Going green. Sustainable AS/RS designs.
“Going green” is an important business goal, as everyone understands the importance of minimizing the environmental impact of their business. Efforts at reducing carbon emissions, recycling and purchasing green products serve as common examples of ways in which many businesses try to be more eco-friendly. However, more and more firms are finding that automating their warehouses and distribution centers offers a great way to go green while adding efficiencies and savings to operations. In many ways, going green can change accounting ledger entries from red to black.
Less well known, yet equally important operational benefits of an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS), are the environmental benefits that automation offers. Three primary “green” outcomes concern land use, energy consumption and waste production, including hazardous waste.
Automated warehouses and distribution centers require a smaller building footprint. On average, AS/RS use translates to reductions in square footage requirements in the order of 40% or more when compared to conventional warehouses storing equivalent product inventories.
Automated warehouses require less energy to function. Reductions arise from fewer interior lights, less space to heat and cool, and the energy savings made possible by using Storage/Retrieval Machines (S/RMs) outfitted with regenerative braking.
In conventional warehouses, waste arises from products damaged in handling, accommodations made in product wrapping to allow forklift use and other outcomes associated with forklift use, such as damage to the building and rack systems as well as battery use. Another often-overlooked source of waste derives from human error in order picking. Each mistake has an environmental impact manifested in labor, fuel, re-packaging and shipping costs.
Modern AS/RS designs adapt to every business model and product inventory. The firm’s mix of fast, medium and slow moving products dictates design and does not need to be identically configured across an entire warehouse or distribution center. Hybrid designs have the ability to store products single deep, double deep or up to 18 loads deep in the rack structure, as well as use a single crane or two in any aisle.
Ultimately, storing pallets or containers up to 18 loads deep results in a denser storage configuration. This unique design consumes a smaller building footprint while utilizing up to 40% less space than a conventional facility.