Automated storage and retrieval is advantageous for warehouse operators who have a lot of inventory to move and need an efficient, easy process to do so. Automated storage and retrieval systems cut expenses, reduce labor costs, and increase both productivity and safety. They have been around for several decades, with the first system focusing mainly on heavy pallets. But as the years progressed, the scope of applications for automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) have been greatly enhanced. In this article, we’ll discuss new, cutting-edge technological advances in ASRS technology, and where we can expect to see these developments applied.
The difference between the vertical lift model and the horizontal carousel
When it comes to ASRS, there is no “one size fits all” way to store something. Different items require different storage mechanisms, and a major innovation in ASRS is the vertical lift and horizontal carousel models for moving and storing inventory and materials, speeding up both manufacturing and fulfillment operations. Vertical lifts are high-reaching in order to get the most out of a facility’s vertical storage space. They are board-controlled, and inventory is kept in front and rear trays or rails. An extractor travels vertically through the two tray columns to retrieve inventory and parts as requested.
Horizontal carousels are generally lower and consist of a group of bins that revolve around a track. The bins can be configured to fit different formations and applications, and an automated system allows you to input the bin number and location, and the inventory will be rotated to deliver it to you. Horizontal carousels are especially beneficial for those looking to minimize floor space.
An example of new, innovative use of ASRS is the University of Nevada library in Reno
The University of Nevada Library uses an ASRS system called “MARS,” which stands for the Matthewson Automated Retrieval System. MARS allows students and staff to retrieve books from a huge temperature-controlled, space that houses government documents, Special Collections material, the Permanent Reserve Collection from Getchell, journals that are more than one year old, and books that were published before 1950 and have been checked out less than eight times in the past two decades. MARS keeps these documents from depreciating, and users submit a request into the library catalog for any materials they request. A robot then retrieves the item from MARS’ storage bin and sends it to the circulation desk. The whole process only takes five to ten minutes. Other, larger, libraries looking for a way to increase their efficiency would do well to emulate MARS and the University of Nevada’s adoption of this cutting-edge technology.
Kiva Systems—now known as Amazon Robotics
We’ve all ordered things from Amazon, an online goods provider that has a net worth even larger than Walmart’s, and their robotics system is unsurprisingly very intricate and impressive. In order to store its huge amount of inventory, Amazon bought out Kiva Systems for $775 million and renamed it Amazon Robotics. Amazon Robotics’ orange robot fleet retrieves items from a highly organized system. Recently, Amazon has announced in the past year that they want to further integrate machinated deep-learning tech and computer-vision in order to pick and pack items one at a time, as opposed to in sets. Amazon Robotics has a material-handling software that includes a custom wireless network, as well as a system that controls and configures their free-form shelving.
Fetch and Freight by Fetch Robotics
Fetch Robotics is a California-based startup company that has designed a system based on the open-source robotic system. Fetch and Freight’s ASRS has a mobile “Freight” base that is attached to a mobile manipulator—“Fetch.” Fetch and Freight work together in the warehouse to autonomously find and utilize a charging dock and pick and pack inventory.
ASRS have been making peoples’ and businesses’ lives easier by both cutting labor costs and increasing storage efficiency and safety. As technology progresses, expect more warehouses to look to ASRS to fulfill their storage needs.