There’s a new twist out there on the automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS). Mini-AGV (automatic guided vehicle) systems are an alternative to mini-load AS/RS and fixed position systems such as carousels. The system brings shelving units to the picker, rather than having the picker travel to the shelving unit.
The mini-AGV system is unique in that it’s both flexible and expandable, and expansion can be done gradually. They allow for flexible deployment and expansion, and you can add capacity based on your experience. Because carriers can be designed with flat, large shelves, these systems can store materials that could not be stored in a mini-AS/RS.
Most automated storage and retrieval systems are limited to a specific throughput once they are deployed. But the addition of more mini-AGV units allows you to increase throughput, while the deployment of more shelving units can garner you additional storage. The mini-AGVs are battery powered, and one unit can “rest and recharge” while others continue working, making it possible to have a perpetual three-shift operation. Another neat feature is that replenishment and picking can be done concurrently using the same set of AGVs but at different physical stations. If your business grows, you just need to add more pick stations, more storage, and more mini-AGVs.
Sam Flanders is president of Durham, NH-based Warehouse Management Consultants.