One of the biggest challenges in warehouse management and operations is effective use of floor area. Since warehouse operation is increasingly more complex in the digital age, it is important that storage areas take up as little floor area as possible but also maintain an effective storage and retrieval system.
This is where companies can consider using vertical storage systems when it comes to storage of small to medium part items as these systems offer exceptional storage and retrieval of goods and, at the same time, consume as little floor area as possible.
Benefits of Vertical Storage Systems
Using the goods to man concept, required items to be picked are brought directly to the picker through the pick window at a press of a button. This reduces the need for the picker to walk around the warehouse to pick the items by 70% or more, thus, increasing the pick rate achieved per hour.
The compact storage design also means that the vertical warehouse space can now be optimally utilized. Using vertical storage systems, the required warehouse space is reduced by 80% - 90% as compared to the use of traditional storage systems.
Big on ergonomics, the mechanism of these systems allows for items to be delivered to the picker at a suitable height. This helps facilitate picking and reduce the need for the operator to reach, lift, stretch and bend when picking an item and minimises the potential for work related injuries.
Essentially there are two types of vertical storage systems available in the market today, the Vertical Carousel and the Vertical Lift Module (VLM). Whilst both type of systems function similarly, there are differences between the two that one should consider before deciding on which system they should employ.
Pioneer of the vertical storage systems, the Vertical Carousel is designed for lighter commercial applications and therefore occupying a smaller floor area. Similar to the Ferris wheel concept, Vertical Carousel works on a chain system that moves carriers in clockwise or anticlockwise direction in a vertical motion.
To ensure that Vertical Carousels operate at its optimal condition, it is essential to ensure that the weight of the different items stored is distributed evenly to prevent load imbalance. Bin heights that have been set cannot be further adjusted should items to be stored changes in height subsequently.
Flexibility of the system is also limited as it does not allow for machine height adjustments once it is implemented. When transferring vertical carousels from one area to another, the height of the area to be transferred to must be the same or higher than the original area. Otherwise, the system will not be able to operate. Storage capacity cannot be increased as well in the event that the new location carries a bigger vertical space.
Vertical Lift Module (VLM)
Following the Vertical Carousels design, the VLM is an upgraded vertical storage system. VLM consists of 2 column of stacked trays and has an elevator system that retrieves storage compartments. The floor area required is slightly bigger as it needs to accommodate the storage rooms and lift operating inside the storage system.
The innovative usage of tray design in the VLM system is done with a focus on space and weight optimization. Each tray can now handle the load of over 1,000kg, more than four times of its predecessors. Trays storage height can be adjusted from time to time to suit the different items being stored in the system. Automated monitoring of the storage bins in each tray also ensures that the items to be stored are within the permitted dimensions both horizontally and vertically, thereby, eliminating the possibility of uneven load distribution that would affect the performance of the machine.
VLMs can be built to meet different height requirements before and after construction, thanks to the tray system configuration. It can therefore be easily re-located to a new location given its ability to adapt to the different warehouse heights. It can extend over 20 meters and on multiple floors with access openings on different levels.
But on the hindsight, VLMs might be a little pricier as compared to the Vertical Carousels.
It may not always be easy to decide which vertical storage system suits your usage. But, reaching out to a competent consultant can assist you in making a more informed decision.