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Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems: When to Consider the Investment

By Ian Hobkirk | 10/04/2018 | 9:31 AM

Six Ways to Postpone DC Expansion Part V - ASRS DCVThis blog is the fifth in a series on distribution center capacity and space utilization.  So far, we’ve covered the concepts of slotting, optimizing storage depths, reducing aisle widths, and how to take advantage of overhead dock space.  While these four tactics can be used to postpone an eventual facility expansion, using automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) is often a way to prevent an expansion entirely. AS/RS systems come in many flavors, and include equipment like:

  • Horizontal and vertical carousels
  • Vertical lift modules
  • Pallet-handling AS/RS
  • Mini-load systems
  • Shuttle systems

These systems have several common attributes:

  • They often take full advantage of building height
  • They usually minimize or reduce aisle space
  • They seek to minimize labor requirements by bringing product (either cases or pallets) to the workers rather than the other way around

Due to these factors, AS/RS systems are among the most space efficient solutions available and offer the added benefit of labor cost reductions. However, these systems are expensive and typically not easy to change or reconfigure as business needs evolve. AS/RS systems should be carefully designed and planned to ensure that they meet expectations.


Next up in the series: A blog on pragmatic alternatives to AS/RS systems that may be worth considering for storage of slower moving, low-cube SKUs. Can’t wait? Read the Whitepaper: Six Ways to Postpone -Or Avoid- DC Expansion or watch the recorded webinar.



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About Ian Hobkirk

Ian Hobkirk

Ian Hobkirk is the founder and Managing Director of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors. Over his 20-year career, he has helped hundreds of companies reduce their distribution labor costs, improve space utilization, and meet their customer service objectives. He has formed supply chain consulting organizations for two different systems integration firms, and managed the supply chain execution practice at The AberdeenGroup, a leading technology analyst firm.


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