Adding to recent challenges caused by supply chain disruptions, high inflation, and labor problems is the ever-increasing demand for faster delivery and larger volumes. In this blog, I’ll provide data showing how AutoStore is solving the logistical challenges of these so-called “high-throughput" (HTP) facilities that are becoming the “new normal” in global commerce.
It’s well-known that AutoStore's cube-based technology achieves maximum storage density, which has solved owners’ storage problem for over 25 years. But the automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) is also the world's fastest goods-to-person (GTP) system per square-meter, making it highly effective for HTP fulfillment. To validate this, I worked with AutoStore's System Design Department to review global system performance data. Here's what I found:
The introduction of Router™ control software in 2020 has been a game-changer for AutoStore systems, leading to a doubling of overall performance. This represents an increase of up to 100% in efficiency and speed, building upon the solid foundation provided by the Planner™ system. While Planner continues to be a robust choice for warehouses managing smaller inventories and requiring less rapid fulfillment, the advancements brought by Router have marked a new era of productivity in larger and more dynamic warehouse environments.
The chart below shows real measured data from a selection of AutoStore installations and the performance in their peak hour. Each black dot represents an AutoStore installation using Router. It shows that for many systems, entire new performance ranges are achieved than what was possible before (red dots).
These findings weren't surprising to us. The fastest AutoStore today can present more than 12,000 Bins per hour to operators from a single Grid. An even faster system capable of up to 20,000 retrievals per hour is under construction.
The speed of individual warehouse components does not necessarily translate into faster system throughput. The key to achieving fast system speeds resides in the collective output of many movements happening in parallel. AutoStore can combine a swarm of Robots that can often achieve better overall results than a smaller fleet of highly specialized, faster technologies.
At our fastest sites, Robots constantly present Bins to pickers at an average of 30 to 40 Bins per hour, per Robot. Adding onto the new software capabilities from Router, new Grid layouts are boosting overall Robot output.
One commonly used design places operators at the center of the storage zone within a picking tunnel rather than on the sides of the Grid. This cuts down on the average Robot driving distances. Higher utilization lowers investments into Robots and shortens ROIs as seen at THG, a global third-party logistics (3PL) provider of fulfillment and courier management services for 30 different brands across multiple verticals.
After installing AutoStore in 2021, THG has received and dispatched 500,000 units per day from its AutoStore facility in England, with the capacity to achieve more. They’ve virtually eliminated picking errors while substantially reducing labor requirements and reaching full ROI in two years.
Another AutoStore HTP success story is American transport and logistics provider Geodis, which uses AutoStore to pick up to 270,000 orderlines per day for online fulfillment. They're on track to achieve ROI in under two years.
The myth that AutoStore only works for steeper Pareto curves, and the classic 80/20 distribution, is inaccurate. It’s true that the steeper the curve, the faster the ROI payback because less Robots are required to handle “digging work.” Yet, businesses with 60/40 distributions have achieved excellent ROI.
Looking at our data from both low- and high-throughput sites that are in operation, Pareto curves are ranging from 60/40 to 90/10 across multiple systems sizes and performance ranges.
AutoStore is designed to be scalable and flexible for a wide range of industries, product types, and SKU assortments. When order structures change over time, Bins, Ports, or Robots can be added to accommodate new business requirements.
European fashion retailer Boozt has used that feature to future-proof their business in response to a 200% growth in revenue in the last six years.
After installing AutoStore in 2017 at its central warehouse in Ängelholm, Sweden, Boozt has expanded four times. Today, they operate 1,150 AutoStore Robots and 300 Ports with a decreased fulfillment cost ratio.
After reviewing all of these results with customers, we proved that AutoStore is an attractive choice for their HTP warehouses. Here is a sample of conclusions that convinced customers to invest:
AutoStore is providing full access to an enormous range of SKUs, ranging from 5,000 to 1 million Bins. Even at these high throughput rates, the simplistic design provides access to the entire stock without subdividing inventory into logical sub-segments. The flexibility to reach every Bin with every Robot, and consolidate all orderlines in every workstation, allows for remarkably simple but powerful results.
Achieving high throughput doesn't mean sacrificing shorter cutoff times. In large e-commerce operations we've encountered, regular cutoff times typically fall between 30 to 120 minutes. Rush orders are prioritized and expedited, bypassing the standard queue. With AutoStore, rush orders are processed swiftly, taking around 2 to 5 minutes to deliver a Bin to the Port. This rapid processing enables rush orders to move from processing to shipping docks within 15 to 30 minutes.
Faster systems require faster Ports. We have therefore created new workstations like RelayPort™ and FusionPort™ that can handle up to 650 Bins per hour. Batch picking can increase pick rates even further.
As sites grow, uptime becomes increasingly critical. Measured across some of our highest throughput installations with an average of 300+ Robots and 300,000+ Bins, average uptime is a staggering 99.5%.
With 1,250+ deployed sites in 50 countries, our partner network and engineers can leverage the largest installed base of all GTP systems on the market. Data accumulated is built into AutoStore Simulator, the software we use to engineer each system. This makes investment in an AutoStore solution safe and predictable.
Twenty-five years ago, smaller businesses with low customer demand began to adopt automated GTP technologies as a solution to their space limitations and labor challenges.
Since then, GTP requirements have evolved into something much more demanding that AutoStore is well-suited to handle. The system is used successfully for a wide range of large facilities, from those with huge storage and low throughput, to the extremely fast with inventory turnovers of one to two days.
Implementing standardized technologies like AutoStore has the added benefit of shortening the ROI and reducing operating expenses. Simplified and more standardized layouts shorten engineering and testing phases, making it easier for our partners to complete installations on time, on-budget, and according to the end-customer's specifications.
There is almost no application we can’t serve. And we have the data to prove it.