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Warehouse Automation
What goes up must come down and what goes in one side of a warehouse must come out the other. Thats a basic rule - its referred to as throughput. Products may be stored in cases or bales - barrels or boxes. They may be as small as tacks or as large as refrigerators, but the more quickly they move through the warehouse, the more quickly they arrive in the hands of consumers. The modern warehouse isnt just a storage facility and it cannot lack the facilities necessary to keep products moving at maximum speed. The mechanical and electrical components of a warehouse can last and operate efficiently for years, in many cases far longer than the control systems that operate them. Companies are frequently reluctant to replace outdated control systems, primarily due to cost. However, simply retrofitting warehouse control systems can be both a cost savings measure and a means of improving throughput by as much as 20-30 percent.

Some companies have found that they have to update their warehouse control systems, simply because parts are no longer available for dated systems. Arriving at that juncture can be seen as a disaster or as an opportunity. Replacing an outdated control system with new components and integrating the entire warehouse area into a higher level overall production system, can benefit the entire company in the long run.

The latest systems can improve warehousing operations on several levels. Improved drive technology for shelving conveyors accelerates both input and output processes. While the drive technology is being upgraded, so can the storage strategiesand means of handling storage. Material flow has become an important concept that was largely ignored in previous versions of warehouse handling devices.

Camera systems can be installed that identify and quantify incoming receptacles by measuring their size and geometry. They are distributed to a palletizers accumulating roller conveyors. Pallets are accumulated into full lots, placed in layers, and then transported automatically to the area where they are best stored with like sizes and shapes. Shelving conveyors and drives use laser-based absolute distance measuring devices to enable error-free and extremely precise horizontal positioning. The precise positioning of products facilitates warehouse output as well as storage.

Entire systems are linked via Ethernet to production systems and on-site ERP systems to maximum overall performance throughout the warehousing process. Documentation becomes more efficient and convenient as well. Picking orders to the warehouse are fast, reliable and timely because they are electronic rather than paper based. Continuous storage status data is supplied to a central database providing real-time information about what it is in the warehouse and where it is located.

The necessity for a retrofit can become an opportunity for overall improvement of warehouse operations. Many companies have found that a changeover to modern warehouse and material flow solutions ultimately boosts production and performance. And, such systems are built with expansion capabilities in mind so that, if business grows, the entire system can be quickly updated to meet increased production needs. In many cases, the control systems can be retrofitted without substantially altering the power components. The company thus receives the best of both worlds by saving money and increasing efficiency.

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