Saving time, space and money – Part 1

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.

Automation for online shopping

DHL Supply Chain has put a fully automated Autostore system to work at the facility it operates in Braunschweig, Germany, for online shopping channel 1-2-3.tv.

This compact storage and retrieval system is capable of picking up to 18 million items per year.

Element Logistics supplied the Autostore system that is 16 levels high, using 26 robotic shuttles to place and retrieve more than 40,000 plastic bins of product. Orders are automatically packaged, sealed and dispatched.

The Autostore system is the third piece of 1-2-3.tv’s supply chain optimization and digitization process. Earlier it introduced new order acceptance processes and has digitized its entire supply chain.

“Our company has invested heavily in lean processes and sustainable automation in the past. With the introduction of the flexible and modular robotic solution from Autostore, we are building on the strong growth in recent years, and are equipped for future growth,” said Eberhard Kuom, executive vice-president, finance and operations at 1-2-3.tv.

According to Andreas Bicking, business unit director for e-commerce, DHL Supply Chain Germany & Alps, the Autostore system allows continuous inventory control along with high efficiency in storage and retrieval.

Not only can customer orders be processed quickly and reliably, “the logistics solution relieves our employees on site by shortening walking distances. Most importantly, they are now able to focus their energies on more demanding activities in other areas on site,” he said.