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  August 1st, 2023 | Written by

4 Benefits of Integrating an Automated Storage and Retrieval System

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As logistics professionals investigate how to keep productivity high while workers handle an increasing number of items, many believe automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) could help them achieve the desired scalability and consistency. An emerging trend involves using artificial intelligence (AI) for even better results. Here are some things leaders can expect by implementing such systems.

1. Raise Order Fulfillment Rates

Many companies must fill more orders than ever, particularly with customers from all over the country or world purchasing goods online and expecting the products to arrive in a matter of days. Logistics professionals must carefully coordinate what happens once goods leave a factory, but they can get off to a strong start by improving the coordination of warehouse-related movements. Automated storage and retrieval systems can help.

One such system — which utilizes AI, smart sensors and robotics — can bring significant workflow advantages. They include picker productivity rates increasing by four to five times, so workers can get more done in less time.

This particular system uses mobile robots to go down aisles, reach individual bins and bring them to the proper workstations. From there, humans can do the necessary processing tasks to prepare products for shipment. Such productivity improvements are particularly advantageous for companies that often deal with demand fluctuations.

For example, many businesses process more orders during the holiday season or when students return to school. ASRS infrastructure supports decision-makers to handle those spikes with ease.

Before investing in ASRS options with built-in AI technology, people should consider which problems they want to overcome or what they hope to achieve. They should then use that information to determine which commercially available systems match their requirements most effectively. Alternatively, custom solutions are possibilities when people have specific needs commercial products don’t yet meet.

2. Integrate ASRS With Warehouse Management Systems

Many logistics leaders find they must use warehouse management systems (WMS) to stay competitive in changing environments. These tools help users with multiple needs. For example, they can rely on the associated data to determine whether they have enough employees to handle anticipated labor needs.

A WMS can also track goods as they move around the warehouse. That’s beneficial for preventing high-value or large shipments from getting lost, which could represent significant losses for the affected companies. Similarly, if a business has ongoing problems with goods getting lost or broken, the WMS could help leaders determine what’s going wrong and why.

Most of today’s leading WMS systems have AI features. These typically assist with resource management, including predicting which products will sell fastest or recommending when people should reorder certain items to avoid unplanned stockouts.

One way to make the most of those offerings is to let the AI guidance shape how people use ASRS infrastructure. Perhaps the WMS algorithms predict a product will sell much faster than others. In that case, people may change how much of the item they have on hand, as well as its location within the automated storage and retrieval system. Those who take that approach should always give themselves ample time to learn how to use AI features.

It’s also important to use artificial intelligence as a guide that supports human expertise without replacing it. Well-trained algorithms can process data much faster than humans, allowing them to spot trends. However, AI tools aren’t perfect, so people should always apply their judgment before approving anything an algorithm suggests.

3. Maximize Available Storage Space

Many warehouse managers face the challenge of accommodating increasingly more products and categories. Such circumstances increasingly push people to investigate storage options. For example, a pallet flow racking system allows storing products up to 20 pallets deep, significantly increasing the warehouse’s available density.

Logistics professionals know how important it is to store things strategically, creating systems that support defined business needs. An ASRS solution is not the only option, but it’s popular due to the benefits of combined density and automation. People can also customize how items get stored in their facilities.

One frequently chosen possibility is the first-in-first-out method. It’s one of the best ways to manage perishable goods in the food, beverage or pharmaceutical industries. This approach means the products in storage the longest are the first ones a company uses. It can prevent items from expiring before customers use or even see them.

Some ASRS infrastructure also lets people take advantage of shallow and deep storage, depending on their needs. One beverage bottler in the Asia-Pacific region has an incredible 12,000 storage locations, allowing the business to handle current and emerging requirements.

When decision-makers want their ASRS to have integrated artificial intelligence features, they must always consider their must-have attributes. Automated storage and retrieval systems with AI are still relatively new. That may mean it’s necessary to have some tradeoffs when people are adamant their new system must include AI.

4. Save Time With Pick-Path Optimization

The pick path is an employee’s route through a warehouse when grabbing items to fill orders. However, most automated storage and retrieval systems also optimize their pick paths to work as efficiently as possible.

One commercially available AI solution reduces congestion and dwell time while minimizing travel distances. It can still achieve those benefits when users store goods in differently-sized containers. This option suits warehouses with up to 20,000 SKUs, providing up to 40% more throughput than manual operations.

Some companies also combine automated storage and retrieval systems with mobile robots to further reduce workers’ time moving through warehouses. That’s a practical way to implement artificial intelligence if the ASRS does not include the technology.

Before using any automated systems in a facility, an excellent starting point is to ask workers which tasks consume most of their time and what could make them more efficient. Their answers may be valuable for planning which ASRS to use so employees can maximize their time.

People should also view pick-path optimization as a constantly changing aspect due to how circumstances shift when items get added or removed from a warehouse. One of the benefits of using AI is the technology can recognize what’s different and make decisions accordingly.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems Make Good Business Sense

The four reasons above highlight why logistics professionals commonly choose automated storage and retrieval systems to streamline operations. Selecting options with built-in artificial intelligence are particularly useful for supporting decision-making in high-volume, fast-paced environments.