Use Of Automatic Storage And Retrieval System Information Technology Essay

Globalisation, deregulation, competitiveness, increasing customer expectations has made it imperative for the Indian industry to achieve sustainable advantage in this competitive scenario, thus it has become very important for businesses to service the needs of their customers excellently by providing value to their demands.

For the improvement of the business efficiency supply chain management is considered to be one of the most important business improvement tools available. From Suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers have discovered that they must either transform their operations and tactics or be beaten by competitors with more innovative and aggressive supply networks.

At a broader level, it is necessary to integrate various processes like procurement of material, manufacturing, distribution, retailing, marketing, R&D, HR, etc, whereas it is equally important to involve each process of various organizations which are required to work together to achieve mutual benefits across the supply chain.

In this competitive manufacturing and business environment and the need to provide a linkage between various processes, the warehouse has always been a critical link between a manufacturing plant and the world and affects the performance of the entire manufacturing and logistics system.

Storage is one aspect of the supply chain that can provides increased efficiency, cost savings, and other such benefits.

Poor infrastructure facilities, outdated mindsets and lack of exposure to newer methodologies and the latest developments have been bottlenecks against progress in Indian warehouse management and materials handling. Today, with the advent of information and communication technologies, the scenario for warehouse management and materials handling in India is changing fast with introduction to IT enabled systems such as MRP, inventory management, logistics control and automated Storage and Retrieval System.

The importance of warehouse management, materials handling, storage and the need for the automation in the warehousing invokes the need for an ASRS.


An automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) is a high-rise system which consists of computer-controlled methods for automatically placing and retrieving loads from specific storage locations. Thus, reduces human intervention and avoids human error.

ASRS are used 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 adding content is present in this process

accuracy is critical because of potential expensive damages to the load

ASRS basically involves the use of high-rise racks with a storage machine operating within the aisle, is serves both sides of the aisle. Loads are stored in the racks and retrieved either automatically or in a semi-automated fashion. The loads could either be unit loads that are palletized, or, in some cases, involve drawers and totes that are used to store smaller parts. The heights of ASRS systems can vary, depending on the application. The highest systems are 100 feet high.

Improved material control is one of the most important functions of an ASRS. Using an ASRS to automatically store and retrieve product provides the means for controlling the movement of material, and eliminates the possibility of human error. Another important benefit of an ASRS system is the immediate reporting of moves completed, which provides a critical link in the chain of information systems that control inventory.

Components of an ASRS:

A basic ASRS system is comprises of one or more aisles which have a robotic crane to retrieve from and store product in the racks on either side of the aisle. The use of a robotic crane allows racks to be built several stories high over almost any length, providing more storage density than almost any other storage solution. The cranes also bring the materials to the operator which virtually eliminates wait, walk and cycle times.

ASRS systems can also handle a variety of materials, from small bins of parts up to entire pallets of materials, with fast cycle times and high precision.

An ASRS consists of the following:

Rack Structure

The racks can either accommodate palletized unit loads or totes/bins or drawers, depending on the size and characteristics of the part. Other types of racks are cantilever racks, flow racks, and any other specially designed storage structure. The rack openings are typically standardized, as the cost of non-standard, or customized, openings can be significantly higher than those for the standard openings. The pallets do not leave the warehouse to customers, including manufacturing. The reason for this is the rough use received by pallets in loading/unloading and in transportation. Damaged pallets with nails or slivers sticking out can cause serious problems in the operation of an ASRS. Also, the rack structure can be either free standing, or the building can be rack supported.

Storage/Retrieval Machine

The storage retrieval machine operates within a storage aisle. Its function is to store and retrieve loads. It is designed for applications requiring high lifts, fast speeds, control features and accurate positioning, not available in other types of material handling equipment. Typically, it consists of a structural frame of either a single or multiple mast construction. The lower portion of the frame has wheels which normally run on a single floor rail or two rails. The frame is guided by support from the storage structure at the top of the structural frame.

The structural frame of the storage retrieval machine is used to guide the carriage for accurate locating of the load as it is raised and lowered. The carriage carries the mechanism to carry, store and retrieve the load. The storage and retrieval mechanism can either be a shuttle device or a pushpull arrangement with a pin to engage/disengage the load. The storage and retrieval mechanism also must be able to transfer loads to and from conveyors, shuttle cars and Pick and Deposit stations.

The storage retrieval machine is typically captive in a single aisle, with one storage retrieval machine per aisle. There are cases, however, where the storage retrieval machine can operate in more than one aisle. In this case, a transfer car is required at the end of the aisle to transfer the storage retrieval machine from one aisle to another. The choice of one versus the other configuration depends on the cost and the throughput requirements. Typically, storage retrieval machines service both sides of the aisle and can operate in very narrow aisle configurations, where the aisle is only marginally wider than the load. The storage retrieval machines can have a person on board, or can be completely unmanned. The person-on-board systems permit less than a full unit load to be picked from a storage location.

P & D Stations (Transfer Stations):

Pick and Deposit station is a location at which a load is entering or leaving storage is supported in a manner suitable for handling by the S/R machine. These may be a simple as a fork truck setdown station, a shuttle car, a conveyor section or an Automatic Guided Vehicle System (AGVS). Normally, every AS/RS has at least one pick-up station and one delivery station. P & D stations are usually located at the end of the storage aisles. Sometimes the P & D stations are integrated with an in-plant or warehouse transportation system.

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Features of ASRS:

Following are the main safety features of AS/RS.

AS/RS systems are typically automated man less system, they almost eliminates human interaction with moving equipment and increases the occupational health & safety levels in warehouses.

All operational commands are given electronically from host system and thru pre-programmed path & logic, eliminating all major risks associated with material & equipment damage.

Catching devices & over speed governors are provided for hoisting movement to arrest over speed/acceleration of equipment, ensuring absolute trouble free operation.

Limit switches & safety bumpers are provided at end of aisle to detect & avoid over-travel of equipments.

Physical dimensions of load/pallet are checked in all three directions while entering of pallet on forks & over dimensional loads are rejected from the system, ensuring only suitable sized objects gets handled by AS/RS.

Motion of load handling device (LHD) are locked during vertical & horizontal travel of equipment.

Unlike fork trucks/battery stackers, AS/RS do not have telescopic mast. AS/RS mast is supported by bottom & top rail, restricting sway of mast during travel of equipment.

Benefits of ASRS:

Provides make-to-order capability in addition to make-to-inventory production

Real-time inventory control and instantaneous reporting functionality

Bringing material to the operator cutting cycle time by eliminating wait, walk, and search time.

Reduces work-in-progress inventory. Better inventory accuracy and better responsiveness to need result in reduction or elimination of “safety stock” in the overall inventory model. This has the net effect of inventory reduction.

Dramatically increases operator productivity. The “Part to Picker” model of order fulfilment is 3 to 5 times more productive that having the picker travel to the part to complete the fulfilment.

Provides real-time inventory control with instant reports. With near 100% accuracy and real time information about the inventory on hand, achievable commitments can be made to your customer as opposed to “best efforts promises”.

Improves product quality and productivity. Real time information, faster response to a need, physical protection, and traceability of material access all contribute to a better process where time can be spent on improving the quality of the process instead of on expediting material to a point of use.


An automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS or AS/RS) consists of a variety of computer-controlled methods for automatically placing and retrieving loads from specific storage locations. Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) are typically used 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 adding content is present in this process; accuracy is critical because of potential expensive damages to the load.

AS/RS Systems are devices designed for automated storage and retrieval of parts and items in manufacturing, distribution, retail, wholesale and institutions. They focus on bringing “goods to the man” rather than manual walking and searching. Space savings, increased productivity/reduced labour, increased accuracy and reduced inventory levels are some of the primary benefits. Ideal for lean manufacturing, sustainability, six sigma, Kahnban, JIT and other value added methodologies and processes.

Material Handling Institute of America (MHIA), the non-profit trade association for the material handling world, and it’s members have broken AS/RS into two primary segments.

Fixed Aisle and Carousels/Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs). Both sets of technologies provide automated storage and retrieval for parts and items, but use different technologies. Each technology has its unique set of benefits and disadvantages (like everything in the world). Fixed Aisle systems are characteristically larger systems where as Carousels & Vertical Lift Modules are used individually or grouped, but in small to medium sized applications.

Fixed Aisle AS/RS is categorized into three main types: single masted, double masted, and man-aboard. Most are supported on a track and ceiling guided at the top by guide rails or channels to ensure accurate vertical alignment, although some are suspended from the ceiling.

The ‘shuttles’ that make up the system travel between fixed storage shelves to deposit or retrieve a requested load (ranging from a single book in a library system to a several ton pallet of goods in a warehouse system). As well as moving along the ground, the shuttles are able to telescope up to the necessary height to reach the load, and can store or retrieve loads that are several positions deep in the shelving.

To provide a method for accomplishing throughput to and from the AS/RS and the supporting transportation system, stations are provided to precisely position inbound and outbound loads for pickup and delivery by the crane.

In addition, there are three types of AS/RS devices called Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs), Horizontal Carousels and Vertical Carousels. These systems are used either as standalone units or in integrated workstations called pods. These units usually are integrated with various types of pick to light systems and use either a microprocessor controller for basic usage or inventory management software. These systems are ideal for increasing space utilization up to 85%, productivity levels by 2/3, accuracy to 99.9%+ levels and throughput up to 750 lines per hour/per operator.

Man-aboard AS/RS:

A man-aboard AS/RS offers significant floor space savings. This is due to the fact that the storage system heights are no longer limited by the reach height of the order picker. Shelves or storage cabinets can be stacked as high as floor loading, weight capacity, throughput requirements, and/or ceiling heights will permit. Man-aboard automated storage and retrieval systems are far and away the most expensive picker-to-stock equipment alternative. Aisle-captive storage/retrieval machines reaching heights up to 40 feet cost around $125,000.

Hence, there must be enough storage density and/or productivity improvement over cart and tote picking to justify the investment. Also, because vertical travel is slow compared to horizontal travel, typical picking rates in man-aboard operations range between 40 and 250 lines per person-hour. The range is large because there is a wide variety of operating schemes for man-aboard systems. Man-aboard systems are typically appropriate for slow-moving items where space is fairly expensive.

Vertical Lift Module

The VLM is a computer controlled automated vertical lift module, storage and retrieval system. Functionally, stock within the VLM remains stationary on front and rear tray locations. On request a movable extractor unit travels vertically between the two columns of trays and pulls the requested tray from its location and brings it to an access point. The operator then picks or replenishes stock and the tray is returned to its home.

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VLM system offers variable tray sizes and loads, which could be applied in different industries, logistic, as well as office settings. The VLM systems could be customized to fully utilize the height of the facility, even through multiple floors. With the capability of multiple access openings on different floors, the VLM system is able to provide an innovative storage and retrieval solution.

The rapid movement of the extractor as well as the integrated inventory management software can dramatically increase the efficiency of the picking process. Unlike large AS/RS systems, which require a complete overhaul of the warehouse or production line, the Vertical Lift Module are modularized, which can be easily integrated into the existing system, or to be rolled out in gradually over different phases. This is the first model of the same.

Horizontal Carousels:

A horizontal carousel is a series of bins which rotate on an oval track. Every bin has shelves which are adjustable to .75″ and can be configured for a myriad of standard and special applications. An operator simply inputs a bin number, part number or cell location and the carousel will rotate via the shortest path. Multiple horizontal carousels integrated with pick to light technology and inventory management software (a pod of carousels) are used for order fulfilment.

A wave of orders are sent to the pod. A group of orders are selected to create a batch. The operator simply follows the lights and pick round robin from the carousels and place items in a batch station behind them. Each carousel pre-positions and rotates when picked, so it is awaiting for the operator who picks round robin till the batch is complete. When the batch is complete, a new batch is inducted and the process repeated until the wave is complete. Horizontal carousels can save up to 75% of floor space, increase productivity by 2/3, accuracy levels to 99.9%+ levels and throughput up to 750 lines per hour/operator.

Horizontal carousel systems generally outperform robotic systems which are very vogue right now for a fraction of the cost. Horizontal carousels are the most cost effective AS/RS system available.

Unit-load AS/RS are used in distribution centres

Unit-load AS/RS are used in distribution centres for storing pallet loads of goods, replenishing of mini-loads or for direct picking. In manufacturing plants they store raw materials, finished goods, work in process and spare parts for equipment.

“With companies being forced to do more with fewer resources and fewer employees, the benefits of a unit-load automated storage and retrieval system are 100 percent order control, visibility and traceability within your facility,” says Todd Jedelsky, account executive with Murata Machinery. “The system keeps account of what’s going in and out, so users are not correcting mistakes as frequently.”

As the economic downturn forces more companies to practice lean handling techniques, the latest developments in these technologies are yielding more efficient picking and enhanced returns on investment. Here is a look at the latest trends.

Mini-load AS/RS systems have incrementally crept up in heights and speeds in recent years. Now reaching as high as 78 feet, with travel speeds as fast as 23 feet per second, suppliers have been developing independent mini-load handlers and drive systems that compensate for mast movement with motor-driven anti-pendulum and belt-driven omega drives.

Well-entrenched in food and beverage handling, mini-load AS/RS is growing in popularity for smaller retailers, adds Bill Ostermeyer, vice president of sales at viastore systems. “The technology allows you to do a better job at sequencing and fine tuning the cubing and loading of trailers for efficient delivery and unloading at the retail stores. This is because of the ability to control the release out of the system in a very logical manner.”

Unit Load, Mini-Load, or Layer-Load AS/RS

Improve Sales & Profitability with these storage solutions

Which type of load do you need to store and retrieve?

• Unit Load – pallets, paper rolls, bakery trays, etc.

• Layer-Load – layers of different products

• Mini-Load – container based small parts

• Self Storage Containers

• Car Parking Systems

Virtual pallet movement

Faster speeds and smoother motion are visible improvements. A more important advancement is the software that manages the systems. Software capability has defined the technology since its inception: the automation arm of defense contractor Litton Industries created the dominant supplier decades ago. The successor organization is HK Systems Inc., and software development remains a focus.

Full pallet movement will remain the distribution mode of breweries and other large-scale bottlers for the foreseeable future, but distributors and other food segments need systems that can retrieve cases from a variety of locations and assemble them for shipment. Rainbow pallets can be built automatically, but the cost is out of line with the labor savings. Proof of concept has been done on mixed-SKU automation, he adds, though commercialization is years away. But the batch picking and wave planning capabilities of today’s systems already are far superior to traditional sortation systems, and “what’s changing the game is the sophistication of the software.

Refrigerated storage with deep racks is becoming more common in food applications, and rising energy costs will accelerate the trend.

Overview of Warehouse ASRS in India:

In India, a warehouse has been generally perceived to be a place to store things, out of sight, and out of mind, certainly not an image of high tech or sophistication. In fact, most plant modernization efforts have typically ignored or bypassed the warehousing segment completely. Since quality warehouses are few, warehouses charge a premium for providing value-added services.

Describing the Indian scenario “Till the 90s, most of the warehouses were nothing but a tin shed with four walls.

All the goods were mostly stored on the floor and handled by manual labour. Automation was practically unheard of except in some MNCs who were present then. With the entry of many new MNCs as well as global Third Party Logistics(3PL) service providers in late 90s and early 2000, the warehouse infrastructure started improving.

Storage and Material Handling Equipments (MHE) started getting much needed attention. Today we have many players, both domestic (TCI, Indo Arya, Safexpress, M J Logistic) and foreign (Toll, Arshiya, etc.) who are investing millions of rupees to construct world class warehouses/logistics centres and equip them, with the latest storage and handling equipments as well as IT systems.”

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MJ Logistic, a leading 3PL solutions provider, began operations of its state-of-the-art four-million tonne capacity cold storage warehouse and distribution facility with new customer acquisitions in the frozen food & vegetables segment at its Palwal facility in Haryana near Delhi.

According to CrISIL research estimates, the market size of the warehousing industry as on 2009-10 stood at Rs 250-300 billion, with size of the industrial and agricultural warehousing segment, excluding temperature controlled warehousing, in the range of Rs 220-260 billion and Rs 30-40 billion, respectively. Warehousing industry has grown at 8-10 per cent per annum. Industrial warehousing and agricultural warehousing have grown at the rate of 9-11 percent and 3.5- 4.5 per cent per annum, respectively.

Several factors such as growth in external trade, growth across major industry segments such as automobile, pharmaceutical, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and the emergence of organised retail have favourably impacted growth of the warehousing industry.

Despite this growth, the general perception is that warehouses are places to simply store things, while big companies have their own warehousing facilities, smaller ones depend on the services provided by private operators, mostly in the unorganized sector.

Warehousing automation:

Warehouse automation in India is at its infancy. Right now, only big players are in a position to implement automation. Most small and medium enterprises are yet to adopt it. Typically, the small players do not have long-term plans, and, therefore, look for quick results from their investments. Warehouse automation requires considerable investment and the benefits are only realised after a while. This has dissuaded the small players from investing in warehouse technologies.

High end technologies such as radio Frequency Identification (rFID), Barcodes and other advance tracking system are must for any warehousing company to sustain in the market today,” Emphasizing that the warehouses should have adequate mechanical, technical and auxiliary systems to facilitate speedy functioning, Minda says, “Loading unloading, material handling, ciphering, transferring and tracking would be the key operational attributes of warehouse.WMS (Warehouse Management System) are there with visibility and key warehousing analytics.

Major Companies using ASRS in India:

Genix Automation Pvt.Ltd, Pune was founded in 2006 and is providing Automation solutions in India. It has been servicing Automotive OEM’s for their facility Automation. The company has in a very short time bagged numerous projects from almost all major car manufacturers.

1. GENIX Automation has supplied total solutions to Fiat India

2. GENIX has supplied engine storage system (ASRS) to TATA motors

3. GENIX has supplied system to NISSAN motors.

4. GENIX has supplied system to Ford motors.

5. GENIX has supplied system to Volks wagon motors.

M J Logistic Services Ltd:


Acenorca S.C.L


Colgate Palmolive

Coca Cola (India) Pvt. Ltd.

Danisco India Pvt. Ltd

Darshan Foods Pvt. Ltd.

Family Health International (FHI)

Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd.

ITC Limited

Kirloskar Brothers Limited

Kwality Dairy India Ltd.

Mico Bosch

Philips Electronics Ltd.

RFCL Limited

Republic Of Chicken

Tata Motors Limited







• Manufacturing & Installation of Underguarding

• Installation of Overhead Conveyor. Project : Ford Chennai , Bumper Line

• Manufacturing & Installation of Complete PBS Structure 220Tonnes

• Manufacturing & Installation of Line Side Utility Structures . Project : Ford Chennai , PBS ( Painted Body Storage )

• Manufacturing & Installation of Transfer Mezzanine 40 Tonnes .

• Mfg& Installation of Drop‐lift Safety Fence Project : Ford Chennai , Trim 1 to Trim Over head Transfer

Managing the Risks of AS/RS:

There are a few simple rules to investing in warehouse automation:

Buy only the highest quality equipment.

Don’t think that the best deal will provide the lowest cost to your firm. The down-time associated with problems from lower quality equipment is too expensive and will quickly erode the initial cost savings.

Think long-term:

Every successful business has a vision that requires small, steady steps to reach goals that are realistic and profitable. Because an AS/RS has a 20+ year life, don’t expect a 12-month payback.

Introduce operating personnel early:

Include operating personnel early in the process and make them a part of the project team before the system goes on-line.

Think proactively:

Preventive maintenance is far less expensive than reactive repair. Talk to the experts who design and maintain the equipment and take necessary action.

Don’t buy from companies that cannot demonstrate:

Their successful expertise in environments similar to your project requirements.

These rules sound basic and simple. All too often, however, one or more are not applied, which results in unrealistic expectations and frustration. At Westfalia, we avoid this by sticking to the fundamentals, staying within our core competencies, and making sure that we can fully identify with the customer’s problem domain.


High Performance Picking System Eliminates Replenishment Labor

Features/Benefits Provided:

• Dynamic Slotting of SKU’s

• Automatic Replenishment

• Pick to Light Interface

• Replenishment Labour Eliminated

The warehouse and conveyor systems of a European cutlery supplier were technically outdated. Some of the spare parts were no longer available. Moreover, the profile of the orders received had changed over the years. The average size of shipments had decreased while the number of shipments had increased. At the same time, the packaging variety increased due to the company’s growing international orientation.

The company decided to respond to these new market challenges by restructuring the intra-logistic processes in its warehouse and distribution center. The selected supplier was to design and build a completely redesigned central warehouse and distribution center using the existing building structure. This presented the challenge of performing the modernization work without interrupting the day-to-day operations.

A High Performance Picking System (HPPS), an intelligent combination of mechanics and software, met the project requirements. Through the use of the HPPS, customer orders and replenishment of stock are performed quickly, efficiently, and ergonomically.

There are several distinct advantages of the HPPS. The pick faces of the pick-to-light system are automatically replenished with the required containers, and the storage and retrieval (S/R) machines automatically remove containers and cartons when they are empty or when dynamic slotting of slow moving SKUs is required and beneficial.

The containers are placed directly in a sloping rack position that allows for a comfortable and highly ergonomic access to the containers during picking, thereby reducing pick cycle times. The HPPS incorporates an S/R machine designed with a carriage that tilts the load handling device (LHD) to correspond with the slope of the pick channels.

is a proud member of AS/RS, a Product Section of the Material Handling Industry of America

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