Defining AS/RS Technologies: Robotic Delivery

Nov 30, 2021
robotic delivery systems

Although shelf and bin/tote based systems are relatively advanced, modern robotic solutions are taking storage technology to an entirely new level.

Goods-to-person AS/RS systems are becoming increasingly popular as the labor force shrinks and warehouse costs rise. These systems can introduce transformational efficiencies to labor and space utilization. 

There are three main categories of AS/RS systems including shelf based, bin/tote based and robotic delivery systems.  Although shelf and bin/tote based systems are relatively advanced, modern robotic solutions are taking storage technology to an entirely new level. There are three primary categories of robotic delivery systems. 

Robotic Cube Storage

With the most advanced type of AS/RS technology, robotic cube storage, all inventory is stored in bins that are stacked inside of a three dimensional grid. Intelligent robots shuffle, sort, store and retrieve bins from different points on the grid, then deliver them to workstations on demand.

A command system orchestrates all movements, tracking robots, inventory and workers. Robots operate autonomously on the grid, communicating with the control system wirelessly and charging themselves when idle.

Because robotic cube storage systems are modular, adding robots or workstations is simple. These grids can be built to fit any shape or size of building, making them highly adaptable and useful in many different businesses. 

Robotic Shuttle Systems

Although not quite as sophisticated as cube storage, robotic shuttle systems are still extremely high density, high speed systems.

Shuttles carry cases, totes or trays and move independently between storage levels, traveling on narrow rails. Typical payloads can be up to 100 pounds and systems can deliver up to 1000 lines per hour. 

Shuttle systems are modular, scalable and adaptable.  Capacity can be increased simply by adding shuttles with no need for structural changes. 

Floor Robots (AGVs/AMRs)

With these types of systems, inventory is stored on portable storage shelving, which is retrieved and transported from storage to an operator access area by a fleet of autonomous, mobile robots. The robot returns to storage after the operator picks the required item or items from the shelf.

Throughput ranges from 100 to 300 pieces per hour and is dependent on the number of robots in the system. Standard weight capacities range from about 1,000 pounds per shelving unit up to 3,000 pounds per unit for heavy-duty models.

AGVs and AMRs are the two types of floor robots, and while their technologies are similar, there are some key differences. AGVs (automated guided vehicles) are ideal for tasks that are repetitive and consistent. Wires, magnetic strips, or sensors installed on the facility floor guide them. They can only travel along planned routes. Although they can detect obstacles along the path, they are unable to deviate from the predetermined path to avoid them.

A bit like the GPS in your car, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) navigate a facility using maps. Using these maps and onboard cameras and sensors, an AMR can survey the area and plan the best route to get from point A to point B in the warehouse while avoiding obstacles.

Talk To A Warehouse Robotics Expert

If you’re considering adding robotic solutions to your warehouse, talk to an automation expert at Raymond West today!.