Lee Biscardi, director of warehousing and logistics for LiDestri Foods says the design and planning phase lasted eight to nine months before implementation began. “We thought we’d grow 10 percent, but we grew more. We were able to meet our exceeded growth expectations thanks to Retrotech’s five year plan. They don’t just look at your throughput now; they look at projections into the future.”
A major aspect of the planning process will depend on what type of AS/RS is being installed in the facility.
The Right AS/RS
For LiDestri’s new facility, the right solution was Retrotech Inc.’s ACTIV System, a unit load AS/RS which includes Vertical Transfer Lifts (VTLs), Cross-Aisle Transfers (CATs), and Deep Lane Transfers (DLTs) to position the incoming pallets within the system based on output requirements.
The miniload AS/RS is a popular retrofitting option. A mini load AS/RS replaces conventional static rack to maximize vertical storage space within a compact footprint. Instead of using pallets, the miniload moves and stores items in totes, containers or cardboard boxes. Items are transported to and from the mini load by conveyor, shuttle fork, side belt, side clamp, Sorting Transfer Vehicle (STV) or Automatic Guided Vehicle (AGV).
According to Dematic’s Ruehrdanz, miniload AS/RS is more adaptable since it does not require a rack supported building. Unit load AS/RS usually require a rack supported building.
Ruehrdanz explains one of Dematic’s most popular solutions for customers seeking to retrofit.
“Dematic has introduced a flexible and scalable ASRS technology called Multishuttle,” Ruehrdanz says. “This solution is ideal for retrofitting to existing buildings. The technology features shuttle cars that are powered with a low voltage electrical system. The shuttles store and retrieve cases or tote boxes in a rack structure. The solution is inherently more scalable and easier to install in existing operations since there is no ‘stacker crane’ installation required. Throughput capacity ranges from three to four times that of traditional AS/RS.”
Bill Leber, director of business development and marketing of Swisslog in Newport News, VA, says its AutoStore is another ideal option for retrofitting applications.
AutoStore is unique and lightweight because it uses an aluminum grid structure organized in rectangular cells, instead of traditional steel racking structures. Several different configurations are available, allowing AutoStore to surround pillars and other physical building characteristics.
Retrofitting an existing facility with AS/RS requires a capital investment, but can be well worth it.
Return On Investment
LiDestri’s Biscardi says the benefits of automation were immediate for the company.
“Before moving into our new facility, we were utilizing two warehouses to meet our demands,” says Biscardi. “At that time we were doing 80 to 90 loads a day. After utilizing automation, we could run 105 loads in 18 hours with only 12 employees.”
Also, after moving out of its two other facilities, LiDestri eliminated about $500,000 per year on freight costs and was able to significantly reduce damages. They also decreased truck loading time from one-and-a-half hours to 40 minutes.
Utilizing pallets built by AS/RS can even lead to a reduction in fleet size. TGW’s Swovick explains, “Without automation, pallets are not always optimally stacked. Therefore, trucks are not as efficiently loaded and fewer drop offs are made per route. Typically the fleet had to be larger to satisfy their orders, so automation not only serves efficiency in the warehouse, but in the overall supply chain network.”