AutoStore class warehouses have revolutionized the storage and picking of small items such as cosmetics, electronic gadgets, shoes, clothing, toys, computer games and tools, i.e. goods most often purchased in online stores. Manual picking is time-consuming and storage requires a large warehouse which involves labor costs which increase every year. This is what happens in a traditional warehouses. The AutoStore system allows you to simultaneously increase efficiency and cut costs.
What is the difference between a traditional, even partially automated storage facility and an AutoStore warehouse? Strange, but true – it is the amount of air stored.
AutoStore does not store air
A classic warehouse is a structure of racks intersected at right angles with aisles. From an economic point of view, each warehouse aisle is a waste of space – not used for storing goods.
What if the shelves were brought together and the shelves were replaced with containers placed on top of each other? Great, but how to get the goods from such a warehouse? Do you actually need to go inside? After all, you can pick containers from the top of the heap – you only need to replace forklifts with autonomous robots working without operators. The AutoStore system has made these ideas come true – soon it will be 20 years since the first implementation.
Metal mesh and spider robots
The desire to compact the storage and fit many more goods without expanding the warehouse could not be fulfilled for a long time. Only the creators of AutoStore dared to think about the warehouse from a completely different angle: they put the goods in a compact heap and placed the transport elements on top of it. The combination of three elements turned out to be the key to success:
- mesh – actually a cage made of metal profiles: the rectangular structure is at the same time a scaffolding for containers placed in columns and a track on which transport robots move;
- robots – self-propelled transport carts that move on the top of the cage, close to the ceiling of the warehouse, take out the containers with the desired content and deliver them to the ports, i.e. the stands located on the floor where order picking takes place – after the packer picks up the right amount of products, the robot takes the box back to the warehouse;
- containers – boxes made of durable plastic that are adapted to be picked up by robots – each container is marked and can be monitored, thanks to which it is possible to check the current location of the container and goods at any time.
The efficient operation of the system is supervised by software: an algorithm manages the work of robots and reacts to emergency situations. Human staff is limited to order pickers in ports.
Record storage density and a tenfold increase in efficiency
AutoStore works 24/7. The robots require no charging breaks as they use any downtime to recharge their batteries. It is also possible to use automatic battery replacement. Machines do not get tired and do not make mistakes. Thanks to this, AutoStore’s performance is ten times more efficient than that of traditional picking systems. You can also reduce losses due to damaged goods. In addition, you have full inventory control at all times and the ability to monitor the operation of the warehouse in real time.
AutoStore is the best in terms of storage density compared to other automated storage systems. Compared to a traditional warehouse, it provides as much as 70% better use of the available space. The system can be installed in existing warehouses, without the need to invest in modifications. The rectangular structure can be adapted to the dimensions of any warehouse: only free space and a strengthened floor are required for installation. In addition, AutoStore has a modular structure, which means that it is easy to scale – it can be expanded by adding more mesh cages and combining them into one system.
AutoStore is the perfect solution for the e-commerce industry. One of the main barriers is the upfront costs. Therefore, the automatic storage and picking, at least at present, is an attractive option mainly to medium and large retailers.