Storage Manufacturers Work to Integrate with New Innovations

Solutions Spotlight
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Autonomous mobile robots in distribution facilities are “the future”—and members of MHI’s Storage Manufacturers Association (SMA) are working to make their products compatible with this emerging technology.

SMA members are the industry’s leading suppliers of industrial storage equipment. They supply storage solutions worldwide and in virtually every major manufacturing and distribution sector.

the amr is accessing the rack from underneath

The AMR is accessing the rack from underneath.

Industrial storage equipment includes steel shelving, industrial work platforms, work and assembly stations, modular drawer equipment, clothing storage lockers, movable base storage equipment, storage containers and directly related equipment.

Warehouses are made up of storage racks, shelving and different components that create vertical space within an environment and equipment that’s used to gain access to these different components, said Bruce Marks, vice president of enterprise sales at MHI member Western Pacific Storage Solutions. Typically, order pickers or forklifts grab the product off the rack and bring it over to the shipping area, then to a truck.

“Over the years, with e-Commerce, we’ve evolved into the world of automation, expedited by the pandemic,” Marks said. “And now, autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs, are creating more efficiencies, where instead of a person-to-goods concept, it’s now goods-to-person.”

“The manufacturing of AMRs is going to explode in the next few years, creating an opportunity for storage manufacturers to partner with our integrators so that our products can interface with AMRs,” he said.

For example, a robot can interface with a shelving system unit that’s mounted on a base, pick it up a few inches off the ground and bring it to a workstation, Marks said. The unit has goods on it, which replaces pallet racks that are typically seen in the warehouse. The goods are then picked by a person and put in a box to be shipped.

“A robot can also pull a tote box off a shelving unit and then take it to a conveyor, or directly to a pick-to-light system,” he said. “These three components are all part of the storage automation package.”

SMA members intently focus on how to better utilize facilities to their fullest ability, said Andy Schumacher, chief revenue officer of MHI member Steele Solutions. For example, Steele Solutions maximizes vertical space with platforms that transform companies to fully maximize their asset space.

“Vertical space utilization is revolutionizing the industry in many ways, including allowing dedicated space for AMRs,” Schumacher said.

This could mean putting storage up above the AMRs or this could mean using the platform space AMRs and creating more storage space, and/or creating packaging locations on the first level, he said.

“SMA has been an integral and instrumental part of the advancement of technology, and a huge challenge is creating the proper space utilization to make manual and robotic solutions work together,” Schumacher said. This group is at the forefront of the solutions world and works cross-functionally with the integrators to create fully-optimized solutions.”

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