Buffer Storage Solutions
As the name implies, buffer storage provides an active buffer to store parts or products that you can use immediately. Businesses often implement this storage system to simplify inventory management in manufacturing, production, and distribution.
Why Use a Buffer Storage Solution?
A buffer storage solution follows the ideology of buffer stock. A buffer stock refers to additional inventory kept by organizations to use in the event of a shortage. Companies can avoid buffer stock if they receive parts in real-time. However, in reality, such a supply chain process is rarely possible. Hence, buffer storages are necessary to avoid inventory shortages and supply chain disruptions. (See videos )
Challenges of Buffer Storage Solutions
The idea of buffer storage works great in theory. However, there are additional concerns when it comes to storing additional inventory. Let us look at the challenges that come along with buffer storage solutions.
Additional Space: Maintaining buffer storage requires allocating additional storage space to store the items. Industries manufacturing complex systems will have to keep additional stock levels of numerous parts, making the storage process complex and requiring much larger space.
Additional Staffing: To oversee the buffer storage and retrieve parts for orders, companies will need additional resources, which add to the overall running cost of the business.
Product Degradation: Buffer storage can cause the company great loss if the stored products are perishable or come with an expiry date.
Improper Tracking: It is also important to be vigilant in keeping track of the products in buffer storage regularly. Else, businesses may end up ordering new inventory even if they have the stock already available.
Another factor to consider is cost. If the inventory in the buffer storage remains unused, the same inventory may be available at a lower cost when ordered new. These price variations are due to market fluctuations, and businesses may end up paying more for the same part or product.
The Introduction of ASRS
As we just discussed, maintaining a buffer storage system has its downfalls. However, it is a necessity in most cases.
ASRS or Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems make buffer storage more manageable. This warehouse/storage automation technology can effectively recover up to 85% of floor space and have Picking Accuracy Improved by up to 99.9%.
With ASRS, workers request the system for a part, and the machine will automatically pick it up for them. ASRS systems use vertical storage solutions to reduce space requirements. The storage system has inbuilt tracking systems that automatically track the inventory levels at all times. Usually, ASRS also comes with some form of warehouse management solution.
The other benefits of an ASRS solution include:
- Improved material tracking
- Reduction in workplace hazards
- Time savings in operations and distribution
- Eliminated misplacement of parts
- High order picking accuracy
- Improved product security
Examining Conventional Buffer Storage Management Solution
There are several ways to implement a buffer storage management solution for your company. Conventional buffer storage solution includes mini-load systems and multi-shuttle solutions.
These are ASRS solutions for warehouse management. These devices store and retrieve parts from engineered racks. Compared to the human workforce, ASRS systems are fast and have a high rate of order picking accuracy.
However, they are costly, making them inaccessible to most small to medium enterprises.
Kardex Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems
Kardex is one of the popular companies that offer affordable ASRS for businesses. Their ASRS Buffer Storage solutions include:
LR 35 Vertical Buffer Module: When your warehouse storage is inefficient, your order processing often ends up being too slow. Too many picking errors, long travel distances, safety issues, and non-ergonomic working conditions hurt your productivity and cost you time and money.
The new LR 35 vertical buffer modules with pick frames provide faster order processing, requiring fewer resources and enabling you to save floor space.
Start the batch picking process by scanning a barcode. Thanks to the intelligent Power Pick Global software, you’ll quickly know which item and what quantity to pick, and where to find it.
Vertical Buffer Modules use a bin-based storage solution, fully automated, that is perfect for buffer storage. The entire system is designed to maximize vertical space use, saving a great deal of floor space in the process.
With such a system installed, you get over 6,200 square feet of storage within 452 square feet of floor space. Vertical buffer modules use trays to hold small parts. The user can pick up parts from the terminal. Since it only allows one user to access the bins one at a time, the chances of picking errors are less.
Additionally, Kardex VBM boxes offer far more storage volume than standard containers.
Confirm your pick and then deposit the items in color LED indicated bins in the pick frame. These buffer modules drastically reduce travel time and save space. Pick-to-light technology further guarantees improved picking accuracy.
Besides, the storage solution is also scalable. You can integrate more LR 35s seamlessly when needed.
Shuttle XP Vertical Lift Module: Kardex makes vertical Lift modules in 3 variants – Shuttle XP 200/250, Shuttle XP 700, Shuttle XP 1000. Each model differs in terms of tray size and the amount of weight it can hold.
A Vertical Lift Module or VLM uses vertically arranged trays. VLMs are very efficient in handling heavy parts. From Kardex, the top-of-the-line Shuttle XP 1000 can hold up to 825 kg per tray.
In a Vertical lift module, the trays stack on top of each other, creating a high-density storage solution that can hold parts in volume without occupying additional floor space. The Kardex Vertical Lift Modules are also smart. These modules can identify heavier parts to store them near the bottom and lighter parts at the top.
Automated buffer storage systems like VLMs can also be installed through multiple floors with dual-sided access. A vertical lift module is an ideal option if there is a lot of overhead ceiling space.
Megamat RS Vertical Carousel Module: The Vertical Carousel Module is very similar to a Vertical Lift Module discussed earlier. The difference lies in the lifting mechanism. The Vertical Carousel Module uses a Ferris wheel-like storage arrangement. When the user picks a certain part at the terminal, the storage carousel rotates to bring the desired tray to the user. The Vertical Carousel Module is ideal when you don’t have much storage space to spare. You can also opt for modules with built-in refrigeration units.
Horizontal Carousel Module: A Horizontal Carousel Module is a great option when you have limited ceiling space. Another advantage of a Horizontal Carousel Module is speed, as the module can process several orders at the same time.
With a traditional storage solution like an aisle system, the workers have to go into the aisle looking for a specific part from vertically stacked storage.
The Horizontal Carousel Module eliminates the need for walkways and aisles. The system does the order picking and scans the inventory for changes. You can expect upwards of 99% part picking accuracy and the obvious space savings.
Do I Need an ASRS Solution for My Business?
How would you identify the need for an ASRS solution? Well, some telltale signs expose inconsistencies within your inventory management system. Let us examine some of them.
Too Much Time Spent on Part Searching: When there is a requirement for a part, your teams spend a lot of time searching through the aisles to find that particular part. Once they have the part, they must confirm if it is the right item by matching part numbers.
Too Much Time Spent on Traveling: As your business grows, so does its inventory. With large inventories, workers spend more time traveling from one end to another to locate the part. This travel time is unproductive, and overtime adds to a huge number just reserved for traveling.
Picking Errors are Adding Up: The average cost of a picking error is as high as $59. Picking error happens when the worker picks the wrong part. The main reason for this error is a lack of focus. When your business needs to pick hundreds or even thousands of parts a day, picking errors can lead to serious monetary losses. In such cases, automation is the best solution.
Downward Trends in Throughput: Throughput efficiency is measured by putting the number of orders delivered to the actual number of orders. If your current inventory management cannot keep up with the incoming orders, then automating the system is the best way to yield more efficiency.
Errors Arising from Misplaced Inventory: In certain industries, parts look very similar but contain certain qualities that make them different. In such cases, there is a chance that the worker can misplace the part. If these errors are becoming frequent, you need to upgrade the storage solution.
Choose the Right Buffer Storage Management Solution for Your Business
Selecting the right buffer storage solution requires you to factor in multiple variables, ranging from the type of parts being stored and floor area to ceiling height. It is easy to miss out on minor details and land on an option not tailored to your buffer storage requirements.
Southwest Solutions Group® provides design and installation services for ASRS systems from reliable brands like Kardex. For more information or to speak with our specialist, call us on 1-800-803-1083 or contact us.