Saving time, space and money – Part 5

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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.

Multi-client shuttle

The cutover to the new shuttle was done without interrupting operations in Harsewinkel.

European third party logistics provider Arvato has expanded one of its locations with a shuttle system that will allow it to manage 25 clients at the same time.

The company’s facility in Harsewinkel, Germany, will become its flagship location serving pharmaceutical and medical technology suppliers. Arvato says this installation will lead the application of shuttles throughout its network.

“The healthcare market is currently being shaped by the trend toward more and more direct deliveries from pharmaceutical and medical technology manufacturers to their customers. This makes automation useful in healthcare logistics as well,” said Thorsten Winkelmann, managing director healthcare at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions. “It allows us to respond more flexibly and efficiently to changing market needs, ensure optimal patient care and grow together with our customers.”

Arvato’s logistics engineering department analyzed different automation technologies against their own application standards. The company was looking for modular systems that could be scaled according to need.

The company chose a shuttle system from Knapp after analyzing inventory and delivery volumes and the structure of the products. “Since the space conditions in Harsewinkel were predefined and could not be expanded at will, we opted for a shuttle system with stacked bins,” explained Fabian Generotzky, vice-president operations healthcare at Arvato in Harsewinkel.

The customers at the site also favored a shuttle. “In Harsewinkel in particular, we look after very different clients, so it is not possible to foresee a pronounced ABC distribution of products,” Generotzky said. “With the shuttle, you quickly have direct access to the products and, compared to other automation solutions, you don’t need any lead time to get the items out of the system.”

The shuttle warehouse, which extends over three floors, has a total capacity of 55,000 storage locations for 44,000 totes and 11,000 shipping cartons. The increased storage density in the shuttle freed up around 46,000 square feet of additional storage in the facility, which Arvato can now offer to existing and new customers.

The cutover to the new shuttle was done without interrupting operations in Harsewinkel. Generotzky called it one of the most complex projects in the history of Arvato Healthcare.

The system has 84 shuttles that move in five aisles and can switch between the individual levels on six elevators. Products are conveyed directly to six picking stations. Each aisle can perform 400 to 650 movements per hour.

Additional work areas for order picking and dispatch are connected to the system with high-performance conveyors and sorters. Semi- and fully automatic carton erecting machines support outbound processes.

“With each movement, the robotic vehicle both stores and retrieves goods – so there are no empty runs,” said Generotzky. “This improves throughput by up to 10 percent, so it’s ideal for processing high volumes and boosts efficiency throughout the value-added process of warehouse logistics.”