A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to represent Radwell International at the first Swisslog Autostore User Conference just outside of Chicago, Illinois. Radwell is one of a rapidly growing network of Autostore users. Many of which are on the leading edge of robotic automated storage and retrieval systems. Our Autostore has been operational now almost 2 years and boasts 34 robots, 50,000 bins and 9 stations.
From the conference I had 3 major takeaways that I would like to share with others that are interested in the Autostore or automated systems in general.
The first being, that the Autostore has no boundaries. Now physically this statement is inaccurate. Yes, the Autostore is a fixed grid system and yes, the robots run on a track and the bins are fixed sizes. However, in terms of applications the Autostore system is nearly limitless. From groceries, to hats, to electronic devices, to tractor parts, shoes and sports equipment the Autostore can store and deliver all of these in an extremely time efficient manner. It can fit into any existing warehouse, without being constrained by walls or existing ceiling heights. Molding to the desired footprint that best fits the application. The system even has the potential to be stacked vertically. Because of this, many of the Autostore systems were installed in existing warehouses. Even though most of the Autostore users knew these attributes at the beginning of the conference. We still discussed it at length. Learning about how different systems are tuned in to fulfill the desires of the customer. How Swisslog, and Autostore are improving their designs and applications around the system to increase functionality for even more unique applications. Finally, we learned how other users are taking advantage of the characteristics of Autostore to increase their competitive advantage. Each user with a different problem to solve like increasing picking, reducing down time, consolidating manpower, eliminating loss or increasing storage efficiency.
Second, Autostore users share a common desire of collaborative innovation. It was clear from the beginning of the conference that the participants were at the forefront of technology in their sphere of industry. This does not just happen overnight but requires a great deal of expertise and time to achieve. Autostore, naturally was a clear choice for many there as another step forward in maintaining the leading edge. Because of this, most of the people at the conference have a strong desire for innovation, solving real life problems and a curiosity as to how others solved similar problems. These factors created a unique atmosphere of collaborative innovation surrounding the Autostore process. Within that we were able to discuss, learn from and advise each other on our own discoveries and best practices. For Radwell, some of these learned practices have since been discussed at length internally with new process improvements planned and implemented.
Last, Autostore is here to stay. We learned about the history of the Autostore and its growth over the past decade. Less than 15 years ago there were only 5 robots running around on an aluminum grid picking up bins. Now there are close to 10,000 robots. Only a few years ago the first Autostore was installed in the US. Now, there are installations all over the country with even more planned. To top it off, the abilities and the support growing around the Autostore is enormous and a community of devoted users are developing. There only seems to be one direction for this system and that is up. Looking forward to next year's Second Annual Swisslog Autostore Conference and seeing what is achieved in a year's time.
Global Program Manager
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