Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

  • Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) provide dense inventory storage to maximize floor space.

  • Often used for tooling, components, documents or raw materials storage, vertical carousels are enclosed on all sides.

Automated storage and retrieval systems, sometimes known as ASRS or AS/RS, are made of a variation of computer-controlled systems that automatically place and retrieve loads from set storage locations in a facility with precision, accuracy and speed.

An Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) is a combination of equipment and controls that handle, store and retrieve materials as needed with precision, accuracy and speed under a defined degree of automation. Systems vary from smaller automated systems to larger computer controlled storage/retrieval systems totally integrated into a manufacturing and/or distribution process.

Generically speaking, AS/RS refers to a variety of computer-controlled methods for automatically depositing and retrieving loads to and from defined storage locations. Within an AS/RS environment one would find one or more of the following technologies:

  • Unit-load AS/RS – Machines that store large loads (usually 1,000+ pounds), typically on pallets with storage rack structure, reaching 100 feet or more tall.
  • Mini-load AS/RS – Operating the same as a unit-load AS/RS, a mini-load AS/RS handle lighter loads, usually weighing less than 1,000 pounds
  • Vertical lift modules (VLMs) – VLMs consist of a column of trays in the front and back of the module with an automatic inserter/extractor in the center that stores and retrieves the required trays
  • Shuttles – Shuttles are used for the automated handling of totes, trays, cartons or all three in the same system – for either warehousing or manufacturing.
  • Horizontal carousels – Ideal for storing small parts and pieces, horizontal carousels are comprised of a series of bins that rotate horizontally around a track.
  • Vertical carousels – Rotating vertically, like a Ferris wheel, vertical carousels house a series of shelves or carriers to provide high-density storage.
  • Cube-based storage – Ultra-high density goods-to-person piece picking system which utilizes robots to store and retrieve inventory bins from a cubical storage grid.

Automated storage and retrieval systems are used in a variety of areas to support processing and picking throughout a facility:

  • Order picking: Retrieving and presenting required inventory to pickers
  • Storage: Providing dense long-term buffering for small or large items that are slow- to medium-movers
  • Kitting: Providing an area to group component parts for assembly
  • Consolidation: Providing a dynamic area to hold parts and items until all pieces of an order can be merged ready for shipment. Often used for consumer, B2B and store orders.
  • Assembly: Storing work piece components for later production
  • Production: Storing tooling and component parts for manufacturing processes
  • Replenishment: Storing excess inventory for restocking of ancillary picking systems
  • Security: Providing an enclosed storage environment with software access controls
  • Retail: Providing a large quantity of parts and items at a customer service desk. Keeps workers in front of customers instead of walking and searching in back rooms.

Automated storage and retrieval systems provide a variety of benefits:

  • Increases throughput capabilities
  • Increases accuracy levels to 99.99%+
  • Increases ergonomics by delivering items to the operator at a convenient height, eliminating time lost to walking, searching, lifting, bending and twisting activities
  • Provides highest possible storage density
  • Saves up to 85%+ of otherwise wasted floor space
  • Increases labor productivity up to 85%
  • Enhances product security
  • Provides real-time inventory control

Automated storage and retrieval systems are used in a variety of industries, including:

  • Automotive
  • Beverage
  • Electronics
  • E-commerce
  • Food
  • Hazmat
  • Hospital
  • Jewelry
  • Life sciences
  • Manufacturing
  • Medical devices and equipment
  • Maintenance & repair operations (MRO)
  • Paper
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Plastics
  • Spare parts handling
  • Warehousing and distribution

Read more about how automated storage and retrieval systems are used in different industries and applications. Additional case studies can be found here.