Just as critical, however, is considering how the “Amazon Effect” has elevated the importance of the warehouse itself. Businesses are clamoring for industrial space to store products closer to customers, but as businesses face a lack of space and growing demand, they’re forced to get creative with the square footage they already have. That means thinking vertically, and finding solutions that fit each warehouse’s unique volume.
For the first entry in our Körber Best Practices series, we look at one of the best places to rethink how space is utilized: Storage. It’s typically a manual process that can be automated not only to achieve significant space savings, but also to improve warehouse safety and efficiency. Here’s why:
Automated storage maximizes space, no matter the warehouse shape
One of the biggest benefits of an automated storage system, such as shuttle-based pallet storage, is the elimination of the forklifts required by conventional selective racking. Instead, shuttle-based pallet storage builds transportation technology into the racks, making it easier to leverage vertical space and gaining back the space traditionally reserved for maneuvering forklifts.
Shuttle-based pallet storage automates the storage process with three components: an autonomous satellite vehicle (ASV), a shuttle car and a lift (or vertical conveyor function). Upon arrival, goods are placed on the shuttle car, which is constructed perpendicular to the storage racks. The shuttle car moves pallets of goods between rows, and once the shuttle has reached the correct row, the ASV moves the goods from the shuttle car to the proper shelf space. The lift moves the ASVs vertically through the row. When it’s time to collect the goods, the ASV delivers a pallet to the shuttle car, after which the pallet is moved to packing.
A shuttle-based pallet storage system can also be configured based on the warehouse’s unique footprint. Racks and vehicles can be increased and decreased based on available space. For example, Körber customer Pet Lovers Centre requested a shuttle-based pallet storage system to help maximize its uniquely-shaped Singapore warehouse when industrial space was in short supply. Körber was able to design a unique system for the animal food and supply business’ specific footprint, capable of storing up to 12 pallets in a multi-deep lane. After transitioning to shuttle-based pallet storage, Pet Lovers Centre more than doubled storage capacity – from 1,400 pallets to 2,833 – without purchasing any additional space.
Automated storage increases throughput, improves employee safety
While many warehouses adopt shuttle-based pallet storage for the space savings, they also benefit from improved efficiency warehouse-wide. By removing forklifts from the floor, warehouses significantly reduce the chance of an accident that harms an employee and/or disrupts normal operations. More immediately, shuttle-based pallet storage reduces the number of employees walking through aisles, allowing for proper social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, shuttle-based pallet storage can help warehouses move the right product out of the racks at the right time. Consider a consumer packaged goods company: some of its products must be kept at colder temperatures and have specific expiration dates. An autonomous storing system operates on FIFO (First in, First Out) and LIFO (Last In, First Out) capabilities, depending on the warehouse’s unique needs. The system processes expiration data quickly, ensuring no goods go to waste on the shelves, and transportation vehicles are able to operate in extreme environments for far longer periods of time than a human could.
Körber Best Practice #1: Automate storage to avoid space crunches
With fewer customers heading to the store and more ordering their goods online, the warehouse’s importance has grown within the supply chain. Competition for space outside the four walls, and unique storage requirements within the four walls, means selective racking has outlived its usefulness.
Businesses facing a space crunch, or looking to improve storage efficiency in general, should consider how automation can revolutionize their operations. You can learn more about how Pet Lovers Centre automated their storage system here, or read more about the shuttle-based pallet storage system on Körber’s website: shuttle-based pallet storage.