In the era of industry 4.0, robotic automated storage systems are proving to be an excellent solution, capable of guaranteeing high performance in warehouse logistics. So what does the term robotic storage system actually mean? In order to answer this question, we will discuss the characteristics and advantages of these innovative robotic goods storage and management systems for warehouse logistics.
What is a robotic storage system?
A robotic storage system is a system for the storage of goods equipped with automatic management systems based on robotic solutions. It is a system for warehouse logistics in which robots and automation work in synergy to ensure faster and more efficient management of the entire handling process.
Cartesian robots and anthropomorphic robots for automated warehousing
Cartesian robots and anthropomorphic robots are among the most widespread robot solutions that can be integrated into automatic storage systems.
Cartesian robots are also referred to as linear robots, because they use the Cartesian linear system to handle goods. These are industrial robots, designed to move in a straight line along the three axes x, y and z. On the basis of Cartesian coordinates and according to its degree of freedom, a Cartesian robot is able to move within predefined work boundaries. A Cartesian robot is a very versatile resource in the logistics field, because it enables precise handling, even in limited spaces.
In turn, anthropomorphic robots, consisting for example of mechanical arms, are a versatile solution to optimize and speed up the handling of even heavy loads, simplifying the handling and picking of goods. Furthermore, anthropomorphic robots are able to reach areas that are difficult to access or are on various levels. Think, for example, of the anthropomorphic robots that work at heights on different planes.
A robotic automated storage system can simplify logistics operations, making the handling of goods and all picking operations more efficient. It is also an efficient tool for managing heavy duty activities, once conducted completely by warehouse personnel. Thus, a robotic storage system has various advantages that go from the optimization of warehouse management to the improvement of the personnel’s work and safety conditions. The main advantages of robotic automated storage systems include:
- improved production quality and predictability;
- improved work organization;
- development of item co-picking operations (human-robot collaboration);
- improved working conditions (repetitive actions and heavy loads);
- versatility for application in different fields and sectors;
- increased safety in the workplace;
- adequate distancing between operators (especially considering anti Covid-19 measures);
- better management with regard to reverse logistics.
Integrating a robot into an automatic storage system
Modula has developed automatic storage systems able to work in synergy with robots in order to optimize goods management and picking processes.
Among the Modula systems, OnePick stands out for its efficient integration of robotic technology with warehouse automation. OnePick is, in fact, a Modula Lift automatic vertical storage system featuring a special picking bay equipped with a Cartesian robot. In this case, the bay has a predefined height from ground level, which allows for integration with any roller or belt conveyor system. Modula OnePick is a simple solution that can be easily combined with external handling systems, such as conveyors and AGVs. The interaction between robots and automated machines makes it possible to install a vertical storage system even in difficult to access areas, far from the station that receives the goods. Modula OnePick uses WMS (warehouse management software) capable of mapping the position of the containers in the trays. Those positions are also used for picking operations, since the gripper uses the same mapping to independently pick the item requested. It is in fact a perfect solution for handling boxes (whether plastic or cardboard).
Modula storage systems can also be interfaced with anthropomorphic robots. In this case, the robot is usually installed inside a robotic cell permanently located in front of the Modula storage system or mounted on a track in order to serve more than one storage system. In particular cases, the robot can be mounted on a manually or autonomously driven vehicle.
The proper functioning of the robot requires both the WMS license (which integrates the interface through a software communication protocol based on direct access to the robot’s PLC memory or on server socket mode) and the installation of the “robot kit” in the electrical panel for the management of electrical signals. The combination of Modula storage systems and anthropomorphic robots is the ideal solution for handling boxes or even in the case of each picking operations, where single items or SKUs are picked from a specific container for the preparation of orders containing pieces with different SKUs. Each picking processes, often used in distribution centers, use anthropomorphic robots for repetitive operations, thus simplifying order preparation and optimizing efficiency.
Companies that have chosen Modula’s robotic storage systems
Many companies from different sectors have chosen systems for the management of warehouse logistics or production that integrate robots into their automatic storage systems with very good results. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
- Modula robotic automated storage systems for Ford Motor Company Valencia
The Ford Motor Company headquarters in Spain has been located on the outskirts of Valencia since 1973. The plant, with a workforce of 8,000, has production lines in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The methods used for managing space and supplies have always been critical for the plant, and occasional interruptions to the production lines due to logistical issues became a real problem. Therefore, Ford started looking for a storage and handling system able to ensure that the components necessary for production were always available and to optimize picking processes. Modula storage systems proved to be the perfect solution. The installation of three Modula storage systems integrated with anthropomorphic robots in the engine production line guarantees production continuity thanks to storage and picking efficiency. The robotic storage systems are used for the handling of components within the production area and as a buffer, serving also as intermediate storage areas in the event of downtime due to a malfunction in the production line.
- Modula robotic automated storage systems for Speroni S.p.A.
Speroni S.p.A. is an Italian manufacturer of pumps, electric pumps, and pressure units, with a daily production capacity of over 3,000 units. To increase productivity and improve product quality, Speroni developed a fully automatic work cell within its production area, which enables the storage of both unfinished and finished pieces. Speroni decided to install a Modula storage system integrated with an anthropomorphic robot to serve the production line. Its main function is to work 24/7 as a buffer storage area. In this way it is possible to store a greater quantity of semi-finished and finished components, enabling the workstation to operate autonomously even for long periods of time. This translates into greater flexibility in production operations and better work conditions for personnel.
Each robotic automated storage system is made up of three clearly different components that can be used according to the specific needs: the automatic storage system, the robot, and the WMS software. Modula can guide you in choosing the robotic storage system best suited for your needs. Would you like further information about Modula vertical and horizontal storage systems and about the solutions for integrating robots into them? Contact us to speak to one of our consultants.