All this works very well, up to a limit. That limit is defined by the “storage-to-throughput ratio”. The throughput of these systems is limited by the number of robots that fit on (or below) the storage and retrieval system. Use too many robots, and the operation will get congested.
In the last ten years, this limit has increased. In the beginning, the maximum throughput that could be achieved in a system storing 10.000 bins was around 600 to 700 bins per hour. For a system with 20.000 bins, that would be double, etcetera.
Smarter Warehouse management systems (WMS), or Warehouse Execution systems (WES), faster robots and better layouts have increased this limit significantly, but there is still a maximum that can be achieved. The only thing that could be done to reach beyond that is to make the cube system lower. That will increase the surface area to create more space for the robots to navigate the system with more efficiency.
In real-world and real-time terms, what do these numbers mean? Let’s assume an average bin holds 30 pieces. And that for each bin presented, you pick out two pieces. With an average of 8 hours of picking per day, this would equal 15 to 30 days of inventory in the system. Or a stock rotation of 10 to 20 times per year.
For many warehouse operations, this is more than enough. A lot of them will never be close to this limit.