Automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS) are systems that store and retrieve products from an inventory location. These computerized robotic systems are designed to automate operations such as unloading, sorting, put-away, storage, order-picking, staging, and loading. Typically, automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS) have four major components: the storage rack, the input/output system, the storage and retrieval (S/R) equipment, and the computer management system.
There are many types of automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS), and products are used in a variety of warehousing and manufacturing environments. Tunnel-style systems are used to replenish carton flow lanes and may be coupled with gravity flow lanes. High speed sorting box buffers can accept many different carton sizes for storage. The AS/RS then processes the containers in a new, customer-defined sequence to complete the final order. Typically, these automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS) are characterized by multiple speed options, multiple heights, and a small footprint. So-called mini-load systems also enable warehouses to store more in less space. Designed with strong but lightweight alloys, these automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS) are suitable for the storage of small parts, and for both picking and order fulfillment.
Some automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS) are used in applications where a high volume of loads are moved into and out of storage. Others are used in industries where storage density is critical because of limited space. Typically, however, most automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS) are used in manufacturing or distribution environments to direct the flow of material through an industrial process and to the end-user. Systems may operate in a fully-automatic mode or semi-automatic mode, depending on AS/RS capabilities and application requirements. In semi-automatic systems, the only operator involvement required is the material handing at the input and output stations. Inventory accuracy, therefore, is extremely high compared to manual storage and retrieval systems.
Automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS) can improve employee productivity by bringing products and materials to their work locations. Automated storage and retrieval systems can also reduce work-in-process (WIP) inventory while enabling organizations to lower inventory safety factors and safety stock. By providing detailed inventory reporting, the AS/RS enables warehouse managers and schedulers to identify bottlenecks and build proper load-storage buffers for order picking and fulfillment. Ergonomic considerations and enhanced material traceability are additional benefits of automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS), especially in heavily-regulated industries or applications that require heavy lifting or repetitive motion.