Warehouses are designed based on two principles: maximising the storage capacity and supporting the processes in the best way possible. To be space-efficient and fit as many goods as possible in squares and cubes, the very narrow aisle storage offers excellent utilisation of space. And to make the most of the efficiency, you can automate it, too.
Usually, the existing warehouses are organised according to the space requirements of the manual forklifts and to maximise the efficiency of manual forklift operators. To consider automation in such an environment, without significant investment in changes, AGVs must also fit in the same spaces in order to be efficient from the space-usage angle. To have the most space-efficient solution, the automation must fit in a narrow aisle as well – and that is what Rocla AGVs do.
Tight or not, Rocla AGVs will fit
Rocla AGV Solutions considers the operation environment from the beginning, and our philosophy is to enable work even in very narrow storage spaces without rack modifications:
“When introducing automation to an existing warehouse where the aisle widths might be narrow from the start, it is a massive advantage for the customer if the layout can stay the same. We keep that as a ground rule at Rocla AGV Solutions - no rack modifications are needed even when automating,” says Kari Johansson, Solutions Management Director at Mitsubishi Logisnext Europe.
Usually, the most profitable solution for the customer is automating only what is worthwhile and investing in a system where AGVs and forklifts work together. This kind of optimal automation combines the best of both automation and human flexibility.
“Our comprehensive offering has several great fits for narrow environments: Automated Reach Truck ART, Automated Compact Truck ACT, and Very Narrow Aisle AWT are the kings of narrow aisles. ART and ACT fit in the exact same aisles as manual reach trucks. ART lifts to 10 meters and the newcomer ACT counterbalance to 6 meters, even in the 2,8-meter aisle,” adds Johansson.
ACT is ideal for heavy-duty lifting in narrow spaces and operating efficiently between the warehouse and production or inbound and outbound areas. It is developed with optimal automation in mind; it interacts fluently with manual operations and shares tasks with them. The optimised amount of automation helps our customers get the maximum capacity of fleets, remain agile and make the most of the facility – whether it has narrow aisles or not.
Act together - automated compact truck ACT
Let’s make it narrower – and higher!
Another aspect of space efficiency, in addition to narrow corridors, is height. There are specific requirements for material handling equipment, especially in newer facilities, since storage heights of ten meters are common. The flip side of saving space is that the operations efficiency may suffer. If you can't pass in the corridor, it often causes waiting or parallel traffic, preventing the processes from running as efficiently. Also, as the height increases, the operation slows down when more lifts are needed further from the floor level.
“Mixing the manual and automated functions and achieving the optimal automation is usually the best solution for these situations as well. For example, forklift drivers may only handle goods on lower levels and AGVs on higher ones. While dividing the tasks, it is possible to support people's ergonomics (no need to stare at the ceiling with the stiff neck) and utilise AGV putaway with slowly moving products around the clock,” explains Matilda Suonpää, Product Manager, Warehouse Logistics Solutions at Mitsubishi Logisnext Europe.
Optimisation brings optimal results
Besides optimal automation, route optimisation can bring many opportunities and savings in tight spaces. As a part of Rocla AGV Solutions, customers can be provided with the FleetController that connects with the existing WMS (Warehouse Management System) and keeps the fleet running by automatically optimising the orders and routes of the material flow.
FleetController and its Order Optimizer plan the order of execution of the tasks according to the deadlines given by the WMS. FleetController communicates well in advance if it seems that one of the tasks is running late. To keep up with the schedule, the task can then be shifted, for example, to a forklift to execute.
With carefully selected and tailored solutions, many kinds of warehouses – the highest and narrowest – can be turned into efficient and flexible places. With the right partner, even the most challenging spaces can be turned into efficient facilities with optimised, profitable operations.