The system can handle about 350 pallets per hour into the facility and 500 pallets per hour out. The facility will operate 24/seven and will not require any forklifts. The facility's footprint is about 14,000 square meters. Feenstra of Swisslog notes this type of warehouse is the only possible choice to store this number of pallets on this site. CCA had great success in the automated warehouse and distribution center it built two years ago in Melbourne, leading to the choice to build two similar ones.
"CCA claims its Melbourne facility increased stock reliability and customer service levels dramatically and has saved the company millions AUD per year," says Feenstra. The company is spending a total of $250 AUD on its Auckland automated warehouse and DC, which will begin operation by year's end.
Big Ticket, Bigger Payback
Vendors and end-users alike note some drawbacks of ASRS solutions. "The initial investments are higher than they would be for a manual warehouse, but these investments should be paid back after time, depending on the business case," reports Feenstra. "Most ASRS systems have quite a fixed installed performance, which makes them more suitable for high-production operations, but with some relation between average and peak figures. For example, with peaks not more than double the average flow—or there must be alternative scenarios like extending operational hours to cover peak periods."
"The number-one drawback is you are completely out of business if your crane is not operational," adds Maas at JTM. "This means you must be on top of your maintenance and there is no middle ground with one crane. You are either loading trucks or you're not; so ongoing maintenance has to be followed religiously."
Phil Keeney, plant manager at Hershey Creamery Co., agrees. "The key to the system is good preventative maintenance, which is what we do with weekly PMs. Our disruptions are minimal because we maintain a staff for preventative maintenance."
Companies also contract with their vendors for preventative maintenance. For instance, Swisslog maintains staff onsite at CCA's Melbourne facility. To eliminate disruptions, Feenstra notes companies have backup computer systems in place, or they distribute stock over aisles so if one crane breaks down, stock can still be retrieved from another aisle.
Before making a decision, vendors suggest first getting a conceptual design study comparing manual solutions with semi-automated or automated solutions to compare investment, operating and stock-holding costs so the business case can prove itself.