Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) have been around since the 1960’s. They are basically systems that are computer controlled that put away, store and retrieve products in manufacturing facilities, warehouses and distribution centres.
The executive director of sales at Daifuku America explained that the first systems were built to handle big loads, and after that, the pallet loads developed into mini loads and then more recently these systems are used to sequence items and for replenishment. Automated storage and retrieval systems have started to evolve into sophisticated, smarter material handling solutions which are able to handle the smaller loads and also very strategically deliver products to the correct places and the correct times without manual labour.
Pallet loads are usually retrieved by the large systems which are known as unit load AS/RS. The smaller systems known as mini load AS/RS are usually used for handling products in trays.
The large systems that are known as unit load AS/RS, usually store and retrieve pallet loads, while the smaller systems, mini load AS/RS, usually handle product in trays, cartons or totes.
Regardless of the size, most AS/RS will have the same basic configuration, which is two rows of metal racks that face each other with a narrow aisle in between them. There is a raised metal rail down the centre of the aisle. There is a tall mast that travels through the aisle along the rail and when the mast reached the designated storage location, there is a carriage that travels up or down the mast to the level of location. There is a load handling mechanism mounted on the carriage and it reaches into the storage location in order to retrieve or put away a load. The carriage, the mast and the load handling device are collectively known as a storage and retrieval machine.
Normally AS/RS use one SRM per aisle, but there are sophisticated high throughput systems can also assign more than one machine to one aisle. There are also some low throughput systems that will assign one machine to more than one aisle. With these systems, the SRM will make a turn at the end of the aisle or it is moved from aisle to aisle with a transfer cart.
SRM’s can have double or single masts. When using a single mast machine, the carriage will be attached to the front of the mast, and with double mast machines, the carriage rides in between two masts, which provides more stability in the tall AS/RS or in systems used for heavy loads.
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