Space optimization, efficiency, safety, quality control and inventory management: theadvantages of an automatic storage and retrieval systemare many. However, not all storage systems are the same: structure and technology, as well as position within the logistics chain, are key factors that can make the difference. These aspects must be taken into account when choosing the solution that best fits the needs of the sector in which the company operates, the products handled and the space available.
Let's take a look at the main types of automatic storage systems.
The first distinction concerns the position of the storage system within the logistics chain. In fact, there are storage systems for raw materials, others for semi-finished products (also called inter-operational storage systems), and still others for finished products.
A second distinction is based on the physical structure of the automatic storage system. There are two main solutions: the traditional automatic storage system and the rack supported storage system.
The traditional storage system is built within a preexisting building. In a self-supporting storage system, the shelving structure itself supports the walls and the roof, which makes it a building for all intents and purposes.
Normally, a self-supporting storage system is a building of significant size: on average it is 25 meter high, but it can even reach 40 meters. Regardless of how large, all automated storage systems are in any case sized to withstand the stress of seismic events.
Automatic storage systems also differ from each other depending on the automation technology used, in particular with respect to the machines that carry out the picking and putting operations and according to the unit loads managed (pallets, bins, boxes, etc.). The main distinction is between stackerstorage systems and storage systems based on multi-level shuttles.
Let`s take as an example an automatic storage systems for finished products, the most common type today: the two most common implementation of these systems are in the last stage of a manufacturing process or for storage centers intended for goods produced elsewhere. Independently of whether the load units or the quantities of the goods are all the same or not, 3 operations are basically performed in a storage system:
In the picking operations, goods are automatically delivered to the fixed operator`s location by means of special conveyors, transport lines, and shuttles. This station is equipped with everything necessary to carry out the activities through a computer system connected to a customized warehouse management system (WMS) software application. Bar code readers, scales, label printers and picking lists complete the equipment provided.
In automatic systems, picking is also performed automatically: in this case it is the picking tool (anthropomorphic arm of a robot with a dedicated gripper) that performs the picking of both single packages or layers of material.