Swisslog held its first-ever AutoStore users' conference this week in Northfield, Ill. Swisslog is an international supplier, designer, and integrator of warehouse automation and information systems with its headquarters for the Americas based in Newport News, Va. AutoStore is an automated storage and retrieval (AS/RS) and order fulfillment technology developed by the Hatteland Group of Vats, Norway. Swisslog has designed and installed more AutoStore systems than any other supplier in the world, with more than 120 AutoStore systems currently in place or on order.
The AutoStore technology differs from other AS/RS and goods-to-person fulfillment systems in that it can be placed into many existing facilities, including those with low ceiling heights. Products are stored in bins that are stacked vertically, one on top of another. Small energy-efficient robots ride on rails above the stacks and work in teams to pull bins needed for orders, which may include shuffling the bins above a required product to other positions. The robots then deliver the bins to goods-to-person picking stations. The system provides extremely dense storage in a small footprint, while still enabling fast retrieval of products.
Representatives from the user community gathered for the two-day event at the Medline headquarters building in Northfield. Medline is a leading supplier of healthcare products and is one of the more prolific users of AutoStore in its distribution operations nationwide. Users came from a variety of industries, including electronics, apparel, auto parts, medical, and footwear. They shared their successes, lessons learned, and future ideas for further use of the AutoStore technology.
Many of these customers also couple their AutoStore systems with Swisslog's SynQ warehouse management software, which provides simple and flexible integration along with extensive operational data. The attendees also discussed how to synchronize their AutoStore systems with other technologies found within their warehouses.