The Satellite Review Magazine 2021 Issue 7 - Page 11

I t is undoubtedly a big decision deciding whether or not to invest in warehouse automation . Not all automation solutions are ideal for every warehouse or distribution center and taking that step forward can seem overwhelming . However , with appropriate planning and a strong automation partner , evaluating your current processes and identifying the right time to transition to automated warehousing is not as complicated as it may seem .

Here are three challenges that can be solved with an Automated Storage / Retrieval System ( AS / RS ) and why it might be time to take the leap :
# 1 . The Labor Crisis
The state of the supply chain throughout this year has proven the value of a strong workforce . However , when there are more job openings than there are unemployed workers , warehouse operators must search — and even scramble — to find solutions to their labor issues . Whether the shortage is being felt on the warehouse floor or at the loading dock , an AS / RS can aid in consolidating manual labor positions while increasing efficiency .
Even if your order pick processes remain manual , integrating your picking operation with a well-designed AS / RS will reduce the number of pallet touches and lessen the chance of human error or product damage . If your AS / RS is coupled to manufacturing , you could have zero human touches on the pallets until it is time to pick . AS / RS replaces the need for people to do the put-away and replenishment of pick locations . This can reduce fork-truck pallet handling staff by more than half , making labor savings significant .
# 2 . A Focus on Sustainability & Land Use
To be a future-focused business in today ’ s complex landscape , businesses need to put sustainability at the core of their strategy . An AS / RS is an ideal solution to make that first step .
Land restrictions can significantly limit expansion plans . An AS / RS is designed to be built vertically , instead of over a large area of land , making automated warehouses space efficient and cost-effective . In fact , an AS / RS can store 40 % to 200 % more pallets in the same space as compared to a conventional warehouse ( actual percentage is based on height and density of design ). This opens up more land for green space , and less space brings lower energy costs . A refrigerated or freezer warehouse that utilizes AS / RS , can often see a 30 % reduction in energy costs as well as the associated environmental benefits .
# 3 . Inadequate Space for Manual Processes
Sometimes the justification for an AS / RS has less to do with replacing labor and everything to do with expanding load-out and order selection capabilities in the smallest space possible . By going vertical with your storage and automating the replenishment process , you can have more pickers working in a smaller space , which makes them more efficient . Since the replenishment is automated , they will always have product ready for them to pick from , which will reduce missed picks . This can lead to more productivity . We have seen pallet jack operations reach 350 cases / man-hour when picking to multiple pallets on one pallet jack .
Plan Ahead
So , you ’ ve decided to explore automation in your warehouse . To get the most out of the investment , make sure to design the rack and materials handling solution before deciding on the building size . We have seen clients regret their choices when planning this in reverse order . Make sure that the solution is completely data driven , using raw order data to establish peak performance requirements . These numbers can then be grown to a design year appropriate for your strategic planning . With a typically less than five-year payback , and a 25 + year lifespan , AS / RS is the ideal future-proof solution to achieve long-term business efficiency .
One last piece of advice : don ’ t wait to start the conversation ! While expediting an AS / RS build is possible , it usually takes roughly 14 to 16 months to design , build and implement an AS / RS . It can take even longer to get the capital expenditure approved within your organization .
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