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PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: E-Commerce, Selectivity Spurring Innovation in AS/RS

* By Katie Kuehner-Hebert *

Innovation and evolution don’t just happen. They are a result of continually challenging the boundaries and testing the unknown. That is where MHI’s Automated Storage/Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) Industry Group comes in—as far as automated solutions are concerned. The companies in this group are repeatedly questioning and challenging the limits in order to come up with innovative and cutting-edge technologies that will help everyone in the supply chain impacted by the capabilities of AS/RS equipment.

“E-commerce and omnichannel strategies are spurring innovation, as companies try to find the right approach for their market and the overall level of capital investment stays strong,” said Andy Williams, vice president of automation at MHI member Schaefer Systems International Inc.

In the new build/retrofit market, requirements for dense storage and very high throughput are pushing the next generation of shuttles in both bin/carton and pallet AS/RS systems, Williams said.

“These systems are being asked to store an ever broader range of load units, so development in flexible handling is just as important as storage density and machine speed,” he said. “The need to be able to de-couple throughput from storage is changing the way the systems are intra-connected.”

Retail companies are also experimenting with store-based solutions and small format distribution centers in more populated areas, which increases the focus on being effective in smaller footprints, either in a small distribution center or store, Williams said. Companies need to educate themselves on the different types of solutions available.

“It starts with an evaluation of your own core competencies in engineering and warehouse/logistics, which should provide the framework for connecting to the industry—via a consultant, integrator or subsystem provider,” he said. “Once the general approach is established, contact two to three AS/RS suppliers delivering those services and discuss the project requirements. Doing so will allow a company to narrow the choices to a specific solution or solutions.”

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This issue of MHI Solutions focuses on the adoption of these and other digital solutions from best practices in robotics and artificial intelligence to getting your supply chain data house in order to measuring and tracking your Supply Chain Digital Consciousness Index or DCI. While implementing digital innovations into supply chains is complex, inaction is not a strategy. In fact, as the pace of supply chain innovation escalates, so does the price of inaction. In this new digital era, leaders will outpace their competitors faster than ever before

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