Drive AS/RS Optimization With Data Science and Warehouse Execution Software
January 11, 2022
To reduce reliance on manual labor and transition to more automated processes, many distribution and fulfillment (D&F) operations are deploying automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS). Flexible and scalable, AS/RS can help site managers to mitigate a variety of e-commerce challenges — from labor shortages and rising wages to SKU proliferation and growing service level demands — while maximizing the space utilization of existing facilities and avoiding expansion costs.
Although AS/RS typically deliver immediate fulfillment accuracy and bandwidth gains, many operations encounter barriers to achieving continual process improvements. An AS/RS requires the precise coordination of hundreds of shuttles, or storage and retrieval (S/R) machines across numerous aisles, vertical lifts and goods-to-person (GTP) stations. Without the necessary tools to effectively manage system interdependencies, many operations experience a variety of unintended consequences:
- Imbalanced workloads
- Unnecessary bottlenecks and congestion
- Low system utilization and/or efficiencies
- Missed customer service level agreements (SLAs)
If high-volume SKUs are stored only in one location, then that aisle or level can quickly become a bottleneck as multiple S/R units converge to retrieve items for various orders. This congestion could potentially reduce AS/RS operating speeds and throttle overall throughput rates.
Raise Your Operational Intelligence
The key to effective AS/RS automation lies within their abilities to continually process live data and make the most optimal storage, retrieval and GTP station routing decisions. Momentum warehouse execution system (WES) software from Honeywell Intelligrated leverages advanced analytics and data science techniques — such as machine-learning (ML) algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) — to make intelligent AS/RS decisions that support an operation’s throughput and system responsiveness goals.
Built with a powerful data science engine called Decision Intelligence, Momentum WES provides the dynamic real-time, decision-making capabilities that give D&F operators a robust toolset for maximizing the effectiveness of AS/RS and GTP station processes. Let’s look at a few examples:
Ensure item availability — Decision Intelligence mitigates the possibility of inventory retrieval bottlenecks and single points of failure by placing SKU containers in multiple storage locations.
Increase storage density — Placing product cartons of different sizes in uniform storage bin profiles can result in poor space utilization. Decision Intelligence maximizes AS/RS storage density by evaluating the profiles of available storage locations against incoming carton sizes to make the most optimum allocation decisions.
Optimize inventory retrieval and/or throughput rates — Achieving an effective inventory retrieval strategy requires operators to strike a balance between pick cleans — i.e., the practice of emptying all inventory from one location to make room for new inventory — and throughput speed. Advanced ML algorithms can be configured to accomplish either objective, which would impact the way inventory is retrieved to meet demand. You decide which factor takes precedence, and the algorithm achieves the most optimized balance between them.
Allocate and release orders more efficiently — First in, first out (FIFO) order fulfillment does not always guarantee the most effective order allocation strategy. Momentum WES processes all incoming orders and determines how to allocate them most efficiently. This holistic approach relies on the concept of SKU affinity to retrieve enough inventory of common SKUs to fulfill multiple orders and releases them to individual GTP stations.
Replenish more intelligently — AS/RS solutions with GTP capabilities often utilize decanting stations to replenish items back into storage. But dividing totes into multiple compartments and filling them with SKUs of various sizes adds complexity. Decision Intelligence calculates the volume, dimensions and maximum weight of totes and their compartments to make optimal replenishment decisions for various SKU profiles. Momentum WES utilizes an intuitive interface to guide an operator through this process.
To learn how Momentum WES with Decision Intelligence can help to deliver ongoing process improvements in AS/RS and GTP stations, please read our white paper.
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