With e-commerce and online-related purchases reaching new heights, retail businesses are finding their warehouses have insufficient space to cater for the constant influx of orders. AutoStore’s Jason Wu, local Business Development Manager, explains to MHD what solutions the global cube storage company has to automate logistics facilities.
AutoStore, the global cube storage company, has various solutions for warehouse owners who need to modify their facilities to accommodate the ongoing demand presented by the ever-growing and changing e-commerce sector.
Online-related retail businesses continue to turn a considerable profit off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic as customer demand for products increase. One of the only ways to deal with this challenge is to either invest in larger warehouses or to incorporate solutions that can make a business’s order fulfilment more efficient and accurate.
As Australian companies contend with the rising costs of industrial real estate, low vacancy rates, and pressures to implement ESG initiatives – all while grappling with labour shortages – automation is integral to improving warehousing operations and to combating these challenges.
This is why AutoStore will showcase for the first time ever its medium sized Grid, complete with specialised Robots at CeMAT 2023 in Sydney. This solution is designed to simplify warehousing automation and consists of two operator’s workstations, namely ConveyorPort and CarouselPort.
TACKLING CHALLENGES WITH AUTOMATION
Automation is the key to smart space utilisation, operational efficiency and increases productivity. Automated cubic storage involves implementing cube-like storage systems into a warehouse and is one of the biggest trends the market has ever seen.
Jason Wu, local Business Development Manager for AutoStore, says the company has noticed a rapid uptake of its ground-breaking solutions. “It looks to fulfil key challenges such as space utilisation, labour efficiencies, stock management, order fulfilment, and ergonomics,” he explains.
The Medium Grid will be showcased at CeMAT because AutoStore considers the annual ANZ exhibition to be a one-stop-shop of leading technology and service providers in intralogistics, materials handling, and supply chain management.
“CeMAT gives us the perfect opportunity to further demonstrate the benefits of our automated cubic-based storage solution,” notes Jason. “We look forward to engaging with businesses who want to redefine order fulfilment and learn more about our offerings.”
At the exhibition, visitors will have a chance to view the live AutoStore system demo in action. The Medium Grid includes R5 Robots, workstations (which the company calls “Ports”), chargers, as well as a dummy display unit and a Grid structure with 60 Bins.
The two most popular workstations are the ConveyorPort, which has Bins dropped on a conveyer and transferred to an opening outside of the Grid. The other is the CarouselPort, which is designed to work with the operator in harmony with Robots to ensure the next Bin is always ready.
The workstation operates with three rotating arms, each holding one Bin tray. Two arms are positioned in the back of the port for Robots to place or retrieve Bins. The third arm is in the front position for picker access to the goods inside the Bin.
USING NIMBLE TECHNOLOGY TO MOVE GOODS
AutoStore recently surveyed the market both locally and globally to identify challenges and potential opportunities. Besides problems such as shipping constraints, it found most products that were in demand needed to be imported to Australia from overseas as volumes dramatically climbed.
“This forces companies to look for larger spaces and more warehouse locations to meet these increasing expectations with sufficient stock and order fulfilment,” explains Jason. “This trend started with COVID and is the main reason why most Australian businesses are doing whatever they can to futureproof their agenda.”
Business owners have been looking at maximising their existing usable footprint, i.e., using the cubic or square metres in their warehouses.
With AutoStore’s innovative solutions, warehouse owners – while they can’t expand their operations horizontally if they have insufficient space in their facilities can utilise the available clearance height.
“AutoStore is extremely knowledgeable in this area and is investing in the local ANZ market based on its potential,” adds Jason. “We’re informing businesses as to how our solutions can benefit them in a quick and efficient manner.”
More than 1150 AutoStore systems have been fitted to warehouses globally and several have been implemented in Australian facilities, including Davcor, design, manufacturer, and wholesale distribution company specialising in locks, which was set up in Sydney back in 2016.
INSTALLING WITHOUT DOWNTIME
“We would like to use AutoStore as a staging medium rather than just a pure picking and packing or only storage,” Jason says. “You can pick something then you can stage that back into the Autostore, and when it is needed, it can come out from the other side.”
The PickupPort is an end-user friendly workstation, enabling 24/7 click and collect. It has been installed in Sydney although it isn’t active yet. The solution is like an ATM inside a bank. It’s airconditioned and requires the user to enter a code into an interface and an online order comes out of the machine. There’s a stack drawer system which empties the Bins.
When AutoStore installs its solutions into a warehouse or distribution centre, no downtime is required from the customer who can simply proceed with business as usual as the technology is deployed.
USING LEGO-LIKE STORAGE SYSTEMS
No job is too small or too large for AutoStore. It can cater to any facility’s shape or size.
“Installing an AutoStore is like playing Lego,” Jason explains. “The storage system is customisable and comparable to a Rubik’s Cube where one Grid is stacked upon another. If a business has a mezzanine, we can simply reduce the stack and shape it so it fits, or if they have an empty space above their office, we can also cater to that, too.”
There are no entry levels for an AutoStore solution, and it can be conveniently tailored towards whatever a business’s needs may be.
“Our customers in Sydney who invested in AutoStore seven years ago gained payback less than two years later,” Jason adds. “Their business has continued to boom, especially following COVID. Prior to the pandemic, they managed to expand their operations by up to 50 per cent with this capability.
“Another of our customers saved on forklifts and all the costs associated with them including electricity and gas bills. This is one of the only systems on the market that can run 100 per cent on solar power. Ten of our robots use the same energy as a single vacuum cleaner.”
In terms of operation sizes, AutoStore has provided solutions of all varieties including anywhere from 5000 to one million Bin systems for its wide range of clientele.
Jason confidently concludes: “AutoStore is a pioneer in cube storage automation and continues to be a market leader in the field.”
For more information on AutoStore, click here.