Automatic Storage and Retrieval System
Leading with Precision in Logistics
It’s fast. It’s accurate. And, it’s automated. The Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) installed at warehouse, within the HCCB factory at Goblej, Gujarat, is a revolutionary step in the company’s value chain of logistics management.
There are a few ASRS in India but this is unique. Primarily, this not only manages bulk pallet-in pallet-out operation, but it also manages Mixed Pallet Making, in line with our strategy to make Supply Chain nimble.
It is easily the first of its kind in the beverage industry in India. ASRS optimises product storage, material flow and retrieval inside the warehouse, thereby enabling faster delivery of products. With machines managing put-away and retrieval of finished goods, there is almost zero error. Thanks to ASRS, the entire material handling operation in the company’s high-bay Goblej warehouse, right from receiving, storing, mixed pallet making to loading of final products is carried out seamlessly; as per the order fulfilment plan without any human intervention. The system talks to our ERP & Transport Management system on a real-time basis to fulfil customer orders efficiently.
The system is customised to meet the dynamic and growing demands of the modern business. Developed as a green field project by HCCB in 2018, the ASRS facility in the warehouse has dramatically improved the company’s order processing throughput and distribution metrices.
The final products of returnable glass, Tetra, Cans or PET bottles reach the warehouse from the manufacturing lines, which is co-located, in the form of pallets completely stretch-wrapped and bar coded automatically. On reaching the warehouse, the pallets are unloaded on to the Infeed conveyors, which reads the barcode and decides the flow as per the ‘put-away strategy’ fed into the system. High-moving items are placed close to the despatch point and the slow-moving items are placed deep inside the high-density storage bays to enable quick and efficient retrieval for despatch.
The entire storage operation is essentially aided by 3 key equipments:
1. X-axis: Carts for deep lane transfers to push the pallets deep inside the bays
2. Y-axis: Carts for cross-aisle transfers to cut across aisles for faster throughput
3. Z-axis lifts: For vertical transfers of goods to all the vertical levels of the warehouse
Guided by a strong and flexible warehouse control system, the technology is thus designed to determine the most efficient storage location at any given moment swiftly.
Customised Mixed Pallet Making
Though most of the orders are received in a pallet size for a particular product (SKUs) and for a particular destination, ASRS also enables mixed pallet making. In conventional warehouses, there is a chance for errors in picking as the staff manually picks individual cases from pallets onto the conveyors. The automated system enables all kinds of configurations for mixed pallet making. Guided by the orders fed into the system, the layer pickers (de-palletisers) unpack pallets and remove cases by layers to form mixed pallets of different products.
All of these are aided by the handhelds and barcodes with the system smart pallet load making features. An automatic stretch wrapping machine is also available to ensure proper packing before the material is despatched to the final destination. This great flexibility for the operations teams to try new products and categories with smaller quantities in the market. Sure enough, the bottles that pass through the ASRS equipped warehouse remain untouched till the time they reach the retail outlets. Quality, purity and integrity of such bottles are therefore very high. And, this includes loading - one of its kind automatic 3-minute full truck untouched loading.
The stored products are retrieved from the bays by pallet shipping depending on the shipping order, batch number, volume, variety, movement, truck size, and inventory profiles. The system automatically allocates lifts to pick up the material and place them on the outfeed conveyors for shipment. Inter connectivity of infeed and outfeed conveyors further helps in reducing redundancy of products using the first expiry first out (FEFO) principle for inventory management. The system ensures that the earliest date items are retrieved on priority before they expire and become unsaleable. The computerised system thus facilitates automatic retrieval of loads from set storage locations inside the warehouse with precision, accuracy and speed.
The biggest advantage of using ASRS technology is the flexibility that it provides for adjusting to the variability in demand as per season. The technology enables the warehouse to ramp up its capacity to cater to as much as a 20% spike in demand within one hour without any additional manpower requirement.
Just imagine, if one were to arrange additional manpower and other resources to handle the workload of the increased demand and if the operators were to manually sort products, read shipping labels and push the pallets out on conveyors – this would have been a nightmare. The automated solution is inherently scalable making the warehouse ready for future expansion. The top-of-the-line technology is indeed a great enabler for the organisation to increase volume, fulfil orders, eliminate sorting errors, ensure delivered packaged quality and win customers’ trust and confidence.