More and more companies are turning to high-rise storage solutions, and the Automated Storage/Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) utilized within them, to increase distribution efficiency and control, decrease energy use, reduce labor costs and maximize use of available land.
With numerous advantages, high-rise warehousing can provide an alternative to conventional warehousing.
Conventional Vs. High-Rise
When compared to conventional steel-frame warehousing, high-rise warehousing differs in many ways. A conventional warehouse has a steel frame as its structure and is composed of insulated metal wall panels, prefabricated metal walls or tilt-up walls.
High-rise warehouses typically are rack-supported buildings. In rack-supported structures, the racking system comprises the primary structural support for the facility, including its roof and walls, which are often called its “skin.”
Conventional warehouses have product storage heights of 40 to 60 feet, must be expanded horizontally and rely on workers and forklifts to move products. High-rise warehouses can be constructed as high as 140 feet, resulting in an increased product storage density and requiring much less real estate.
High-rise warehouses also are outfitted with automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), which are composed of automated cranes, elevators, carts, product racking and robust software controls.
High-rise warehousing is similar to conventional warehousing in one way—it can be implemented for a variety of applications, including use for refrigerated storage. The structures can accommodate all temperature ranges—from -40 F to ambient.
Smaller Footprint, Larger Capacity
One of the primary benefits of high-rise warehousing is its utilization of space. Companies seeking to construct a storage facility in a highly populated area will likely encounter challenges in accommodating space needs. High-rise warehouses have a smaller base footprint, requiring less land for construction.
Less land use reduces real estate investment, allows for warehousing in a more populated area and reduces the amount of “set-aside” land required by many open space laws. High-rise storage facilities also can store more per square foot of building. They can incorporate multiple rack configurations, including single unit load racks and multi deep pallet racks. This allows for accommodation of an increased number of pallets and pallet positions.
These high-rise warehouses also have more room for storage, because they do not require structural support columns and have narrower aisles, which need only to accommodate automated equipment. Additionally, automated equipment, can reach to the highest levels of the structure, allowing pallets to be stacked the entire height of the facility.
Efficiency And Labor Reductions
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems, essential in high-rise warehousing and incorporating everything from cranes to carts, are designed for efficiency. By working with enterprise software solutions, AS/RS track the location of all stored items and the ongoing status of the order fulfillment process, allowing complete control of inventory and an ability to react quickly to customer needs.
AS/RS are often integrated with automated guided vehicles for crossdocking, loading, offloading of trucks and use of centralized picking systems. Products can be received, stored and transported rapidly within the warehouse, increasing throughput rates.
“In a three-shift environment inherent to warehousing and distribution, use of automated systems represents significant labor reductions,” says John Hinchey, vice president of sales for Westfalia Technologies Inc., York, PA. “AS/RS can run 24 hours a day with minimal human oversight. By taking the human element out of the equation, you eliminate product damage, and there is no need to conduct a physical inventory, because you have 100 percent, real-time inventory accuracy.”
Reduced manual labor significantly increases overall efficiency of the facility. Automated systems move faster, are easily programmable and greatly reduce human error. High-rise warehousing virtually eliminates the need for workers in roles such as forklift operation. Although highly trained and educated—typically higher-salaried—workers are needed, long-range labor cost analysis demonstrates a savings compared to the number of workers needed to work a conventional warehouse.