Automated Warehouse Systems: What Is Asrs And How Can It Help?

Moving pallets and packages around your warehouse is not always easy. We know that managing a warehouse has many challenges for distribution center managers like you. Some of these challenges include high labor costs, low productivity and efficiency, and high safety risks for employees. 

To overcome these challenges, our clients have success with automated storage and retrieval systems or ASRS. Currently, more than 10% of warehouses in the US use automated warehousing equipment. What about yours?

But does your warehouse really need an automated warehouse system? How can they help your warehouse optimization efforts? Well, let’s learn what ASRS is, its use cases, its benefits, and more.

Defining Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems

Automated storage and retrieval systems are often referred to as AS/RS or ASRS systems. These systems leverage software, computers, and robotics to streamline handling, storing, and retrieving items in a warehouse. They can be small but can also scale into a comprehensive automation network controllable via an appropriate software solution.

ASRS leverages the synergy of many different technologies and vehicles to automate the retrieval and deposition of high-volume loads. Moreover, they do it accurately whether the load needs to be loaded in a storage unit or taken out from it and transported elsewhere. 

The ASRS system’s technologies range from unit-load and mini-load AS/RS to horizontal and vertical carousels. The technologies used in an ASRS system dictate its type, and there are several of them.

Schedule a FREE professional consultation with our Total Industries warehouse optimization experts to find out if an ASRS would fit your needs.

Different Types of ASRS

What are the types of ASRS? We’ve already stated that ASRS depends on the technology it uses to automate load transportation. 

Here are the most often used types of these systems:

  • Unit-load ASRS – they are used for large loads such as cases of items or pallets. Unit-load AS/RS is used for loads often weighing several thousand pounds. It uses fixed-aisle and moveable-aisle cranes;
  • Mini-load ASRS – they are smaller than unit-load AS/RS solutions. They are used for handling lighter loads. Mini-load AS/RS use shuttles and cranes, which makes them suitable for warehouses with narrow aisles;
  • Horizontal carousels – they are used for sorting small pieces and parts. Horizontal carousels leverage bins and rotate them horizontally to deliver goods;
  • Vertical carousels – they are similar to horizontal carousels. They rotate vertically, which helps maximize the use of storage space;
  • Vertical lift modules – or VLMs, are automatic inserters or extractors placed in the center of a column of trays. They help retrieve and store items in the trays.
  • Cube-based storage – this is a cutting-edge robotic picking system designed to operate in a cubical storage grid;
  • Shuttles – shuttles are often found in warehousing and manufacturing facilities that handle cartons, trays, and totes.

Here is an example of the SRSI AS/RS Warehouse Racking With Conveyor:

How to Know That You Need ASRS

First of all, you need to assess your warehouse operation to identify major pain points. Every warehouse is different, so you will discover various things that may or may not reflect the situation in other warehouses. Yet, there are specific challenges that only ASRS can help you overcome and future-proof your operation:

  • High upkeep costs (labor costs make 65% of the expenses of running a warehouse)
  • Consistent errors in product or parts storage and retrieval operations
  • Frequent employee injuries
  • Low productivity and efficiency
  • Too hot or cold work conditions
  • Minimal use of vertical storage space
  • Losing track of items in a warehouse

Implementing an ASRS

While deciding whether you need an ASRS or not, implementing one is not as challenging as you might’ve imagined. Professionals handle the installation of an automated warehouse system. It is not done ad-hoc but only after a thorough inspection of your facilities. 

Generally speaking, every automated warehouse racking system consists of two major components:

  • Computer management system – it allows operators to schedule storage or retrieval processes and track inventory details (location, storage duration, items origin)
  • Storage and retrieval equipment – the hardware that does the job of loading and off-loading items

Modern ASRS can be installed very fast. They occupy a small footprint, thus allowing you to maximize the floor space in your warehouse. In addition, they are not too complicated to use, which minimizes the onboarding and training time.

How Much Does It Cost to Automate a Warehouse?

This is not an easy question to answer because the cost of ASRS varies depending on what you need. For instance, if you need only one standalone vertical carousel, automating your warehouse will cost below $100K. On the other hand, a fully integrated mini-load system that supports thousands of stock-keeping units might end up costing a couple of million US dollars.

Here are some of the factors that affect the final price:

  • Size and weight of products
  • Storage space
  • Characteristics of the operating environment
  • The cost of custom configurations to maximize the ASRS usability
  • The cost of ASRS equipment, shipping, and installation

Where to Find Professional Help for Your Warehouse Optimization

As you can see, whether or not to have an ASRS installed in your warehouse is not a straightforward decision. If you have limited experience with internal logistics automation, it can be hard to assess the needs of your warehousing operation. 

There are a lot of factors in play. It would be best if you considered getting a professional consultation to make an informed decision. 

Total Industries in Northern and Central California can help you discover if an ASRS would boost your warehouse efficiency. Request a professional FREE consultation or contact us online or by phone.

Bay Area (510) 379-5210
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091

Further Reading:

AS/RS – A Single Solution to Many Warehouse Optimization Problems
What to Do When You Run Out of Warehouse Space
Different Types of Pallet Racks for Warehouse Storage