In a storage system that is automated, computers control the process of putting away and retrieving stock. They are often used when:
• Space constraints make manual work not possible
• A large volume of stock is regularly moved
• The importance of accurately moving goods to prevent damage is critical
Automated Storage System in Modern Operations
Known as an automatic storage/retrieval system (AS/RS), it was first introduced as a way to handle the storage of heavy-loaded pallets in the 60s. Nowadays, stock of all sizes is stored in this manner as the technology has evolved.
A database of all the stored items in an AS/RS allows quantities to be kept track of and searched for. Items can be retrieved by selecting the relevant item and picking a quantity to be taken out of storage. Knowing where a particular item is stored and can be retrieved from is determined by the computer.
A storage and retrieval machine (SRM) takes orders from the controlling computer to pick up an item from its location and deposit it at the desired destination. These machines can often move horizontally and vertically to retrieve stock from multiple levels, allowing for a more space-efficient system.
Advantages of this Type of Storage
The advantages of using an automated storage solution include:
• Increased control of inventories and greater capacity to track stock items, making for a more sophisticated storage operation
• Improved flexibility in adapting to changes in the business forecast, which can better prepare businesses for a range of eventualities
• Reduces labour costs as the majority of the work is completed automatically, saving money that could be used in other areas of the business
• Greater safety in the workplace due to the elimination of manual handling, which can often lead to costly accidents and injuries
• A more efficient system, which helps to cut costs through the reduction in unnecessary parts. Space usage is also reduced with narrower aisles
• The ability to analyse data on storage statistics, opening up the opportunity to optimise space and save money through the development of more efficient storage models
Warehousing has long been perceived as a concept that exists within the confines of a particular location (ie: a warehouse or distribution center). Theoretically, this might be true. However, modern day warehouse logistics is influenced by a variety of factor – hence, making the operations of a warehouse transcend beyond the confines of the facility itself.
For instance, a distribution center can be seen as a complex blend of man power and technology (ie: materials handling equipment, pallets, sortation systems, conveyors and racking infrastructure). Often overlooked, however, is the connectivity that exits between other warehousing facilities, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, and the end users. In essence, a warehouse is but a single piece to a much larger chain of distribution. Effective supply chain strategy and logistics technology are merged into a functional system to form a more cohesive and responsive network for the warehouse.
Warehousing logistics for the 21st century
In today’s warehousing business, it is evident that for a storage facility or distribution center to be successful, it needs to have a system that has evolved in a manner whereby there is seamlessness in the interactions between its technology (ie: automation) and its workforce (ie: manpower). Its system ought to be able to sense any changes in demand and supply; it should be able to absorb variability, and balance inventory and capacity in a manner that is efficient and economical. This is the modern day reality of warehouse logistics.
While technology has given rise to greater flexibility in how warehouse managers handle time-to-demand requirements, hidden efficiencies have also been uncovered in areas such as materials handling, distribution network strategy, warehouse processes, and overall infrastructure design.
If the complexities of technology and warehousing strategies are broken down, the concept of warehouse management is reduced to the basics of mere moving of inventory from one point to another. The utilization of proper logistical procedures can have an apparent impact on the costs involved in running a warehouse. Its effect would also reflect on the flow of inventory, and product integrity. The logistical aspect of warehousing continues to redefine itself to align with growing demands in e-commerce, and business process sophistication – thus expanding the warehousing concept.