What Is An AS/RS, And Why Should I Use One?

Mini-Load AS/RS

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems, or AS/RS, are systems comprised of various computer-controlled systems for automatically placing and retrieving loads from defined storage locations. They are an excellent way for facilities to maximize storage space while simultaneously reducing staff and increasing efficiencies. Although the first AS/RS were developed in the 1960s, early models were limited to working on heavy pallet loads. Recent advances in technology allow the systems to work on smaller loads, allowing industries such as e-commerce, jewelry, and electronics to utilize them.

Although Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems aren’t suitable for every industry, they are ideal for use in applications where:

  • There is a very high volume of loads being moved into and out of storage
  • Storage density is important because of space constraints
  • No value is added in this process (no processing, only storage and transport)
  • Accuracy is critical because of potential expensive damages to the load

Why use an AS/RS?

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems boast multiple benefits over traditional staff and equipment. Specifically, these benefits include:

  • Cutting expenses by minimizing the amount of unnecessary parts and products in storage
  • Allowing for more storage space due to high-density storage
  • Improving the organization of the warehouse
  • Reducing labor costs
  • Increasing efficiency: products are often sold together can be grouped together to speed up the process of picking, packing, and shipping to customers

AS/RS Types

There are several types of automated storage and retrieval equipment. These include:

Unit-Load AS/RS or Fixed-Aisle (F/A) Storage and Retrieval Systems – These systems are used to store large loads (1,000+ pounds) on pallets.

Mini-Load AS/RS – Operate much the same way as a unit-load AS/RS, but handle lighter loads (> 1,000 pounds). Instead of storing pallets, the machines typically store trays, totes or cartons.

Micro-Load AS/RS –Usually handle loads weighing less than 100 pounds in very small containers, totes or trays.

Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) – Consist of a column of trays in the front and back of the module with an automatic inserter/extractor in the center that stores and retrieves the required trays. Trays can be stored in fixed positions to improve throughput, dynamically to optimize storage capacity, or as a combination of both.

Horizontal Carousels – Comprised of a series of bins that rotate horizontally around a track, similar to a merry-go-round. Ideal for storing small parts and pieces.

Vertical Carousels – House a series of shelves or carriers that rotate vertically, like a Ferris wheel, to provide high-density storage that is ideal for fast-moving, small items. Often used for tooling components, documents, or raw materials storage, vertical carousels are enclosed on all sides to secure high-value items, such as jewelry and electronics.

That’s a basic primer on Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems. Although an AS/RS requires a good amount of attention to detail, in the end the benefits can be well worth it. Cato Industrial Rack Company offers several automated storage and retrieval solutions to improve picking and storage operations. Contact us for more information about the automated storage & retrieval systems available from Cato.