Modern AS/RS systems are not flexible and have troubles obtaining their Just In Time requirements. They are not able to adapt to seasonal needs, and cannot handle the increasing number of SKU’s as the company expands. This makes it difficult for supply chain managers to invest their operations in an AS/RS system. Our goal is to tackle these problems by developing an automated robotic system which handles the logistics of storing, retrieving and organizing as well as directing traffic in a scalable manner.
Our robot would allow warehouse shelving structures to be re imagined from the ground up. Instead of distinct shelves, separated to allow forklift access, shelves would be large surfaces maximizing storage space and providing easy access for robots. It is easily visualized as a three dimensional matrix, where retrieving a pallet would essentially be accessing an index in the matrix. Lifting mechanisms will allow robots to safely transition between levels, which limits the vertical paths but still maximizes the space efficiency of the warehouse. Each robot can be seen as a parallel process that is moving in coherence with other robots, accessing a matrix index with no collisions and deadlocks. Because the shelves will be structurally similar to floors, robots will be just as well equipped to navigate normal warehouse levels as well.
Our design benefits from the removal of aisles and gaining maximum leverage by lifting pallets from the bottom. The multi-layered architecture brings the flexibility of manual picking ASRS solutions, to the bulk picking warehouses, thus bridging the gap between the two.
A key component of the system is a central controller which tracks the storage of packages and the movement of robots. By applying principles from real time systems, the central controller can direct robots for optimal storage and retrieval time. A key concept in this is the use of a cache to allow for the fast retrieval of any given package. Robots can maintain the cache and overall organization independently without unnecessary oversight from an operator.
The design leverages the supporting infrastructure to offload the weight of the package during standby and rotation, thus removing the necessity of the power screw. This will reduce the cost and the vertical size of the robot to maximize the number of levels. This is also the same mechanism that allows the infrastructure to be expandable to multiple levels, defining the key design in our system.