One of my roles at Abel Womack is to find opportunities for Kardex Remstar storage solutions, an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) using ‘goods to picker’ methodology. When the response to my value proposition is “we’re all set,” I realize that much of my audience isn’t familiar with what I’m talking about, and rather than continuing to explain the system, I need to show the system in operation. Once they’ve seen one in use and they understand how the system works, they often realize the cost savings, space savings, efficiency and control that will come with the system makes it quite compelling.
Haven’t Seen a VLM Shuttle or Vertical Carousel in Operation? You Should!
Seeing an AS/RS on video is helpful, but in-person demonstrations deliver the greatest impact, as these machines are often impressively tall to take advantage of unused vertical space. When you walk up to one, it might reveal its full height but sometimes you only see the operator access opening and the rest of the magic happens behind the curtain (or behind a wall and above the dropped ceiling). The magic is all the action that takes place in order to efficiently arrange the inventory for maximum storage density. It then automatically delivers items that the operator has requested. This is called a “goods-to-person” process as opposed to a picker wandering up and down warehouse aisles of shelving and climbing stools and ladders searching for the goods.
What happens inside the machines is so intriguing that, lately, our clients have been asking for clear acrylic viewing panels along the sides of the machine so the fascinating inner workings can be displayed. It can be an impressive focal point in a company’s stable of modern processing machinery.
Why Use AS/RS?
These systems are often used for reclaiming valuable floor space that has been taken up by inventory overflow, allowing companies to use the reclaimed space for more revenue-producing purposes or to avoid costly and inconvenient off-site storage. Other significant advantages are improved organization, control and security of goods, and faster, more accurate picking efficiency for order fulfillment. It also creates improved ergonomics to reduce injuries to pickers. Recently, there has been a wave of interest in the social distancing benefit of the equipment where a single picker can process orders efficiently while distanced from others.
What Do AS/RS Store?
- Raw Materials
- Finished Goods
- Spare Parts
- Service Kits
- Tooling & Fixtures
- Test Specimens
Where Are AS/RS Used?
- Warehousing and Distribution
- E-Commerce & Order Fulfillment
- Defense Industry
- Auto Dealers
- Coolers & Freezers
It’s Time to Consider Automation
Automation can be a scary and intimidating word, but it shouldn’t be. There are many levels of automation, such as all-in-one, turn-key solutions that are non-intrusive and require minimal training to operate. These systems are not only for the large, sophisticated, progressive companies but also very relevant and impactful to smaller operations.
Lean operations use these systems as part of their Continuous Improvement strategy to avoid wasting valuable floor space and unnecessary picker travel and search time. When an operation is using multiple storage devices that are being run by a single operator to batch ten orders at once, it can be like watching a skilled bartender processing orders during happy hour. Every motion is planned, swiftly executed and purposeful, with no waste. The ROI on these systems is often less than 18 months, which makes it worth serious consideration for many operations. When you choose to lease, you are usually cash flow positive from month one.
If space issues, inventory control problems, order fulfillment throughput and/or picker-safety issues are relevant to your operation, let’s resolve them. Better yet, contact one of our specialists at Abel Womack who can arrange a demonstration of a system in operation and see for yourself just how impressive an AS/RS really is.