Saving time, space and money – Part 3

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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.

Picking components

Distributor Mouser Electronics, Inc. is building the largest vertical lift module (VLM) installation in the world at its one-million-square-foot distribution centre in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area.

This spring, Mouser will have 120 Kardex Remstar vertical lift modules (VLMs) installed to help manage over one million SKUs stocked in the DC.

VLMs bring the components to the employee’s workstation, increasing efficiency and maximizing floor space. By eliminating the picker’s need to travel, they can reduce an employee’s walking time by 45 percent or more.

“Incorporating the latest in distribution centre automation helps us meet our goal of providing exceptional customer service,” says Pete Shopp, Mouser Electronics’ senior vice-president of business operations. “The tools and systems we’ve put in place offer another way we can help shorten our customers’ time to market.”

In addition to the massive VLM, Mouser’s DC uses multiple Ultipack and I-Pack machines – an automated system for sealing and labeling shipments that can process up to 14 orders per minute – as well as an OPEX Perfect Pick system for consolidation, and an AutoStore system.

Mouser’s global distribution centre is located on the 78-acre campus of its corporate headquarters in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The facility processes tens of thousands of orders weekly – most within 15 minutes.