Saving time, space and money – Part 2

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by Emily Atkins

Automated storage and retrieval systems, also know by the acronym ASRS, are becoming increasingly popular solutions to current distribution centre challenges. In an era where speed is paramount, land and real estate are eye-wateringly expensive, and labour is scarce, these machines shine.

An ASRS stores goods in a dense, vertical structure, using machinery to place and retrieve items as they are needed. The systems come in numerous styles from vertical lift modules, which are essentially big chests of drawers, to the newer cubic honeycombs with robots that move between cells to collect totes.

All work on the goods-to-person principle, delivering totes of a single SKU to an order picker. Some feed items into a completely automated system to fulfill e-commerce orders. The ASRS can thus reduce the amount a picker needs to move, as well as increase the density of storage on the warehouse floor. By reducing movements, the ASRS increases picking speed and efficiency to reduce costs.

We’ve collected a set of interesting new case studies of different ASRS styles to illustrate the range and variety of applications for this technology. From the fully automated e-commerce system DHL uses for a client in Germany, to the innovative self-storage building in Florida, these examples show the versatility of ASRS in meeting warehousing challenges.

Secure, automated self-storage

Westfalia Technologies was commissioned to develop a state-of-the-art automated self-storage facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for RoboVault.

ASRS technology has only recently been adopted in the self-storage industry. RoboVault uses Westfalia’s technology to provide users with maximum-security, robotic self-storage for high-value objects. The facility combines new technology with high-tech security systems that make the facility virtually impenetrable.

The traditional model of the sprawling suburban self-storage facility with individual drive-up doors is no longer viable with today’s real estate prices and strict zoning rules. Multi-story developments are rapidly becoming most cost effective.

The RoboVault facility is 90,000 sq. ft. and stores 456 containers. Each container can be subdivided to fit an individual’s rental storage needs in five-foot increments, and a 10-by-20-foot module is also available for storing vehicles.

Modules can be configured from two to six per aisle and two to 15 high. Because all containers have equal access through the ASRS, every space in the facility is a prime location, so pricing can be consistent.

The storage and retrieval machine that does the work can handle up to16,000 lb. Turntable conveyors rotate storage modules 180 degrees, as needed, with weigh scales.

Designed to withstand the 320 km/h winds of a Category 5 hurricane, it is constructed of solid concrete with reinforced steel, a solid concrete roof, and double pane impact resistant glass. This airtight facility has museum-quality climate control to store the most precious items safely, including separate areas for wine storage, safety deposit boxes, and vehicles.

The Westphalia ASRS delivers a customer’s container to them on the ground floor, using biometric and pin-pad security features. It also uses heart beat detection, and includes 24/7 security monitoring, smoke detectors, sprinklers, climate controls, and a 14-day emergency power supply.

Once finished loading or unloading the storage container, the customer enters their PIN again and the unit returns to storage. To maintain the air quality of the climate controlled storage facility, the interior door closes, and then the exterior door opens allowing the customer to drive away.

Westfalia’s Savanna.NET software controls the whole thing. The software interfaces with all RoboVault’s security system and front office operations, including customer information, credit card approval, keypads/biometric human machine interface screens, video monitoring, motion sensing, and heat detection to verify the security of both the customers and their belongings.