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There are several types of automated storage and retrieval systems. Their common feature is the ability to quickly and directly access each designated storage location. There are also different levels of automation for these systems, depending on the type of equipment used. Storage and retrieval systems primarily are used to:
- Store raw materials or bulk containers of goods for later use in manufacturing or distribution operations
- Temporarily store or buffer items between various manufacturing processes
- Store and stage items for picking and kitting in distribution or assembly operations
- Store and sequence finished goods in manufacturing facilities prior to shipping
Some automated storage and retrieval systems can be configured to perform two or more of these functions depending on the equipment and storage containers used. Each system is custom configured to match the needs of your requirements. Integrated Systems Design can provide virtually every type of storage and retrieval system available today. Some of the most common one are as follows:
Unit Load Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)
These systems are designed to handle common size unit loads such as totes or pallets of goods. The goods are usually stored on static racking (or on pitched gravity conveyors in flow through systems). The items are stored and retrieved via automated cranes that move through aisles between the racks.
The cranes are directed by software that also maintains a real-time inventory and location mapping of the goods stored in the system. The cranes can be equipped with various load handling devices designed to specifically manipulate the containers or loads stored in the system.
System throughput rates are dependant on crane speed, storage rack size, load size and weight and other factors however, travel speeds of up to 1,200 ft/min and 200 cycles per hour are possible for some smaller loads. Rack heights up to 60 feet high are attainable and the systems can also be designed to operate in freezer rooms to -22° Fahrenheit and handle loads up to 2,750 lbs.
Most cranes run on rails installed at floor level, however Integrated Systems Design has developed a crane system that can run directly on the building floor if it's level enough. This not only reduces the cost of the AS/RS system but also allows an operator on a man-up lift truck to access the stored product in case the automatic crane is out of service, such as during maintenance periods. This type of system offers distinct advantages for "just-in-time" operations.
Vertical Lift Module (VLM) Storage & Retrieval Systems
These systems are primarily intended to store product for quick access in picking and kitting operations. Goods are placed on trays that are stored and retrieved by a shuttle mechanism within the unit. Some advantages of this unit are:
- Fast, direct, random access to all stored items
- Secure storage of items within the unit's enclosure
- Dense storage of items in a small footprint
- Better utilization of vertical building space
- Automatic presentation of the next item to pick
- Reduction of worker travel distance to retrieve or store items
- Multiple access points on the same or multiple building floors are possible
- Available with refrigerated enclosures
Carousel-type Storage & Retrieval Systems
Carousels come in vertical and horizontal models and have the same uses as Vertical Lift Module-type storage and retrieval units. Goods are stored on shelves in vertical carousels and in bins or shelves on horizontal carousels. The shelves or bins are linked to each other by a chain. Like the name implies, the units rotate in a carousel-like manner to the appropriate item storage location. Vertical carousels have the same advantages as VLM-type storage systems except for the direct, random access and multiple access points.
Horizontal carousels are generally less expensive than VLMs and vertical carousels and better suited to store and retrieve medium sized items. If ceiling height is limited, this is the carousel of choice. Horizontal carousels typically aren't enclosed in a housing. Otherwise, they operate similar to a vertical carousel.
Semi-automated Storage & Retrieval Systems
These systems are generally used in picking and kitting operations. The goods are manually stored and retrieved from common storage equipment that has been linked to software-driven picking / putting indicators. The picking / putting indicator devices are usually either a voice headset, RF terminal or a light-directed pick / put system that sends the operator to the next storage location to access. Some examples of these semi-automated storage and retrieval systems are:
- Carton flow racks with pick lights
- Static storage racks and shelving with pick lights, RF terminals or voice pick headsets
- Pallet racks and man-up order picking lift trucks with RF terminals or voice pick headsets
- Conveyor lanes with pallets or boxes of goods
- Other static storage methods accessed by one of the pick / put indicator methods
Let Integrated Systems Design assist you with your next storage and retrieval system!