Popular Types of Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS)

ASRS warehouse automation solution

L-A-C Logistics Automation is at the forefront of providing innovative Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) tailored to modern warehousing needs. In this article, we explore the popular types of ASRS, each designed to enhance warehouse efficiency and streamline operations. From space-efficient vertical carousels to high-tech robotic systems, our aim is to equip you with the information necessary to choose the ideal ASRS solution for your business. 

Learn more about these advanced systems that can revolutionise your storage and retrieval processes.

What are Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS)

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) are sophisticated technologies designed to manage and automate the storage and retrieval of goods in warehouses and distribution centres. At L-A-C Logistics Automation, we specialise in these systems that significantly enhance operational efficiency, accuracy, and storage density. 

ASRS solutions range from high-capacity unit-load systems to more intricate mini-load and micro-load systems, accommodating a variety of warehouse sizes and types of inventory. These systems are integral for businesses looking to optimise space utilisation, reduce labour costs, and increase inventory control. 

By leveraging advanced robotics and software, ASRS seamlessly integrates into existing warehouse management systems, providing a streamlined approach to inventory management. This technology not only boosts productivity but also ensures a safer work environment by reducing the need for manual handling of goods.

Robot Palletising

The Importance of ASRS in Modern Warehousing and Logistics

In the rapidly evolving sector of warehousing and logistics, Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) have become indispensable. ASRS solutions offered by L-A-C Logistics Automation play a pivotal role in addressing the growing demands for speed, efficiency, and accuracy in material handling. These systems are crucial for businesses aiming to stay competitive in a market where quick fulfilment and optimised inventory management are key.

ASRS technology significantly reduces the time taken for storing and retrieving items, leading to a more efficient use of labour and a decrease in operational costs. By maximising storage density, ASRS also helps in optimising warehouse space, a valuable asset in urban and high-demand areas. This enhanced space utilisation is not just about storing more; it’s about strategic inventory management that leads to improved order accuracy and faster response times.

Where safety and precision are paramount, ASRS minimises the risk of workplace injuries associated with manual storage and retrieval tasks. This shift not only ensures a safer environment for warehouse staff but also contributes to higher employee satisfaction and retention.

The integration of ASRS with advanced warehouse management systems (WMS) enables real-time inventory tracking, providing invaluable data for demand forecasting and supply chain optimisation

In a nutshell, ASRS is not just a tool for storage and retrieval; it’s a comprehensive solution that propels warehousing and logistics into a new era of digitalisation and efficiency.

Who is LAC and What Do We Do

L-A-C Logistics Automation is a renowned UK-based company specialising in the design, manufacture, and installation of conveyor systems, automation solutions, and bespoke robotic systems for various material handling requirements. With a focus on innovation and quality, LAC has established itself as a leading solution provider in materials handling and automation systems across multiple industry sectors.

Our commitment to excellence is evident in our approach to each project. We pride ourselves on our imaginative and blue-sky thinking, aiming to be recognised as class-leading solution providers. Our dedicated team of qualified and professional staff embodies a ‘can-do’ attitude, which enables us to continuously improve the quality of our products and deliver projects on time.

LAC offers a range of solutions tailored to diverse industries, including logistics automation, food & beverage automation, and special purpose automation. Over the past decade, our services have been utilised by businesses of all sizes, including some of the most well-known global brands, contributing to our rapid growth and status as one of the UK’s leading conveyor manufacturers.

Our operations are based in Nottingham, where we occupy five units totaling 70,000 Sq. Ft. This space allows us to keep our stainless steel manufacturing processes separate from mild steel activities, preventing cross-contamination and ensuring the highest quality in our products. Our skilled team of design engineers and welder/fabricators is adept at delivering innovative and bespoke solutions, meeting the specific requirements of our customers.

At LAC, we are not just a manufacturer; we are a partner in innovation, dedicated to providing exceptional solutions in materials handling and automation systems.

Robotic palletising in warehouseTypes of Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS)

Understanding the different types of Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) is important for any business looking to optimise its warehousing and logistics operations

From high-density unit-load systems to flexible mini-load options, and from versatile vertical and horizontal carousels to cutting-edge robotic and micro-load systems, L-A-C Logistics Automation offers a comprehensive range of ASRS technologies

Unit-Load ASRS

What are Unit-Load ASRS

Unit-Load Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) are designed for handling large and heavy loads, typically pallet-sized or larger. These systems consist of a combination of high-density racking structures, automated aisles, and Storage and Retrieval Machines (SRMs). 

The SRMs are engineered to transport loads to and from storage locations in a highly efficient manner. This type of ASRS is ideal for handling bulk items and is characterised by its ability to store items in a compact, organised, and accessible manner.

Common Applications and Industries

Unit-Load ASRS is commonly used in industries that require storage and management of large, heavy goods in significant volumes. This includes manufacturing sectors, like automotive and aerospace, where parts are bulky and need to be stored in large quantities. 

It’s also prevalent in sectors like food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and warehousing for retail, where palletised products are a norm. In addition, it’s beneficial in e-commerce fulfilment centres and distribution hubs that deal with a high volume of goods.

Advantages and Limitations

The primary advantage of Unit-Load ASRS is its high storage density. By maximising vertical space and reducing aisle width, it allows for efficient use of storage space. This system also enhances inventory accuracy and labour efficiency while ensuring a safer work environment by minimising manual handling. 

However, the limitations include higher initial investment costs and potential inflexibility in handling a variety of item sizes. It also requires a certain level of maintenance and technical support to ensure uninterrupted operation. 

Despite these limitations, for many high-volume, large-item industries, the benefits of a Unit-Load ASRS often outweigh the drawbacks.

Mini-Load ASRS

What are Mini-Load Systems

Mini-Load Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) are designed for handling smaller loads compared to Unit-Load ASRS. Typically, these systems manage items such as totes, trays, or cartons. 

Mini-Load ASRS uses smaller, more agile Storage and Retrieval Machines (SRMs) capable of quickly and accurately handling items in confined spaces. The design of Mini-Load systems is particularly advantageous for environments where space optimisation and quick access to a wide range of SKUs are essential.

Key Uses and Suitable Environments

Mini-Load ASRS is particularly suitable for industries and environments where small parts or items are stored and retrieved frequently. This includes sectors like electronics, pharmaceuticals, and e-commerce, where handling of smaller, more delicate items is the norm. 

Mini-Load systems are also a perfect fit for spare parts storage and distribution centres, where quick and easy access to a broad range of items is crucial. In retail distribution, they offer the agility needed to manage a diverse and frequently changing inventory.

Pros and Considerations Compared to Other ASRS Types

Advantages:

  • Flexibility in Item Handling: Mini-Load ASRS is exceptionally adaptable in managing a variety of small-sized items, offering versatility in inventory management.
  • Optimal Use of Space: These systems excel in maximising vertical storage space, making them ideal for environments where floor space is at a premium.
  • Speed and Accuracy: Known for their rapid and precise operations, Mini-Load ASRS enhances overall operational efficiency, reducing retrieval times and improving inventory turnover.
  • Improved Inventory Management: The integration with advanced warehouse management systems facilitates better tracking and management of a large number of individual items, enhancing inventory control.

Considerations:

  • Specialisation in Small Items: While Mini-Load ASRS is optimised for small to medium-sized goods, it’s tailored to cater to specific item sizes and weights, ensuring specialised handling of such inventory.
  • Integration with Warehouse Systems: The requirement for intricate integration with warehouse management systems is not a limitation but an opportunity to leverage technology for advanced inventory management and operational efficiency.
  • Customisation Options: The perceived limitation in item size and weight handling can be seen as an opportunity for customisation, allowing businesses to tailor the system to their specific needs and operational requirements.

Mini-Load ASRS systems, with their focus on flexibility, space optimisation, and speed, offer significant advantages for businesses dealing with small to medium-sized inventory. 

Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs)

What are VLMs

Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) are advanced automated storage and retrieval systems designed for high-density storage. These systems consist of vertically arranged trays, an extraction platform, and a series of computerised controls. 

VLMs operate by automatically delivering stored items to an operator at an ergonomic height, minimising physical strain and enhancing picking efficiency. This technology is ideal for a wide range of industries due to its adaptability and space-saving design.

How VLMs Operate in Different Settings

VLMs are versatile and can be tailored to different operational settings. In manufacturing and automotive industries, they are used for storing parts and tools, providing quick access and reducing floor space usage. 

In retail and e-commerce, VLMs streamline the storage and retrieval process, allowing for efficient handling of a diverse range of products. Additionally, in pharmaceutical and healthcare settings, VLMs offer secure and clean storage solutions for sensitive items. 

The adaptability of VLMs to various environments lies in their customisable tray sizes and software that can be integrated with warehouse management systems for real-time inventory tracking.

Benefits and Considerations

Benefits:

  • Space Efficiency: VLMs offer significant space-saving advantages by utilising vertical space, making them ideal for environments where floor space is a premium.
  • Increased Productivity: Automated item delivery enhances picking speed and overall operational efficiency.
  • Improved Ergonomics: By presenting items at an optimal height, VLMs reduce physical strain on operators, contributing to a safer and more comfortable work environment.
  • Enhanced Inventory Control: Integrated software offers real-time inventory updates, ensuring accurate inventory management.

Considerations:

  • Investment in Efficiency: While the initial investment for VLMs might be higher than traditional storage solutions, it’s an investment in long-term efficiency and space optimisation.
  • Customisation Opportunities: The need for a tailored approach to suit specific operational needs isn’t a drawback but an opportunity for customisation, allowing businesses to maximise the utility of their VLMs.
  • Learning Curve: The introduction of advanced technology like VLMs involves a learning curve. However, this is an opportunity for staff development and upskilling, leading to a more technologically adept workforce.

VLMs are a forward-thinking solution for modern storage challenges, offering numerous benefits.

Horizontal Carousel Systems

What are Horizontal Carousel Systems

Horizontal Carousel Systems are automated storage solutions consisting of a series of bins or shelves that rotate along a track. These systems bring items directly to the operator, reducing travel and wait time. They are highly efficient for storing a variety of items and are often used in combination with pick-to-light or voice recognition technologies for enhanced picking accuracy.

Ideal Use Cases and Efficiency Aspects

Horizontal Carousel Systems are ideal in environments where floor space is limited, as they make excellent use of horizontal space. They are commonly used in distribution centres, manufacturing facilities for parts storage, and in retail backrooms. 

These systems are known for their efficiency in high-speed picking and reduced labour costs, making them suitable for applications requiring frequent and rapid access to a diverse range of items.

Comparison with Vertical Carousel Systems

Compared to Vertical Carousel Systems, Horizontal Carousels offer a more extensive horizontal storage capacity, making them suitable for environments with more floor space. They typically provide faster retrieval times due to their layout but may require more floor space than vertical systems.

Vertical Carousel Systems

Basics of Vertical Carousel Systems

Vertical Carousel Systems are automated storage solutions that utilise vertical space, operating similarly to a Ferris wheel with bins or carriers that rotate to bring items to the operator. They are designed to save floor space while providing high-density storage.

Optimal Applications and Performance Features

These systems are particularly beneficial in environments where floor space is at a premium, such as small warehouses, parts departments, and retail environments. 

Vertical Carousels are ideal for storing a wide range of items, from small parts to bulky goods, and are often used in industries like automotive, pharmaceuticals, and electronics.

Advantages Over Horizontal Systems

The key advantage of Vertical Carousel Systems over Horizontal Carousels is their ability to save significant floor space by utilising vertical space. 

They also tend to be more ergonomically friendly, as they deliver items at a comfortable height for the operator, reducing physical strain.

Robotic ASRS

What are Robotic ASRS Systems

Robotic ASRS systems utilise mobile robots alongside static racking to create a fast paced and dynamic ASRS. They typically store totes, trays and cartons in high density storage configurations, with single items picked at high speed picking stations.

Whilst reserved usually for high throughput picking applications, Robotic ASRS systems can also be used for high density storage and sortation.

Use Cases and Markets

Robotic ASRS systems are utilised well in Ecommerce environments, where order volumes are large but are typically made up of a low number of items per order. 

Other uses include spare parts storage due to the high density storage, and retail replenishment where there are a high number of SKU’s to be picked.

Benefits and Limitations

Benefits:

  • System Performance: Robotic ASRS systems offer the best performance on the market and are the primary technology for high speed picking systems
  • Storage Density: These systems excel in maximising vertical storage space, making them ideal for environments where floor space is at a premium.
  • Versatility: With use cases in order fulfilment, consolidation and parts storage, Robotic ASRS Systems have the flexibility to be utilised in different environments.
  • Improved Accuracy: The picking process for Robotic ASRS Systems use a Goods-to-Person concept, meaning the picking accuracy for orders can typically be 100%. The storage concept also allows for full inventory visibility, limiting out of stock order cancellations.

Limitations:

  • Load types: Robotic ASRS Systems typically will be limited to handling totes or trays of products with certain sizes. This means that larger goods cannot be stored.
  • Investment: Investment levels can be high and although the Return on Investment (ROI) can be attractive, it is worth considering available capital for a project.

 Considerations for Choosing an ASRS

When choosing an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) for your business, several key factors must be considered to ensure that you choose the right system that aligns with your operational needs and objectives.

Factors Influencing ASRS Selection (Space, Budget, Type of Goods)

  • Space: The available space in your warehouse is a critical factor. Different ASRS types have varying space requirements. For instance, Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) are ideal for limited floor space, while Horizontal Carousel Systems might be more suitable for facilities with more floor area.
  • Budget: The budget for your ASRS project is another crucial consideration. The cost varies widely depending on the type of system, its size, and the level of customisation needed. Balancing your budget with your operational needs is key to making a wise investment.
  • Type of Goods: The nature of the items being stored – their size, weight, and handling requirements – will significantly influence the type of ASRS you choose. Robotic ASRS and Mini-Load systems are perfect for small items, while Unit-Load systems are designed for larger, heavier goods.

Importance of Scalability and Flexibility

Scalability and flexibility are essential features of a modern ASRS. Your chosen system should not only meet your current needs but also be able to grow and adapt with your business. This means considering systems that can be easily expanded or reconfigured as your storage requirements evolve. Flexibility in handling a variety of item types and adapting to changing inventory profiles is also crucial.

Integration with Existing Warehouse Management Systems

Integration capabilities with existing Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are paramount. A seamless integration ensures efficient operations, real-time inventory tracking, and better decision-making. The chosen ASRS should complement and enhance your current technological ecosystem, not complicate it. Compatibility with existing software and the ability to adapt to future technological advancements will contribute significantly to long-term operational success.

When choosing an ASRS, it’s important to consider how the system fits within your current operational framework and future growth plans. Balancing space, budget, and type of goods with scalability, flexibility, and integration capabilities will lead to a more successful and efficient warehousing solution.

Final Thoughts

As we have explored the various types of Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS), it’s clear that these technologies are pivotal in shaping the future of warehousing and logistics. At L-A-C Logistics Automation, we are committed to being at the forefront of this evolution, offering a comprehensive range of ASRS solutions tailored to meet the diverse needs of modern businesses.

We encourage businesses to embrace these technological advancements. Implementing an ASRS solution from L-A-C Logistics Automation can significantly enhance your operational efficiency and productivity. 

These systems not only optimise storage and retrieval processes but also contribute to safer, more organised, and cost-effective warehouse operations. 

By partnering with L-A-C Logistics Automation, you are choosing a path of innovation and long-term success in the rapidly evolving landscape of warehousing and logistics.

Embrace the future with L-A-C Logistics Automation – your partner in cutting-edge ASRS and logistics automation solutions.

Case Studies

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