Storage automation in warehousing globally trending

3rd November 2017 By: Nica Schreuder - Journalist

Storage automation in  warehousing globally trending

CUSTOMER INFLUENCE Acrow’s mobile racking storage solution came about as customers required increased automation in their warehousing and storage facilities

With the global shift among project managers toward automated storage solutions to rapidly meet customer needs, Germiston-based storage solution and racking manufacturer Acrow says South Africa has been quick on the uptake, with many companies implementing automated mobile racking storage solutions in their warehouses.

“Not everyone currently needs high levels of automation for storage, racking and shelving . . . but many customers are beginning to embrace automation for their storage needs,” says Acrow research and development manager Enrico Moya.

He notes that the global shift towards automation has prompted manufacturers and retailers globally to update their distribution centres (DCs) by incorporating new, automated technologies that support rapid order fulfilment. This can reduce costs and increase productivity.

“In the era of instant gratification and, from the retail perspective, consumers have become accustomed to receiving orders in two to three days. This mindset has naturally impacted on companies, forcing them to alter their order fulfilment processes.”

Acrow observed that South Africa and Africa have begun to implement automated mobile racking storage solutions in warehouses and DCs, with notable success in cold storage facilities. Moya says clients that have had mobile racking installed are satisfied, reporting minimal downtime and instant after-sales service.

He emphasises the importance of DCs becoming more client-orientated, adding that each automated mobile racking storage solution from Acrow is unique, with the option to retrofit the automated storage solution for a warehouse according to clients’ requirements.

“At Acrow, we have to factor the way in which the product flows and the employees function within the warehouse into the rack design. A change on the integrator’s part can have major repercussions on the design process.”

Acrow emphasises that its automated mobile racking storage solution does not undermine the abilities of standard racking, but provides additional options to service greater order-fulfilment requirements. This provides customers with the option of upgrading or replacing certain aspects of their storage solutions or replacing it entirely.

“Automation has ensured that the necessary support for automated storage solutions is always available. In the past, if there was a problem with a storage solution’s electronics . . . only a few select trained professionals could fix it. Currently, it is easier and instant, with after-sales service technicians having remote communication devices inside the storage solution’s cabinet that automatically calls the relevant technicians, or allows them to fix the problem remotely.”

He adds that diagnostics are now performed online, making it possible to receive after-sales service for international products as well. “We don’t mess around with our after-sales service. We have been doing racking for a long time. We really ensure that our service is above and beyond.”

Moya says, although the Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking over the industry, companies still need regular shelving and racking without automation. “A lot of companies are embracing it, but not everyone needs it. Even in the US market, not all companies are ready for it.”

Moreover, Moya adds that racking technology also depends on each client’s warehouse storage space and cost. Companies usually choose high racking frames if space is expensive. If a company does not have high racking frames, and instead opts for short-rise racking, it is because land and space is affordable.

“One must remember that the Internet of Things is different from other industrial revolutions, in . . . that it is about not only automation and productivity but also customisation. A successful company should be able to produce customer-specific goods in reasonable timeframes if they want to keep up,” Moya concludes.