What is an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS)?

by Prime Robotics
February 12, 2024
automated storage and retrieval system ASRS

Efficiency and optimization of resources are crucial to running a successful warehouse operation. To improve workflows and processes, many warehouse operations have implemented Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) to store and retrieve their goods more effectively. 

But what exactly is an AS/RS? Below, we dive deeper into what these systems are and how they’re changing the future of warehousing. 

Understanding Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

An Automated Storage and Retrieval System is a combination of equipment and software designed to autonomously place and retrieve goods from specific storage locations. 

This complex system is designed to precisely handle a wide range of products and materials. From small parts to large pallets, AS/RS are versatile tools for a variety of industries with unique needs. 

No matter the size of your warehouse operation, investing in an AS/RS could be your key to staying ahead of the competition.

Components of AS/RS

  1. Storage Racks: These are the physical structures that hold warehouse inventory. Storage racks are designed to maximize vertical space in the warehouse and are built to hold different load sizes. 
  2. Storage and Retrieval Machines: These machines are automated robots or cranes that move along the storage racks to place or retrieve items. These robots come in different designs and sizes depending on the system, with some robots able to move up to 3,000 lb. payloads!
  3. Robotic Control System: The control system is considered the brain of the system. This is the software that manages movement of the machines, tracks inventory, and integrates with a warehouse management system (WMS) to organize storage and retrieval processes. 

Types of AS/RS

In addition to the core components, there are also different types of AS/RS. The two main types are:

  1. Unit-Load AS/RS: These AS/RS are designed to handle large loads like pallets. They’re best used for larger warehouses with high-volume bulk storage needs. 
  2. Mini-Load AS/RS: These AS/RS are better suited for smaller items, like bins or trays. They’re most commonly used in distribution centers where orders can be picked and assembled easily. 

The type of AS/RS you procure depends on your business needs. Some businesses may use a combination of these AS/RS types to meet their varying needs. It will be important to work closely with your automation partner to assess your business processes to determine which system is best for you. 

Benefits of Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

There are several benefits to using an Automated Storage and Retrieval System. Here are the top advantages:

Enhanced Space Utilization

With an AS/RS, vertical space is optimized, and aisle widths are reduced—ultimately increasing storage density. This allows you to store more goods in less space, without expanding your footprint or procuring new warehouse facilities. 

Improved Efficiency and Productivity

AS/RS help improve the efficiency and productivity of warehouse operations. Because they automate the storage and retrieval process, less manual handling of goods is required. This leads to faster operation times, increased throughput, and lower labor costs. 

It also reduces the risk of human error, so operations are more accurate and reliable. 

Better Inventory Management

With an integrated WMS, AS/RS has real-time inventory tracking capabilities for precise control. Stock levels are more accurately maintained, so you can avoid overstock and out-of-stock situations. 

These systems also help facilitate just-in-time inventory management, where goods are received only as they’re needed, to improve order fulfillment rates. 

Enhanced Worker Safety

Implementing an AS/RS means less manual, tedious human labor is required in the warehouse. This increases safety by taking workers out of potentially hazardous environments and reduces the risk of accidents and injuries. 

Scalability

AS/RS systems are designed to be modular and flexible. These systems easily adapt as business needs grow. With the right solution and partner, warehouses can integrate automated storage and retrieval capabilities into their workflows and processes without major disruptions to operations. 

How AS/RS is Changing the Warehousing Landscape

There are many ways that technologies like AS/RS are changing the warehousing landscape. 

For one, implementing an AS/RS  helps you achieve faster and more reliable warehouse operations, giving you a competitive edge. Their adaptability can help you adjust to the rise of customer demands to match the SLAs of industry-leading distributors. 

Moreover, AS/RS contribute to a more sustainable business model. By improving efficiency and optimizing warehouse space by up to 3X, warehouse operations become more sustainable than ever. 

Implementing an AS/RS

The benefits of AS/RS are clear, but you still need to plan and prepare carefully to implement one successfully. 

Make sure you consider the system’s costs, integration with existing operations, and the expertise needed to help manage it in the long run. 

For a smooth transition to an Automated Storage and Retrieval System, it’s important to carefully select and partner with an experienced provider of automation solutions.

Final Thoughts

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems are a huge advancement in warehouse management technology. By automating the storage and retrieval process, businesses can achieve unparalleled levels of efficiency, accuracy, and safety. 

As the warehousing industry continues to evolve, the use of AS/RS will expand and bring innovative solutions to the challenges of modern warehousing. 

Whether you’re a small business looking to improve your warehousing operations, or a large corporation looking to streamline your network, understanding AS/RS is the first step toward meeting your productivity goals.

Prime Robotics