Many companies are faced with the problem of delays to their production or order picking processes as soon as the replenishment of goods from the storage systems stops, irrespective of whether they are using a manually operated, static shelving system or a high-tech, fully automated vertical carousel system. Either way, such interruptions affect productivity and cost time and ultimately money. It is a problem that can be prevented by adding a buffer storage system, thereby ensuring that the production or order picking process continues.
The buffer storage system, also known as short-term storage, is a temporary storage location for goods. It is this interim storage that distinguishes it from final storage spaces. The goods are not given fixed storage spaces, but are merely “parked” until they are retrieved again for the next process stage – for instance production or order picking. The storage system is thus situated between two successive process stages. Since some processes are completed faster than others, this variant also requires the individual goods to be temporarily stored in a way that allows them to be accessed again quickly and reliably, because this is the only way to ensure that everything runs smoothly. But even if a large number of goods have to be temporarily stored for a longer period of time, because they cannot be processed immediately for organizational or time-related reasons, a buffer storage system can be an economically sensible option. In this case the buffer storage system serves as an interim storage solution until the goods are required by the individual production stations.
It is particularly suitable for use in the processing and manufacturing industry and in companies which access a wide range of articles (keywords: retail, e-commerce).
Buffer storage systems with vertical carousels
With space for several thousand articles, vertical carousels are especially useful for buffer storage as they can guarantee availability of articles in the production or packaging areas. While every article must be stored and retrieved individually from the static shelving of an automatic mini load system, goods in a vertical carousel occupy minimal space and can be automatically conveyed to the order picking area via the shortest route. The goods-to-person principle not only saves space and time, but also optimizes ergonomic conditions for warehouse employees. The system is supported by clever software which has been designed to make the solution more efficient. For instance, a pallet pattern generator can create an optimal plan in advance which defines the order in which the articles need to be retrieved. The shortest route for each article is calculated with the help of this virtual sorting method while also ensuring that several orders can be handled simultaneously.
As well as using buffer storage systems for articles with no special requirements in terms of their storage conditions, they can also be adapted to accommodate a number of different goods with special storage requirements.
Possible areas of use include:
Here the intralogistics supplier Kardex Remstar has an air conditioning solution which may be of particular interest to suppliers and manufacturers of frozen food. At the heart of the system are the manufacturer’s vertical carousels in which articles are temporarily stored automatically and sorted in accordance with an individually adaptable process. Once the frozen goods arrive at the distribution center, the pallets are initially split up into individual batches. After being pre-sorted, they are placed on the trays on which they will then be stored in the paternosters. The vertical carousel serves as a buffer storage system which optionally operates at constant ambient temperatures, for instance between –25 and –28°C, the usual temperature range for frozen food. At the same time, the temperature must remain constant inside the storage system to ensure that the cold chain is not interrupted. To this end, two sluice doors are installed in front of and behind the access openings. They drastically reduce air exchange during the storage and retrieval process. Since energy efficiency plays a key role when it comes to frozen goods in particular, a highly dense storage facility has been designed using units in the Megamat and Shuttle XP series. The compact dimensions cut energy costs by about 40 percent compared to conventional solutions such as mini load systems.
Customers often ask for effective fire protection to keep the stored goods safe from the risk of fire. Here Kardex Remstar offers its innovative Fire Solution, which uses a residue-free inert gas to tackle the blaze. The novel thing about the solution is that nozzles spaced five centimeters apart across the entire height of the high-bay storage area supply the gas directly to the storage units at a low pressure of around four bars. This means that the gas can disperse quickly and the oxygen level soon drops to below 8.8 percent, extinguishing the fire in next to no time. The stored goods suffer no damage thanks to the low pressure at which the inert gas is dispersed. Yet an extinguishing system is only as good as its alarm system. Accordingly, plastic pipes constantly suck air from the interior of the shuttles and test it for smoke particles. If a certain threshold is exceeded, the alarm is triggered and the gas supply starts automatically.
Primary products often need a certain amount of air humidity to be sufficiently flexible for further processing. This can be done by ensuring that that the goods absorb a set amount of water while in the buffer storage system. With the help control units to manage the water feed and temperature, the process air in the storage lift can be set at 25°C with air humidity of 65 percent, for instance, thereby achieving the desired moistening effect. After undergoing this process, the now malleable parts can be passed on to the next production stage.
Parts from pre-production are often too hot to be further processed immediately. Accordingly, they need a place where they can be temporarily stored while they release their increased surface temperature. This is done by sliding the parts into the storage lift on special, heat-resistant trays. The warm air in the storage lift is continuously drawn away via an exhaust air unit so that the hot parts can cool down faster in the buffer storage system, allowing the manufacturer to process them more quickly or prepare them for shipping.
Yet like everywhere in industry, even the best systems are of little use if there is no efficient software. After all, manual operation of highly complex systems and processes is simply too fraught with errors to be able to meet the requisite standards of an efficient management operation.
sort2ship – an efficient sorting solution for storage logistics
To counter this, Kardex Remstar introduced its sort2ship system at the beginning of the year, which has been designed to optimize these processes. Customers can use this software-controlled storage solution to bundle their order lines, which are picked from the manufacturer’s different storage systems (e.g. storage lifts or horizontal carousels), in a time- and cost-efficient manner.
The boxes containing the ordered goods are transported from the various storage spaces on conveyor belts to a central high-bay buffer storage area where they occupy minimal space. When the time comes to finally release the order, the boxes are put together in batches according to customer-specific requirements, such as loading sequence or desired delivery time, and then transported to the packaging station or directly to the shipping station. sort2ship is controlled fully automatically and, according to the manufacturer, helps to increase the order picking performance of e-commerce businesses which have their own storage or distribution centers and handle several thousand order lines every day by up to 35 percent. The software management system also informs the warehouse employees as soon as minimum stock levels have been reached and missing articles have to be replenished with goods from the warehouse of origin.
The storage shelves can also be optionally equipped with additional functions, such as chilling or drying systems (see above). You can find out more about sort2ship and the various solutions available for efficiently using buffer storage systems here.