Whether it’s to reduce labor, increase throughput or improve inventory control, today’s automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are designed to help the cold food industry operate better, faster and more efficiently. Check out this lineup of new AS/R systems.

Vertical lift modules

Vidmar, Allentown, Pa., released the Vidmar Vertical Lift Module, a high-density vertical storage tower that tracks varied stacks, so workers can efficiently locate inventory using programmable software. An elevator system then retrieves the rack where the part is stored and delivers it to the picking bay. To load the AS/RS, operators take a piece of inventory, measure and weigh it, then enter it into the computer before placing the product on the racks. Meanwhile, a bar coding, scanning and logging system tracks inventory control.

“As we head into an era of automation, warehouses today can be completely automated and run by a touch-screen console backed by a PC—picking, replenishment and inventory control. This allows easy access to all operational functions at any time,” says Alan Schneider, vertical product manager.

Vidmar also launched the Vidmar Tower vertical AS/RS, designed to take advantage of every available inch of floor space. Capable of being built up to 46 feet high with unlimited custom drawer configurations, the tower series ensures maximum efficiency with an optional dual-delivery continuous pick feature and a choice of ergonomic picking bay designs and drawer access setup. An easy-to-use touchscreen allows the management of up to 132,000 pounds of material from one console, and customers can choose from a variety of security options, including automatic doors and password/barcode access.

“Space utilization and inventory control—knowing where the product is and how to get to it quickly—is the key to warehouse efficiency,” says Schneider. “When you’re not using your warehouse square footage to your advantage, it can easily lead to problems. Suddenly you can’t find what you’re looking for, inventory management becomes slow and you can feel the pinch in your bottom line.”

Shuttle-based systems

Retrotech, Inc., Rochester, N.Y., developed a pick tray system (PTS), which is a shuttle-based AS/RS for case and trays in harsh environments, such as a freezer warehouse.

“The newly designed capability of the freezer-grade PTS provides a logistics automation solution to meet the growing demand for order fulfillment at the case and less-than-case quantities from the frozen goods distribution center,” says Austin Power, business development manager. “This design brings the unique benefits of the robotic AS/RS for small volume picking to the cold/frozen distribution center.”

Modernizing temperature-controlled systems

viastore systems, Grand Rapids, Mich., has implemented several AS/RS for companies such as Gordon Food Service, Americold, JBS and Myronivsky Hliboproduct to help modernize their existing temperature-controlled systems.

From a functionality standpoint, viastore implements AS/RS for deep lane pallet storage (up to 10 pallets deep or more of the same SKU product), slow mover auto-pick modules, where single AS/RS mini-load cranes are used for picking slower moving products, and box buffer storage to maintain proper palletizing sequencing.

“With a goods-to-person automated picking solution, the workers don’t spend their days working in the harsh environment of a blast freezer, but instead have the work brought to them for ergonomic picking in a less harsh environment,” says John Clark, marketing manager. “Companies that have implemented cold storage AS/RS have seen an improvement in their employee retention.”

Integrating order selection

For its part, Westfalia Technologies, Inc., York, Pa., introduced an AS/RS for liquor distribution and other food and beverage applications that integrates order selection, says Dan Labell, president.

The new Savanna.NET warehouse execution system allows for direct SRM-to-SRM transfers to help manufacturers and distributors direct, control and optimize internal material flow and order picking.

“AS/RS can be a growth-enabling strategy, optimizing efficiencies in 2- and 3-shift operations and changing the way orders are processed in other selling locations,” adds Labell. “Take a very data-centric approach to designing your system and work with integrators who share this view and can help ensure the system design is based on your business model and growth strategy.”

Deep lane pallet storage

Dematic further enhanced deep lane pallet storage with an in-rack configuration that features a satellite transfer device to index each pallet in the rack.

“An AS/RS transports pallets to the deep lane rack structure and deposits the load in the first rack position,” says Ken Ruehrdanz, manager of distribution systems market for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company. “From there, the satellite transfer device lifts, transports and positions the pallet in the deep lane rack.”

 For more on these and other AS/R systems, go here.