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AS/RS: Innovations in Warehouse Processes

Posted January 09, 2017 in Blog, Goods-to-Person/Reverse Logistics

AS/RS: Innovations in Warehouse Processes

By Chris Castaldi

Isn’t it nice to discover new versatility in existing systems? You may think of your Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) in terms of goods storage and for extended-term storage. But the demands of e-commerce and omni-channel fulfillment are giving rise to new AS/RS applications that can help manage and streamline a range of tasks throughout your operation.


Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS)

Taking full advantage of AS/RS’s goods-to-person capabilities requires/starts with a clear-eyed assessment of your operation’s SKU mix, volume and throughput goals, production schedules, shipping windows, labor force availability, and even maintenance practices, to determine which tasks could benefit from automated placement and retrieval of products, components or materials.

For example, an AS/RS can be an ideal solution for handling in-process inventory. Holding buffer inventory in short-term AS/RS storage keeps goods at the ready as work proceeds in other areas, yet available for immediate distribution when needed. Having high-density, short-term storage space – a supply cushion – ensures smooth throughput by preventing starving or blocking of workstations.

Similarly, employing AS/RS modules to stage and sequence items for shipping allows your receiving processes to continue independently of – yet coordinate with – contemporaneous production schedules, carrier shipping windows, and worker shifts. By staging the goods in advance and storing them in reserve in the shipping area, sequenced and ready for distribution, you can minimize delays and optimize fulfillment.

Maintenance and repair operations (MRO) management is another area where AS/RS implementation can offer significant improvements. Using AS/RS to store and manage the myriad tools, equipment, supplies, spare parts, consumables and components needed for ongoing maintenance provides both tight control and immediate accessibility in minimal space.

In de-palletizing, picking and/or packing operations, an AS/RS solution provides the flexibility to optimize your WMS capabilities, sequence and prioritize orders, build individual and store-specific pallet loads, and deliver replenishment pallets and totes to designated pick stations, all according to virtually any parameters you define.

Used as a UPM (use-point manager) in work-in-progress, assembly or testing operations, AS/RS can store, stage, sequence, manage and track everything from raw materials to WIP buffers. With the increasing demand for value-added fulfillment, ranging from product personalization to gift- or shrink-wrapping to special labeling to kit assembly to returns refurbishing, AS/RS automation is key to processing speed and accuracy.

Another often-overlooked benefit of AS/RS solutions is the reduced need for hands-on inventory inspection and control. Because each item is scanned prior to storage – and can be retrieved instantly for validation – systematic validation is no longer necessary, resulting in significant time and money savings.

Of course, whether you can achieve any of the benefits depends upon how well your AS/RS suits your specific product type and size, SKU mix, handling requirements, and other variables that are unique to your operation. But if you’re considering implementing or upgrading an AS/RS solution, it pays to look at more than just the demands that are already close at hand. The technology is evolving, with new and innovative AS/RS applications on the horizon.

Need to increase accuracy in order picking? Have proliferating SKUs and need storage for them? DMW&H configures AS/RS systems that automatically place and retrieve products from defined locations, bringing the goods to person to speed fulfillment and boost productivity. Contact DMW&H to select the best AS/RS for your distribution future.