How AS/RS works
AS/RS Systems – Automated storage and retrieval systems benefits include labor reduction, increased accuracy and throughput, and also have a green impact on the environment. Is an AS/RS system right for your distribution center or warehouse?
AS/RS systems are computer-controlled systems that store and retrieve product in distribution centers, warehouses and manufacturing facilities.
Automated storage has been developing since the 1960’s and is the smartest and most sophisticated material handling system available. Loads are strategically delivered via automation upon demand without the use of manual labor.
Unit-Load AS/RS Systems are larger systems that typically store and retrieve pallet loads. Mini-load AS/RS Systems moves product in cartons, trays or totes. Both AS/RS have the same configuration. Pallet rack with narrow aisles between allows a tall masted crane to move down the center of the aisle on a raised metal rail.
When the mast reaches a designated storage location, a carriage travels up or down the mast to the level where the product to be selected is located. A load-handling mechanism is mounted on the carriage and it reaches into the location and either places or retrieves the load.
An S/R machine or SRM is a crane that includes the mast, carriage and load handling device. Most automated storage warehouses use one SRM per aisle, however, more sophisticated systems may have more than one crane per aisle. For lower throughput systems, a single crane may be assigned to multiple aisles and navigate the turn by way of a transfer cart.
Two types of SRMs – Single-mast and double-mast for extra stability in very tall automated storage systems or warehouses and distribution centers with very heavy loads.
Unit-load automated storage is designed for pallet loads of over 1,000 lbs or more. Specialized systems can handle heavy loads that are not on pallets such as furniture or long rolls of materials. A typical unit-load automated storage system can reach up to 100 vertical feet. Most common systems are 40′ or less.
AS/RS systems details are configured with pallet rack single-deep or with multiple pallets stored one behind the other. A telescopic device called the shuttle reaches into the pallet location and slides under the pallet and pulls it out into the aisle onto the carriage. Older systems use a turret style SRM with a rotating fork. These AS/RS shuttles systems are slower but will interface with any style of pallet rack.
Mini-load AS/RS is a small scale system where loads are less than 1,000 lbs of Unit-load systems. Usually product is stored in a carton or tote rather than a pallet. There is also a smaller system called macro-load AS/RS which handles loads less than 100 lbs. It virtually operates the same way as a mini-load AS/RS.
Instead of shuttles to pick up and retrieve loads, mini-load systems use extractors that grasp handles on trays or vacuums that attach with suction. Robotic arms also play a large role in AS/RS mini-loads.
Some mini-load AS/RS are only 10′ tall while others are 40′. These systems are used to store documents and book as well as parts storage in warehouses and order fulfillment.
View more photos of AS/RS systems in the UNARCO AS/RS Systems Photo Gallery.