A couple of years ago automation within your facility was being discussed as an alternative to increase productivity and efficiency. Who could’ve ever imagined how the COVID-19 pandemic would have changed the landscape of all industries the way it did? The buying patterns in certain sectors of the market like the food industry changed drastically, and goods to the consumer increased as more and more people stayed at home. With consumers now at home more than ever and with the growing awareness of the convenience of remote shopping, its popularity is causing major challenges in order fulfillment. The domino effect is similar in all sectors. Now that consumers have changed their buying habits, automation is the only practical way to meet demand.
Automating better and safer
What does automation offer within a company? Does it have a good ROI? Can I automate and still operate? The list goes on, but the one simple answer is without automation you won’t keep up.
Let’s review some storage concepts. It used to be just in time, but unfortunately just in time is too late for today’s demands, causing suppliers to store more products. How can we accomplish that, be more efficient and productive while also being safer and faster? Let’s take a look.
High density pallet storage systems
Raymond Radioshuttle: What a concept if you have a limited number of SKUs. Pallets are stored very close to each other via an automated shuttle system within each aisle, all while the operators only work at the ends of the aisles (eliminating all travel aisles). Pallets are placed on the front edge of the racks and automatically shuttled to a desired depth (really no limit to the length of the lanes) and placed approximately 1” from each other. With a click of a button the shuttle will reverse the process, allowing you to remove the pallets. So, if you have a limited number of SKUs or need to stage outbound pallets for shipment, you can easily double your pallet count in the same footprint. Faster, more efficient, productive, safer, and depending on your storage needs- a very quick ROI. The shuttles can be serviced by lift trucks or automated systems.
Montel Mobile Rack: Imagine an entire row of racking moving to within 6” of the next rack, with all those former travel aisles becoming rack rows. Do I have to say more? Picture Moses parting the seas! It’s that simple, the storage rack is placed on powered mobile bases that run on a track cut into the floor; thus compressing all the aisles except the one you’re working in. A push of a button and one row will close and another will open at speeds of 3.5” per second. This concept will allow for much greater storage and complete accessibility of all pallets. So, before you expand or go offsite, know that this system can double your storage.
AS/RS System: With an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), you load a pallet onto the system, it automatically gets assigned a location and is put away somewhere within the system. When you need the pallet, it retrieves and delivers it, typically to a takeaway conveyor. This is the ultimate storage system, can go over 100′ in height, over 500′ in length and requires minimal people to operate. If you are building a new facility this is a perfect solution to consider (rack-supported building). Can it be retrofitted into an existing application? Yes, but we want to make sure the ROI makes sense. This is a very expensive solution up front but remember, it only takes one to two operators per shift to run the system and it provides high throughput and storage density- it’s a lights out operation.
High density tote/case storage system
Kardex Remstar LR 35 – It’s kind of a mini load system that can provide nearly 200 lines per hour. Here’s how it works. A crane stores and retrieves totes in a unit that is approximately 30’ in height and 30’ long in depth and 8’ in width- storing nearly 1,500 totes (machine sizes can be smaller). It automatically in-feed totes and assign a location or totes can be manually entered. There can be multiple pick locations at which an operator could pick individual items from a requested tote while filling mixed order batches. This is simply the newest offering from Kardex Remstar that, for as little as $350K, you could have a system that can make a big impact on your productivity, space savings, ergonomics, and meeting your customer demands.
Mini Load Systems – Opex Perfect Pick and Daifuku America are a couple of popular names that dominate the industry in totes or cases to the operator. Very similar in concept to the LR 35, but these units can handle over 500 picks per hour. This equipment can automatically store cases as a buffer module or can deliver cases to operators to pick individual items. This type of equipment is the latest in goods to picker, eliminating all the travel time to the product, presenting all the product to an operator at the optimum height, inventory control, etc. The list goes on about the benefits of this type of equipment. It can be quite expensive up front but requires much less room than traditional pick shelving/racking, requires no other equipment to put away/retrieve the product and is incredibly fast, equating to less people needed to meet outbound demands for fast turnaround, high throughput applications.
Your next move
There are now many options available for high density storage of pallets or individual cases. The ones listed above are just a few for reference. If you have questions, contact us today. We can analyze your operations and match a solution to your specific needs.