business. 

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