When UPS Global Logistics & Distribution in Europe needed to add capacity at a fulfillment center in the Netherlands, the team used an innovation driven approach to think inside the box and find a better way to utilize the existing space rather than build another warehouse.
The solution was implementing a leading automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS).
Automated storage and retrieval systems are revolutionizing traditional warehousing and order fulfillment. Sprawling buildings filled with tall racks, wide rows and loud forklifts are being replaced by grids and bins with robotic arms and workstations.
Although automated warehouse systems first appeared in the 1960s, advances in ASRS technology and the explosive growth of e-commerce are causing retailers and fulfillment providers to take a second look.
Using a grid of storage bins, robots and ports (pick and put-away stations) this ASRS solution leveraging AutoStore provides many benefits:
- reduces noise and physical strain for employees;
- up to 400 percent more storage capacity in the same space versus a traditional warehouse;
- more capacity can be added without disturbing current operations; and
- a system with ten robots uses the same amount of energy as a vacuum cleaner.
Since being implemented in May 2020, the new system has helped a large, global UPS customer increase capacity and efficiency while controlling costs.
In fact, because of this solution, UPS was awarded the customer’s 2020 Technologies Global Service Parts Executive Choice for Innovation.
And UPSers working at the warehouse enjoy how the system has transformed their jobs from the physical task of order fulfillment to controlling and monitoring the process.
Kim de la Croix, a clerk at the fulfillment center, said she’s seen a lot of change and growth in the operation during her 17 years with UPS.
De la Croix said: “When the announcement came that UPS was going to automate the warehouse, the team was very curious.
“We didn’t know what to expect from AutoStore or how it would affect our working environment.”
With the old process, employees had to walk back and forth throughout the warehouse picking parts from shelves using trolleys.
Now, most parts are picked from the system with a robotic arm, then transported and sorted via a conveyor directly to workstations where UPSers pack the parts.
“We’re all very happy that AutoStore became a part of our team,” Kim said. “It saves a lot of time and has made our process way more efficient.”
A similar system was implemented for another UPS customer at a distribution facility in Butzbach, Germany.