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Exploring Mini-Load AS/RS Systems for Warehouse Optimization

Exploring Mini-Load AS/RS Systems for Warehouse Optimization

Mar 07, 2024

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) present significant opportunities for warehouses, distribution centers, and order fulfillment operations aiming to streamline processes and enhance profitability through automation. However, it's important to note that AS/RS systems vary considerably. There exists a diverse range of AS/RS types, each uniquely tailored to tasks and applications.

One potential variety under consideration is the Mini-Load AS/RS. How does the Mini-Load AS/RS distinguish itself from Unit Load systems, and which applications typically benefit from this technology? We'll delve into these questions and more to provide a comprehensive understanding of whether integrating Mini-Load AS/RS aligns with your operational needs.


What is a Mini Load AS/RS?

Mini-Load AS/RS represents a form of automatic storage and retrieval system designed primarily for case-sized loads. Sometimes referred to as "case-handling" or "tote-stacking" systems, Mini-Load setups cater to handling smaller loads compared to Unit Load AS/RS, which primarily manage larger pallet loads, sometimes up to 5,500 pounds.


mini load as/rs systems


Mini-Load systems typically support loads of up to approximately 75 pounds. They excel in handling cases, totes, trays, and cartons, distinguishing them from Unit-Load AS/RS. Given their capabilities, Mini-Load AS/RS finds particular relevance in applications such as order fulfillment (including picking and case handling), buffer storage, storage of slow-moving items, and order sequencing. We'll delve into each of these applications in more detail below.

1. Order Fulfillment

Utilizing Mini-Load AS/RS systems can largely enhance order fulfillment processes within any operation. Among its various applications, one of the most prevalent is optimizing picking procedures. In the context of Goods-to-Person order picking strategies, workers are spared from traversing the facility to gather components of an order. Instead, inventory is seamlessly transported to them. Mini-Load AS/RS systems excel in implementing Goods-to-Person picking, particularly beneficial for operations with a plethora of SKUs but limited floor space to accommodate traditional carton-flow shelving.


2. Buffer Storage

Efficient management of buffer storage is vital in optimizing operations. A Mini-Load AS/RS system offers an effective solution, potentially replacing extensive conveyor systems and maximizing operational utilization. This system proves versatile across various workflow segments, serving as an inbound receiving buffer, assembly line point-of-use buffer, or facilitating order consolidation.


3. Storage of Slow-Moving Items

Within any operation, there exists a mix of fast and slow-moving SKUs. Given the higher processing costs associated with handling slow-moving inventory, minimizing the number of touches becomes imperative to reduce fulfillment costs and enhance ROI. Directly receiving slow-moving items into a case- or tote-based Mini-Load AS/RS system can significantly mitigate expenses. This approach ensures minimal handling post-receipt, thereby reducing handling costs, optimizing warehouse space, and minimizing product loss due to human error.


4. Other Uses

Beyond the aforementioned applications, Mini-Load AS/RS systems fulfill a range of additional roles within operations, including reverse stop tote/case sequencing, returns processing ("reverse logistics"), and spare parts storage and management.


Weighing Your Options

Uncertain about which form of AS/RS system (Mini-Load, Shuttle, VLM, or AMR) best suits your operation? Considering deploying a Mini-Load AS/RS for a specific application? Curious about how alternative AS/RS technologies like Shuttle, VLM, or Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) could integrate into your operation? Consulting with a reputable systems integrator offers a comprehensive approach to evaluating options and determining the most suitable path forward. Schedule a no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced integrators to explore solutions for your operation.

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